Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Aw, Nuts

Is there a pattern here?
The last three gatherings of food bloggers I've been invited to, I concocted some sort of strange pickles.
Last summer, for the Bay Area Food Bloggers' Picnic, I pickled peculiar produce.
Last month, at the Forkies' Daring Dinner, my contribution was brined eggs.
Tonight, I'll be meeting with old friends and new, sampling roasted meat served up by a blogger who was raised a vegetarian (shh; it's a wicked experiment)... and I'm bringing nutty nuts.
The nuts are local almonds and walnuts, made even nuttier by the fact that I brined them overnight in a variety of flavorings.
I'm refraining from nibbling on them too much, because I didn't prepare very many. So I can't report for certain, but I think it has been a semi-success. Brining nuts definitely moisturizes them, so they need a lot of careful roasting the next day to achieve a browny, crunchy effect. Some of the walnuts swelled up so much in the juice, they wouldn't spill out of the jar they had been soaking in.
But, the flavors! Gah. Primo. Such a difference from slathering spices and salt on the outside of nuts, and then tossing them in a skillet for a few minutes.
These nuts drank in their baths, through and through. Even after roasting, you can see that they are a bit translucent, a little tender, nothing like your usual canned salties.
The salt was there, though: My four brines were 1) homemade dill pickle juice; 2) jarred Trader Joe's kalamata olive juice; 3) mustard/Tabasco/champagne; and 4) fish sauce/black pepper/champagne/soy sauce. Yeah, crazy.
The house smells wonderful from the wacky, roasty aromas.
Will I be invited to any more blogger gatherings? Look, I promise I'm running out of pickle ideas.
Update: OK, slower, longer roasting at a lower temperature is the technique. First time around, I gave the nuts an hour at 375º, but they were still too moist. My oven only goes as low as 170º, and I just now gave the nuts another hour or two, and now they're dark, toasty and deeply flavored. Recommended.


Sean said...

Sweetie, you can feed me pickles any time you like!

Stacie said...

I can't wait to hear what the lucky eaters think! Sounds wonderful! You are mad and you pickle!

cookiecrumb said...

Sean: Let's do dinner!

Stacie: I'm a mad pickle. Yup.

Dagny said...

Remind me to get you some walnuts. My dad's cousin has some trees at her house in Clear Lake.

Shauna said...

You could so bring anything pickled to our house. As long as it doesn't have gluten in it. Would you consider a Seattle food bloggers' gathering?

Passionate Eater said...

Ooo. Mustard + Tabasco + champagne sounds like it would be a taste extravaganza!

kudzu said...

T'm trying to wrap my mind around those pickled nurs, and how the moisture vs. crisping works out. I've tasted the Brit pickled walnuts but they were meant to be semi-moist. What a concept. Will you give us a report on the bloggers' reactions?

Anita said...

aha! I thought there was something picante in those mustard ones. I think the fish-sauce (etc) was the most successful brine, but they were all tasty.

sher said...

What a great idea! If you keep doing things like this, people will have blogging gatherings, just to see what you bring.

cookiecrumb said...

Dagny: Road trip!

Shauna: Sometimes it's better to have a sour tooth than a sweet tooth. When's the gathering? :D

PE: It created a rather potent interaction. Go cautiously, Grasshopper.

Kudzu: Here's the consensus. One batch, the one with fish sauce, seemed overly salty to me at first, but it roasted up most crisply in the oven. Clearly a salt-heat-dehydration thing. The other three batches seem to have lost a lot of flavor oomph in the oven, and are not as crisp as I'd like. I think a longer, slower roast might do the job. That, plus I should be less coy about salty brines.

Anita: Meet Kudzu. She wanted to know what you thought. ;-)

Sher: What else can I pickle?

Tea said...

I thought they were great. If I hadn't been so distracted by scary large pieces of meat I would have gobbled more of them. But then again, I am a pickle freak.

Thanks for the yummy treats!

cookiecrumb said...

Well, Tea, I think they could have been pickle-ier. Gonna work on that. Kisses to you.
(Scary meat!! Heh. Oy.)

McAuliflower said...

I just had my first brined nuts on NYE... they were fantastic!

And evil!! Just what we need, making nuts taste even snackier- Oi!

Anonymous said...

