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In a Nutshell

Walnut Creek’s centennial calls for, well, walnuts.


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Oh, geez, Walnut Creek is turning 100 this year, and I haven’t even begun to shop. At least we’ve got the birthday dinner figured out, thanks to a few talented Walnut Creek chefs.

Paramita Roy of Kanishka’s Neo-Indian Gastropub is starting us off with cocktails and akhrot (walnuts) glazed with honey, cumin, cinnamon, and coarse salt, then tossed with sultanas—plump and juicy raisins.

“I love sweetness and spice,” says Roy. “And this makes such good bar food.”

Peter Chastain of Prima Ristorante is stepping up to make the main course, pasta with agliata con noci—a simple garlic sauce with walnuts.

“This is so easy and good: it really should be in everyone’s repertoire,” says Chastain.

As for dessert, chef Gavin Schmidt of Corners Tavern is whipping up his kitchen’s signature carrot cake scented with cardamom and slathered with mascarpone. It’s made with walnuts from Full Belly Farm.

“Those walnuts have a rich flavor with a slightly darker skin: it gives a great purple color to dough,” says Schmidt.

Hey! What a great gift idea. A shiny nutcracker and 100 Full Belly walnuts—each perfectly wrapped in its own shell.

“It’s always gratifying to get one out completely intact,” Schmidt says. “Last Christmas, we even made it a game: Who could crack the most perfect walnut?”

Full Belly Farm’s walnuts can be found at the South Berkeley farmers market on Tuesday afternoons, ecologycenter.org/fm.

Recipes from all three chefs can be found below


 

Honey ‘n’ Spice Walnuts

Courtesy of Paramita Roy, chef-owner of Kanishka’s Neo-Indian Gastropub in Walnut Creek

Ideas to serve: Use newspaper or craft paper to make a cone. Pile in some of the spiced walnuts and enjoy as a great snack for both adults and kids. This mix of walnuts (aka akhrot) and sultanas still continues to be my Dad's favorite with some good Scotch in my South Kolkata home.”

—Paramita Roy

Ingredients

1 cup shelled walnuts

2 ½ tablespoons clover honey

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 inch cinnamon bark

¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

2 tablespoons seedless raisins (large sultanas are best)

 

Method

1. Place walnuts in a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven at 400 degrees for roughly 5 min. Do not burn.

2. Remove walnuts from oven and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes. Place the walnuts on wax paper and drizzle randomly with honey.

3. Heat the cumin seeds and cinnamon in a small frying pan over low heat just until they give off a toasty aroma. Allow the spices to cool completely, then coarsely grind using a spice or coffee grinder. This may be prepared in advance and stored using an airtight container to retain the aromas of the spices. Makes roughly one tablespoon of spice powder.

4. Sprinkle sea salt, raisins, and 1 teaspoon of the toasted spices over the candied walnuts. Toss and serve.


 

 

Agliata con Noci

(Garlic Sauce with Walnuts)

Courtesy of Peter Chastain, chef-owner of Prima Ristorante in Walnut Creek.

“Here is a simple walnut sauce used to dress pasta. This is so easy and good, it really should be in everyone’s repertoire. In Italian, it is truly called ‘agliata,’ meaning garlic sauce. It is really all about the walnuts, though.”

—Peter Chastain

Ingredients

1 pound of dry pasta

3 thick slices good country bread, with crusts removed

1 ½ cups cold milk

6 ounces shelled walnuts

2 cloves garlic/germ removed

Kosher salt and fresh white pepper to taste

 

Method

1. Soak the bread in the milk for at least 20 minutes.

2. Place the bread and milk in a blender, along with the garlic and 4 ounces of the walnuts. Blend until homogenous. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. To dress pasta, boil the shape of your choice until al dente. Mix well with the sauce and coarsely crumble the remaining walnuts by hand over the pasta to serve.


 

 

Carrot Cake

Courtesy of Gavin Schmidt, chef of Corners Tavern in Walnut Creek.

This recipe comes directly from the Corners Tavern kitchen and makes a very large cake for celebrations. You will need two 11-by-17-inch “half-sheet” pans (or one if you want to divide the batter in half and cook separately). You will also need a gram scale. Both of these are available at stores such as Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, or, more affordably, at East Bay Restaurant Supply in Oakland.

 

Ingredients for the Cake

525 grams eggs

300 grams vegetable oil

250 grams carrot juice

900 grams sugar

18 grams salt

10 grams ground cinnamon

7 grams baking powder

3 grams baking soda

485 grams all purpose flour

450 grams grated carrots

150 grams chopped walnuts

 

Method for the Cake

1. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, and soda.

2. Whip eggs in a mixer to a medium peak. Drizzle in the oil and carrot juice.

3. Add in sugar mixture, followed by flour.

4. Fold in carrots and walnuts.

5. Split between 2 lined and sprayed half sheet trays.

6. Bake at 350 degrees 25 minutes.

 

Ingredients for the Frosting

1000 grams mascarpone

800 grams powdered sugar

80 grams egg white

3 grams cardamom (ground fine and sifted)

2 grams ground black pepper

8 grams salt

 

Method for the Frosting

1. Put all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and whip until smooth and shiny.

2. Frost the cake in two layers. Do not frost sides.

3. Let set in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled. Cut into 3 ½ by 2-inch pieces. Garnish each piece with one or two whole toasted walnut halves.

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