I have a couple of questions. How do half a dozen cables get so entirely messed up just sitting quietly underneath a desk?? Turns out in the time it took me to type that first question, I’ve forgotten the other one. It’ll come to me.
There’s another thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately – nuts. It all seemed to start after I got back from my road trip to San Francisco. Maybe it was the macarons I ate there that got me started. Perhaps it was something else entirely. All I know is that my life was suddenly overrun with nuts. Or at least an awful lot of thoughts about nuts. Once I embarked on the Friday Night Dinners, my nut-filled dreams started to materialize in my kitchen. I trawled though cook books for ingenious nut ideas. I went out searching for just the right nuts. Pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, more almonds, pistachios, more pine nuts, and yet more almonds. Nuts. I’ve toasted them, chopped them, ground them, flaked them, and even burnt a few. Except no one likes burnt nuts. That’s the third time I’ve typed that in 2 months. I maintain it is absolutely true.
I’ve been saving the best nuts for last, though. For Independence Day, the day when I celebrate freedom from various nutty things in my past, I promised myself my favorite nuts of all time. People, I give you, hazelnuts.
Way back when, in London – and Australia but that’s another story – I was a professional Chocolatier. As well as being up to my elbows in liquid chocolate every day, I used to roast hazelnuts – by hand over an open flame. We were artisans, you know. None of this store-bought pre-roasted debauchery. I’d pile the nuts into a round metal drum and snap shut the little flap on top. The drum then sat on a metal stand which straddled an open flame, and it had a wooden handle at one end. I would sit on a stool and slowly turn that dented, flame-scorched drum by hand until those hazels were a deep, even, golden brown right the way through; and by jove those were the best tasting nuts I have ever had the pleasure of popping into my mouth. Then we’d drench them in dark, glistening chocolate. Oh, yes.
My Independence Day salad required some toasted hazelnuts. Sadly, my nut roasting episode last Wednesday wasn’t nearly as winsome or romantic as in times past. It started well. I poured the nuts onto a baking tray and slid them under a hot broiler (grill). I know better than to stray very far from roasting nuts, so I hovered close by, segmenting oranges and licking the deliciously dripping orange juice from my fingers when I’d finished. I peeked into the oven and they were done! That’s when the fun started. These nuts would just not play the game. The game where you roll them in a clean tea cloth and the skins magically slide off. There was no skin sliding afoot in my kitchen. Well, ok, maybe a little bit, here and there. So I rubbed harder. Nope. I resolutely tipped them onto the baking tray and shoved them back under the broiler. Not hot enough? I’d see about that. Minutes later, still no skin sliding. One last blast of heat made me face the bitter truth: I’m clearly out of practice. I rubbed some more, made minimal progress and then had to admit defeat. I chopped them, remaining skins and all. The result? They didn’t look as handsome, but they still tasted mighty fine. Hopefully you won’t have to work so hard to get those skins to just slide right off.
I tossed my favorite nuts into a salad that wound up nestled next to some crisp, juicy KFC and a Summer Pear Slaw. The dressing couldn’t be simpler or *SANEr. I recommend you tear the frisee into smaller pieces than it shows in the pictures. Turns out it’s a bit tricky to eat if you leave it in big pieces. In this particular case, small is beautiful; and easier to get your mouth around.
The nuts totally made this dish for me. If I’m honest though, nuts do it for me every time.
- 1 Frisee lettuce (also called curly endive)
- 1 red pepper
- 4 large oranges
- 2 oz / 55g hazelnuts
- ¾ cup /6 fl oz. Greek non-fat yogurt
- Sea salt and pepper
- Tear the frisee into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
- De-seed the red pepper and slice into very thin rings. Cut each ring into 1 inch pieces. Add to the frisee.
- Remove all the peel and pith from 3 oranges and segment them.** Add the orange segments to the frisee.
- Finely grate the rind from the 4th orange over the frisee.
- Juice the 4th orange into a small bowl and whisk in the yogurt, salt and pepper.
- Toast the hazelnuts under a hot broiler & remove the skins.***
- Once the nuts have cooled, chop them roughly.
- Toss the frisee and other vegetables with the dressing.
- Turn into a serving dish and sprinkle the chopped nuts over the top.
***Spread the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet to toast. Once they are toasted, turn the nuts onto a clean cloth and rub the loose skins off.