Book tours have always been one of my favorite things. I’ve always loved them.

Who wouldn’t? I spend my time answering questions about the work I love, hearing compliments about my latest labor of love, being honored for my knowledge and insight. I get to go on camera, speak on the radio, meet lovely people who are passionate about food. I see my friends around the country, visit museums I thought I’d never see, occasionally sleep in a swanky hotel, watch people open the book I worked so hard on and see them engrossed in reading a headnote, an essay, a recipe. And then there are the wonderful moments of signing, truly a lovely activity for an author.

I’ve learned, on book tour, that I will sample versions of my own recipes over and over again as I teach, speak, demonstrate, and host. I plan for it, encouraging different menus at different events so my palate stays fresh, my enthusiasm high. No one is more thrilled than I am to taste a nut-filled dish from my book made by someone else – each person brings their own touch, personalizing it and making it new.

Take dinner at the Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, California (www.leftbank.com). There, chef Sean Canavan produced a truly marvelous menu based entirely on recipes from Nuts in the Kitchen. We began with the goat cheese and walnut verrine, the almond and green bean salad, the nutty mussels; we moved onto the Edgy Greens Salad, and the Turkish Lamb. We then segued into the Hazelnut Financiers with Pistachio Ice Cream. I knew each recipe intimately, from testing it over and over. But Chef Canavan executed each with a personal touch that sang a high, flavorful note of seasonality.

A new almond, like the ones in the Green Bean and White Peaches Salad

And take dinner at the Boat Street Kitchen (www.boatstreetkitchen.com) in Seattle, Washington. There, chefs Susan Kaplan and Renée Erickson created a menu that began with Muhammara and Eggplant Caviar and ended with an array of cakes and cookies, from Fiona’s Yogurt Cake with almonds to Lena’s Nut Cookies. I was enchanted with the evening, the people, the restaurant and yes, the food!

Heirloom tomatoes, like those in the meal at the Left Bank.....

I’m including the recipe for Nutty Mussels here, hoping you’ll make it often this summer while mussels are plump and tender and tomatoes are ripe with flavor. For all those other recipes, you’ll just have to go out and get the book!

NUTTY MUSSELS

4 pounds (2kg) mussels, shells washed

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup (50g) hazelnuts, diced

1 small fennel bulb (about 1-1/2 ounces;45g; to give 1/3 cup), diced

1 thick coin of ginger, peeled, minced, to give ½ teaspoon

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs

1. If necessary, de-beard the mussels right before you being to prepare the dish. Keep them in the refrigerator.

2. Mince the fresh rosemary, and cover to keep the aroma from dissipating.

3. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the hazelnuts and cook, stirring constantly, until they begin to turn golden and smell toasty, about 7 minutes. Remove the hazelnuts from the pan. Add the fennel and the ginger to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the fennel is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice then add the mussels to the wok and sauté them until they open and most but not all of their juices have evaporated, stirring them almost constantly, for about 7 minutes. Return the hazelnuts to the pan along with the breadcrumbs and continue stirring and sautéing until the mussels are cooked through and the breadcrumbs are thoroughly mixed throughout and beginning to smell toasty, about 3 additional minutes.

4. Stir in the minced rosemary, and remove the mussels from the heat. Season them with pepper, and serve immediately.

4 first course servings

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