Tag Archives: hazelnut

Hazelnut Orange Pesto

5 Jan

For fifteen years now, I have been subscribing to the New Yorker.  During that span of time, there have been maybe three instances—four, tops—in which I have not greeted the arrival of yet another issue of the magazine by plopping the new week’s issue upon a vast pile of previous weeks’ issues.  A very good friend of mine, who, at the time, was also a longtime subscriber to the New Yorker, and also, incidentally, unable to keep up with the barrage of unstoppable arrivals flooding his mailbox, once began to refer to every new issue of the New Yorker as “the dead rat,” due to its unassailable, somewhat onerous presence in his mailbox.  Plang!  The flap of the mailbox just slammed shut.  What’s new?  Oh, yes.  The dead rat has arrived.  Add it to the pile.

Other people I know who subscribe to the New Yorker are perfectly fine with the sight of piles of unread magazines littered about their home.  Perhaps it speaks of a more developed sense of ease on their part when it comes to matters of reading materials that those people can accumulate back issues of the New Yorker and never blink an eye.  I get more than three weeks behind and I start to develop cold sweats.  Maybe because of that fellow I read about who was something like a year and a half behind on the New York Times, a newspaper he read every single day, though not in its entirety every single day, which meant that when it took him a couple of days to make his way through a copy of the Times, he’d be a couple of days behind, well, the Times, when he finished.  Take too long to read the paper over a long enough period of time and, look, there you are, reading an issue of the New York Times from 2007 as you ride the subway to work in 2009.  Sometimes it feels like a slippery slope between getting a couple of weeks behind on the New Yorker and becoming that man and his archive of New York Times reading matter, perpetually living in the past just so he can leisurely work his way towards the future.  (Also, it bears mentioning that the story about the man and the New York Times?  Yeah, I read about it in the New Yorker.)

The main culprit in my chronic struggle to maintain a current reading schedule with the New Yorker is the fact that I insist on reading every single thing in the magazine, cover to cover.  I read the listings for what bands are playing at what clubs, what new building by what new architect is currently being built to house what new condo complex, and what new restaurants are opening.  You may think I am insane to take on such a seemingly worthless endeavor, but let me tell you something.  Had I not insisted on reading a review of a new restaurant that opened up in the West Village, I would have never read about that restaurant’s offering of a small, delicious plate of crusty bread topped with hazelnut orange pesto.  Not helping my reading situation at all, as soon as I read about the combination, I put down my magazine to make it.

Not surprisingly, the pairing of the two elements is absolutely fantastic.  The robust flavor of the toasted hazelnuts gets a nice brightness from the orange zest, and when whirled together with a generous glug of olive oil and a large handful of Italian parsley, the pesto comes together as a well-rounded, satisfying sauce for pasta, topping for crostini, or even a nice embellishment to a pile of sautéed greens rested upon a bed of thick, belly-warming polenta.  I savored each bite of this warm, filling meal, and I am not the least bit ashamed to admit that while eating it, I cracked open an old back issue of the Atlantic.  From September 2010.  Don’t worry.  I’ve let that subscription lapse.

Hazelnut Orange Pesto

If you are going to make this pesto as a sauce for pasta, reserve about ½ a cup of the pasta’s cooking water to add into the pesto when you toss it with the pasta.  This will help the pesto loosen up a bit and maintain more of a sauce-like consistency.

1 cup hazelnuts

1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves

1 large clove of peeled garlic

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼-1/3 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast for 15 minutes, until the nuts are golden brown and the skins are beginning to peel free.  Remove the toasted nuts to a clean dishtowel.  Fold the dishtowel over the hazelnuts, and vigorously rub the towel around to slough the skins off of the nuts.  If you don’t remove all of the skins, don’t worry.  You just want to remove enough of the skins to ensure that your nuts won’t taste too bitter.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the nuts, parsley, garlic, orange zest, Parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup of olive oil.  Pulse the mixture for about 20 seconds, until the ingredients are chopped and the nuts still have a good amount of texture (if you process the mixture too long, the hazelnuts run the risk of turning into a paste).  If the mixture looks a bit too sturdy, add in the remaining olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each addition until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Use as a topping for crostini, a sauce for pasta, a dressing for greens, etc.  I’ll bet this would taste great dolloped on top of a nice firm piece of white fish.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

19 Dec

Sometimes the best gifts arrive before Christmas.  My husband’s auntie and uncle, they of the cider press, are in the habit of buying large quantities of hazelnuts.  They are also in the habit of sharing their haul of hazelnuts, which is one of the many qualities they possess that I greatly enjoy.

