Toss the Nuts

This weekend was a toss-the-nuts sort of weekend.

I’d been away all week on a lovely business trip (when you’re in the food world, business trips end up being lovely) with Oldways Preservation & Trust

What made the trip lovely was the itinerary and the group. We tasted and sipped our way through the riches of Honfleur and in Bayeux, coastal towns close to where I live. I guided everyone as we sampled our way through heaps of local shellfish, from mussels to small whelks, sea snails and baby shrimp, all served with plenty of homemade mayonnaise alongside. We sampled mackerel braised in mustard cream, duck breast with a rich, appley sauce, chicken and mushrooms braised in Calvados and cream. Favorites? The mackerel, which was divine, a molten chocolate cake sprinkled with toasted cashews, the Calvados tasting which left everyone with a rosy glow, and foie gras layered with apple jelly, which was voted the very best dish of the week.

Needless to say, when I returned home late Saturday to my darling daughter Fiona, we agreed it had been a long week and it was a perfect evening for pizza and a movie. I made the pizza dough and tossed in some chopped almonds. Then I went into the garden to pick some Swiss chard, which I sauteed with lots of garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. I put that on the pizza, tossed on more almonds, baked it, and our scrumptious dinner was ready to eat. We nibbled and laughed, and Fiona surprised herself at how much she liked the Swiss chard.

A note here about adding nuts to pizza. It’s not typical to any culture but my own, as far as I know. That said, many nut-loving cultures toss nuts everywhere. In the case of pizza, they end up adding a umami sort of depth, crunch and flavor which easily replaces meat.

That wasn’t the only nut-tossing that happened over the weekend. The cinnamon chocolate cake I made had minced almonds in the batter and on top. I veered from almonds to add toasted flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds to yogurt for breakfast and to a mixed vegetable salad for dinner.

It’s easy for me to do all of this, and it can be easy for you too. All you need to do is get great quality nuts (I focused on almonds this weekend, but you can get any nut or a mixed bunch if you like). Toast them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, let them cool, then put them in a jar on the kitchen counter. That way they’re always handy, and you will find yourself adding them to all sorts of dishes, too. Who knows, maybe even pizza….!

Getting back to Swiss chard with almonds is important, for the almonds add a touch of protein, a lot of flavor and crunch, and more satisfaction than the typical addition of finely ground, toasted bread crumbs. I urge you to add almonds to any vegetable or salad…you’ll taste the difference!


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