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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Maple-Glazed Walnuts and a Winter Salad

Originally published in The News Review
November 4, 2014
Recipes in this post: Maple-Glazed Walnuts, Toasted Walnuts, Mixed Greens with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese


It's Election Night as you read this. I will have been to the courthouse by now to deliver my ballot in person, wearing the cozy, non-partisan, red, white and blue “Get-Out-The-Vote” sweater that is my Election Day tradition. I miss voting at my local grange, where all the poll-watchers and precinct workers were my neighbors and knew my name. Tonight we'll build a rip-roaring fire in the fireplace and I'll crack and sort walnuts while we watch the returns come in.

We go through a lot of walnuts in our house. My husband and I each eat at least one handful every day. I put them on cereal, in oatmeal or yogurt or just eat them plain, straight from the zip-top bag in the freezer. I also use them in cookies, muffins and brownies. Unlike some other nuts, walnuts taste great raw and unsalted. Occasionally I will toast them in the oven to bring out even more flavor before adding to a salad.

If you've only eaten nuts from the grocery store, you have likely never tasted a truly fresh walnut. When properly handled and dried, they have a delicate crunch and rich flavor without any hint of greasiness. Brosi's SugarTree Farms near Winston (541-679-1472) has walnuts in the shell for $2.25 per pound. Kruse Farms in Roseburg (541-672-5697) should have walnuts soon. They're very much in demand and won't last long so don't procrastinate. I don't know of any orchards where you can pick your own, but you might have a neighbor with a tree who would probably be thrilled to share the harvest if you don't mind gathering and drying the walnuts yourself. You can find detailed information on harvesting and drying nuts on the Oregon State University website at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/food-preservation.

With the holidays fast approaching, my mind turns to simple gifts I can make at home. Since I have little talent when it comes to crafts, I have to rely on gifts from my kitchen. Maple-Glazed Walnuts are quick to make and can be done several days or even a week ahead of giving. I package them in clear glass jars or cellophane bags and tie with a big bow, easy and elegant.

The Umpqua Valley Farmers Market has moved indoors for the winter. There is still wonderful local produce to be savored: red and green cabbages, purple, orange and white cauliflower varieties, broccoli, red and golden potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, leafy greens, winter squash in all shapes and sizes, and even sweet potatoes, You can find all this and more at First United Methodist Church in Roseburg (1771 W. Harvard) from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturdays.

When we visited my daughter and son-in-law in La Grande last spring, they served us a salad of baby greens, roasted root vegetables, Brussels sprouts and creamy goat cheese. It was so good, I had two huge helpings! That was my first experience eating Brussels sprouts and I couldn't get over how tender and sweet they were. Keep your eye out for local Brussels sprouts which should be available in a few weeks. I've added my own twist to this salad with a sprinkling of Maple-Glazed Walnuts.

Toasted Walnuts

Lightly toasting walnuts enhances their flavor. Toast only as many as you will use within a day or two.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring once or twice, just until they become fragrant. Be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter.
 
Maple-Glazed Walnuts

My friend, Pat Gausnell of Roseburg, shared this recipe with me many years ago. The candied nuts add a crunchy, sweet surprise to salads. Only real maple syrup and pure vanilla extract will do, no substitutes. Beware! These are addicting!

½ cup real maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups walnuts, halves and large pieces

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Set aside. Combine the syrup, butter, salt and cinnamon in an 8 to 10-inch skillet. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil and stir until mixture begins to thicken, 2 ½ to 4 minutes. It should be the consistency of raw egg whites and you should be able to draw a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan, leaving a bare trail that does not fill in quickly.



Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Immediately add the walnuts and stir until the nuts are evenly coated with the glaze. Turn out onto lined cookie sheet, spread into a single layer and allow to cool completely. When cool, store in an airtight container.

Note: If you did not cook the glaze long enough and the nuts are still sticky even after they have cooled completely (give them at least an hour or so, depending on the weather and humidity in your kitchen), put them in a low oven for a few minutes to help them dry out.

YIELD: 2 cups
 
Maple-Glazed Walnuts add a sweet surprise to this winter salad.
Mixed Greens with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese

The combination of roasted vegetables and creamy goat cheese turns this salad into a filling lunch or a substantial first course. This recipe is adapted from Tosca Reno's Beet & Arugula Salad in her book, The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged (Random House). My daughter, Christine, used spinach instead of arugula and added parsnips. I substituted Maple-Glazed Walnuts for the sunflower seeds.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds root vegetables (any combination of beets, carrots, and/or parsnips,)
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2½ teaspoons salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula or baby spinach
4 cups mixed baby lettuce
½ cup Maple-Glazed Walnuts or plain, toasted walnuts
1 (4 ounce) log of goat cheese
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare vegetables for roasting as follows: Peel the carrots and parsnips, cut lengthwise into quarters and then crosswise into 1½-inch pieces. If using baby beets you can leave them whole, unpeeled, trimming the stems to one inch and then slipping the skins off after roasting. If using large beets, trim stems and roots, peel and cut into quarters or eighths. Keep them separate from the other vegetables to minimize color transfer. Trim the Brussels sprouts and cut in half. Place vegetables in a large, shallow baking pan. Drizzle with 1½ tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss well with your hands to coat evenly and spread into a single layer. Bake 30 to 45 minutes until tender, stirring every ten minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.

To assemble the salads: Toss the washed and dried greens together and divide evenly among four plates. Arrange the roasted vegetables on top. Slice the goat cheese log into eight rounds and place two
in the center of each salad. Drizzle each plate with remaining 1½ tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons rice vinegar. Scatter 2 tablespoons coarsely broken walnuts over the top and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

YIELD: 4 hearty servings

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