You may notice that when I get my hands on a certain ingredient, recipes that involving that ingredient tend to take over the site for a while.  When the strawberries start producing, the tomatoes ripen, and markets everywhere start offering fresh pears, I tend to focus pretty hard.  Garden fresh vegetables and fruit are only available for a short period of time, so why not settle down with them for a bit?  Predictably, things were no different with me this time around, so as soon as I opened the big tin of nuts and saw what was inside, my mind immediately began to buzz with possibilities.

I’ve never been great at meal planning, and I think the creation of this tart points towards one of the main reasons I struggle so much to look an entire week or more ahead when it comes to thinking about what I am going to cook.  I like inspiration, and when every time I have sat down to plan a week’s worth of meals, my plans undoubtedly become derailed by the spotting of something at the market that just called to be brought home.  Maybe delicata squash wasn’t on my grocery list, but when I see the first fall squash of the season, chances are I am going to go all swoony and buy it.  While I wasn’t anticipating having a large amount of hazelnuts sitting around my house, I sure was glad to see them when they arrived.

And while I subsequently may not have known at the time that I really, really wanted to make a baked chocolate tart topped with flakes of sea salt and savory hazelnuts, I sure was pleased to see it come together a few days later while I literally made things up as I went along, led by the promise of something incredible.

Some of you may recall that I have very recently made another chocolate hazelnut tart.  That tart, with its creamy, pudding-like filling made from hazelnut milk, is an entirely different animal.  The heft in that tart comes from its graham flour crust, while the filling is soft, light, and faintly scented of hazelnuts.  This tart almost functions as the reverse of that tart, with the buttery shortbread crust serving as the crisp counterpart to the dark, deep, bittersweet chocolate filling topped with flavorful toasted hazelnuts and the unexpected bite of sea salt.  While I might be tempted to call the previous chocolate hazelnut tart subtle, I would never even think of accusing this tart of being as such.  It’s CHOCOLATE and HAZELNUTS rendered BOLD, in ALL CAPS, and it demands your attention, straightaway.

Salted Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

I like a lightly salted bite, so I sprinkle only a modest amount of sea salt on this tart.  If you are in search of a more pronounced salty flavor, by all means, add a bit more.  I have included options for  both less salty and more salty preferences in the recipe.

1 partially baked sweet tart shell (this is a great sweet tart crust that I love to pair with this type of tart)

1 cup whole hazelnuts

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch chunks

¼ cup Dutch processed cocoa powder

pinch salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons heavy cream

3 large eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1/8-¼ teaspoon flakey sea salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast for 10 to 15 minutes, until you see the skins begin to curl up slightly and come loose.  Place the nuts in a clean dish towel, fold the towel over the nuts, and vigorously rub the towel around, sloughing loose the hazelnut skins.  Continue to rub the hazelnuts in the towel until most of the skins have come free.  It is perfectly fine if some skins remain intact.  Very coarsely chop hazelnuts, mostly to cut them in half, then set aside.

In a double boiler, or in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, combine the chopped chocolate, butter, cocoa powder, and pinch of salt.  Slowly stir until the ingredients have melted together, then stir until well mixed.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and heavy cream.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light and ribbony, about 3-5 minutes.  Very slowly pour the slightly cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, beating as you pour.  Beat for 1 minute to combine completely.

Pour chocolate mixture into the parbaked tart shell.  Place tart on a baking sheet, and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until the chocolate filling has just begun to set.  Remove the tart from the oven while still on the baking sheet, scatter the hazelnuts over the top of the partially baked tart, press them very gently into the filling, then return to the oven to bake an additional 15 minutes, until the edges of the tart appear a bit dry and have started to crack.

Remove tart from oven.  Sprinkle your desired amount of sea salt evenly over the top of the tart.  Cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes.  The tart will appear quite puffed up when you first remove it from the oven, but it will sink as it cools, allowing the hazelnuts to nestle in quite nicely.

If desired, top with unsweetened whipped cream flavored with just a hint of vanilla.

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