These days, with storage always at a premium, I tend to read a lot of cookbooks and food magazines in their digital forms, downloading them from the local library website, and reading regional and independent offerings on the Issuu app (a recent discovery that has thrilled me beyond words). Nothing, however, can replace the food section of the Wednesday paper. On Wednesdays I need the tactile, the color pictures, the newsprint-y fingers, and the feel of scissors in my hands as I cut out the recipes that I want to try. It's a homey, satisfying feeling that takes me back to my early days when I used to cut and paste recipes from newspapers and magazines into the homemade cookbooks of my mother and grandmother.
I don't currently have a place to paste them, so I put mine in a basket on the counter in the kitchen where, weekly, the pile grows. Occasionally I rummage through to see if there is something of particular interest to try. This morning a recipe that I'd cut out in September caught my eye. With thoughts toward a harvest salad that I've been ruminating about, I decided to give these vanilla walnuts a try. Mr. O-P looked at me warily. “You're not really going to make those, are you?” (Mr. O-P is not a fan of the sugar-coated nut.). But indeed I did, a half batch, and they were wonderful! So much so, that I was sorry I didn't make the entire batch because the doubting Mr. O-P had to be restrained from devouring the entire batch.
The seasoning on these is just right, and I will admit to being a bit addicted myself. The recipe, from the in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on September 10, 2014. It is reproduced below. As I mentioned, I cut it in half, very successfully, but made a couple of other changes as well. With the smaller batch, the baking time was only about 22 minutes. I did bake mine in a countertop convection/toaster oven, so that may have made a difference, but do watch them as they bake, and make your own determination. Once they were dry and the sugar had crystallized, I figured the time was up. I also did not use a vanilla bean, as I consider them far too precious for experimentation, so instead used vanilla bean paste, mixing it in with the sugar and corn oil (and I really used canola because I was out of corn oil), as was suggested for vanilla extract in the recipe.
I plan to use these to top a salad (stay tuned for that), but imagine these would be delicious stirred into yogurt, added to granola, used to top ice cream, or chopped finely and added to streusel topping, or a sour cream coffee cake recipe that I have been considering. Or, as like Mr. O-P, you can just gobble them up right from the tray.
½ cup granulated sugar
2½ tablespoons corn oil
1 pound walnut halves
1 (4-inch long) vanilla bean,
pulverized or very finely minced to a paste*
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
Preheat oven to 325°F. In a large bowl, mix together sugar and corn oil.
Blanch the walnuts for 1 minute in boiling water. Drain well. While still hot, toss with the sugar and corn oil. Let stand 10 minutes.
Arrange in a single layer, if possible, on a rimmed baking tray. Bake 30 to
35 minutes, turning every 5 to 10 minutes, until light brown and crispy.
Meanwhile, combine vanilla bean, salt, pepper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Put the still-hot nuts into a bowl and toss with the seasoning mixture. Spread in a single layer to cool. Store in an airtight container.
Yield: 4 cups
*Instead of a vanilla bean, you can substitute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, blending it first with the corn oil in step 1 before tossing with the nuts.
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