A NUT DRAWER AND A NUTTY SPRING LUNCH

Dedicated drawers are essential in any cooks’ kitchen because they keep you organized, they remind you to always have certain ingredients on hand, they make life easy. I have a drawer in my kitchen dedicated to chocolate, another to cordials, another to home-baked cookies, crackers, rice cakes, one to sugar, one to flours and another to…you got it, Nuts!

Frozen nut drawer

My nut drawer isn’t actually in the kitchen, it’s in the freezer. The reason for that is simple – nuts are volatile, they need to be kept cold to stay fresh. You can keep them for a week or ten days in a room temperature spot, but any longer and they risk getting rancid, and a rancid nut not only tastes awful, but it really isn’t good for you.

All nuts in my home, except those I’ve toasted and salted for immediate consumption, go right in the freezer. My friend and colleague Harold McGee www.curiouscook.com insists that nuts should be stored in air-tight plastic containers and I agree. Not only does this help them stay fresh, but it enables good nut organization. And as everyone knows, there is no straighter path to a happy life than having nuts well organized.

I went to my weekly farmers’ market today, which is three blocks from my house, to find it radically changed. Oh, all the farmers and vendors were in their same spots, chickens were roasting on spits and scenting the air with tempting aromas, Makram was hawking his almond-stuffed olives and herbed feta cheese and Vincent was filling bag after bag with delicately perfumed Cox Orange Pippins. But there at Baptiste Bourdon’s stand were the season’s first green asparagus. Twisted, curling, dirty, gorgeous asparagus, dug from the ground not twelve hours ago, “shipped” five kilometers by Baptiste’s zippy Renault van, there they sat, indelibly altering the market by signaling the true start of spring. I bought a kilo and they constituted lunch today, along with a quick Macadamia nut oil mayonnaise. Tender, green, juicy and wonderful, I don’t think they can ever possibly taste better than they did today at noon.

The first asparagus of spring with Macadamia Nut Oil Mayo

A note here on mayonnaise – it is so easy to make you’ll be amazed you never made it before. Ignore the complications. Ignore the rule that all ingredients must be at room temperature. Ignore just about everything you’ve heard. Get out one egg and separate it. Put the yolk in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar. Whisk in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and a generous pinch of salt, then slowly whisk in about ½ cup canola oil. The key word is slowly – you cannot be in a hurry and you don’t need to be. It doesn’t take long to incorporate the oil. When the oil is incorporated, add 3 tablespoons macadamia nut oil (or any nut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil). Taste it, season it, serve it along with asparagus, which you’ve steamed for 5 minutes. Call it lunch, call it dinner, call it absolutely sublime.

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