Shell Game

A holiday favorite, the walnut provides a flavorful way to jog your cognition.

By Lisa James

November/December 2011


It is a familiar holiday scene: Adults and children gathered in a gaily decorated room, oohing and aahing while opening presents—and passing around a bowl of nuts along with a nutcracker.
It’s a good bet that the bowl will contain walnuts. Once reserved for royalty in its native Persia, today the walnut’s rich flavor has made it popular with party hosts and guests alike.

The walnut is as healthy as it is tasty. Looking like miniature brains within their shells, walnuts have long been thought to forestall mental decline. That ancient reputation is supported by the nut’s rich stores of vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, along with phytonutrients and the minerals copper, manganese and magnesium. This helps explain why walnuts have been linked with possible protection against not only cognitive decline but also cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Most walnuts sold in the US are the English variety, which feature thin, easily crackable shells. (The black walnut, a North American native, is hard to open.) Walnuts are available both shelled and unshelled. Shelled nuts are further categorized by size, from halves (the largest) down to meal. While unshelled walnuts can be stored in a dry, cool place for several months, shelled nuts are best kept, tightly wrapped, for up to six months in the refrigerator or one year in the freezer. Don’t chop or grind walnuts until you’re ready to use them.

Bakers freely incorporate walnuts into breads, cookies and other treats. But walnuts are at home in all sorts of recipes, such as salads, pilafs, poultry stuffings, casseroles and stir-fries. You can even grind them (with oil, lentils and spices) into dips and dressings.

Brief toasting brings out the walnut’s rich flavor without hurting its nutritional status. Spread chopped nuts evenly on a baking sheet and place in a 350°F oven for five to seven minutes, or until lightly browned. Stir several times for even toasting.

To feed both your brain and your taste buds, make walnuts a regular part of your diet.

 

ET Recipe

Fennel, White Bean and Walnut Salad

1 fennel bulb
1 15-oz can white beans,drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup dried currants*
3/4 cup toasted walnutpieces

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup mixed, choppedherbs (parsley, chives,tarragon)
salt and pepper to taste

*If you can’t find currants, use raisins or chopped dates as a substitute.

1. Thinly slice the fennel and place in a large bowl with the beans, carrots and currants.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over bean-and-fennel mixture.
Toss to combine.

3. Sprinkle walnuts over the top and serve.

Serves 6. Analysis per serving: 330 calories, 7g protein, 24g fat (3g saturated), 6g fiber, 25g carbohydrate, 50 mg sodium

Reprinted with permission from the California Walnut Commission (www.walnuts.org)

 

 

Guacamole Chicken Salad

2 full chicken breasts (can use precooked)
2 avocadoes
1 lime
1 clove garlic, minced
2-4 plum tomatoes
1 small onion
3 stalks celery
1 cup walnuts
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut chicken breasts in half and bake for 20 minutes or until cooked through, with clear juices and no pink left inside. Cut chicken into cubes.
  2. While chicken is cooking, cut avocadoes in half and remove pulp; mash into paste. Add juice from the lime and the garlic.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half, remove seeds, then cube. Dice the onion and celery.
  4. Add chicken, tomatoes, onion and celery to avocado mixture. Add walnuts, then salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4. Analysis per serving: 370 calories, 9g protein, 32g fat (4g saturated), 10g fiber,
18g carbohydrates, 120 mg sodium

Reprinted with permission from the California Walnut Commission (www.walnuts.org)

 

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