I know you've said your blog isn't a recipe blog, but can you give hints about your brining solutions?



cookiecrumb said...

OK, Anonymous, I'll give it a try. It's a whole lot easier than you might imagine.
1) Pure, unadulterated dill pickle juice from a jar. That's it.
2) Pure, unadulterated kalamata olive juice from a jar. You might want to add a pinch of salt.
3) Half and half mixture of fish sauce and champagne; tiny splash of soy sauce; add bold pinch of black pepper to taste.
4) Mixture of mustard and champagne -- about 1:4 or 1:5 proportion; salt and Tabasco to taste.
Now, for all four preparations, put nuts in as small a jar as will hold them, four jars total. Then pour over the various brines until the jars are full. Put lids on and refrigerate overnite or maybe two days.
Finally: Put nuts and brines (one flavor batch at a time) into a little saucepan and gently boil down the brine until it's gone. Don't burn. Then spread the nuts out on individual baking pans or casseroles, slather with a little olive oil (not much), and roast gently for a long time. I cooked mine for an hour at 375, and they really need more time -- probably at a lower temp. Put on your "I can figure this out" hat, and play it by ear.
Let me know how it goes.

W. said...

Oh! mmmm!

I usually soak almonds in a very light salt water brine (overnight) then roast them for a day in a 150 degree oven... (a la Nourishing Traditions).

But I like the idea of soaking them in something that allows other flavors to infuse them. I'm contemplating a kind of garlic/rosemary flavor but with some zing.

I have never been known to have champagne on hand (and to reveal my utterly lowbrow food origins, am still confused about which wine to buy for cooking), but maybe just to pickle something I'd do it.

Thanks for your quick reply, I'm off imagine pickling combinations. :-)


cookiecrumb said...

W: I owe big thanks to you for steering me in the proper direction on the roasting temp and times!! I was way off, but I was trying to correct.
Yeah, have fun with flavors. Forget about the champagne; I just used it because I thought the fish sauce by itself was too strong, and because the mustard definitely needed to be diluted.
What are we doing here, reinventing flavored potato chips?
OH: I just thought what you can add to the garlic-rosemary for some zing: Lemon juice!

W. said...

lemon, of course! - and there are some lucky lemons sitting on my counter right now!

oh, and think Thai - fish sauce, lemon(grass), coriander, galanga and a little chile??

Have you read Wild Fermentation? If not, and if you do pick up a copy, I can guarantee you'll not stop pickling anytime soon!


cookiecrumb said...

OMG, "Wild Fermentation" is bedside reading for me, though I confess I haven't made anything from it yet. (OK, you might have just pushed me over the brink.)
What's your locale?

W. said...

heehee! I'm in Davis (see, look east, that's me waving)...

I've made the tej (ethiopian honey wine), his version of kimchi without chiles (it makes a great, dill-pickle-like cabbage - not quite sauerkraut)... ummm, oh, the ginger ale - though I found the wild gingerbug to be too fickle and I now make gingerale with commercial yeast. I've also been playing with cultured dairy products and kombucha...

oh boy!

I have a stash of lentils clamoring from inside my cupboard to be made into dosas, but they'll just have to be patient 'cause I'm not quite ready for them. :-)

Completely fun stuff - and worthy of obsession, though my husband does look at me funny sometimes.


cookiecrumb said...

Oh, yes, I think I see you now. {{wave, wave}}
Wow, Wendy, you put me to shame, but I'm sort of competetive so I'll get crackin'!
PS: You definitely have the material and the chops for a food blog, or do you have one already that I don't know about? There's a few Davis bloggers, as you probably know.

Wendy said...

Funny you should ask... actually no, no food blog (resisting with all my might simply because I don't want to take pictures of my food while everybody's tummies rumble!)...

but you can find some of my thoughts on food and otherwise by clicking on my name (this time around).

I don't usually post it when leaving comments as myself since it's a sort of "official" website. Plus I'm way behind on what ought to be much more regular posting.

cookiecrumb said...

OK, Wendy, that's really interesting. Big words I don't even know. The blogging world is so secretly full of amazingly talented people.
Thanks for letting me in on your secret. A good place to explore, and I will.
Happy weekend.

Leaza39 said...

Anyone elso Eating Gluten Free in San Diego ?