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February 19, 2009

Walnuts (Recipe: walnut squares)

Walnutsquares

When I was growing up, my parents hosted lots of bridge parties. 

In the 1950s and '60s, card-playing evenings were all the rage. My parents invited one couple, or sometimes three couples, for bridge, cocktails and snacks. As these parties never started before 8:00, my brother and I were allowed -- no, commanded -- to appear in our pajamas to greet the guests ("Hi, Mr. and Mrs. So-and-So. Yes, it's fun to stay up late. Yes, I'm being good in school.") before we toddled off to bed.

On a tray table, within easy reach of the players, my mother set out bowls of Chex mix that she'd made herself. And whole walnuts, too, with a heavy nutcracker and a dish for the shells.

In the morning, my brother and I descended upon the leftover nuts. We didn't eat them; we looked for wrinkly faces in the wrinkly shells. Sometimes we'd find one that looked like my grandfather, or one of our teachers, or Richard Nixon.

The walnuts my mom bought -- the ones we all buy in bags in the supermarket -- are Persian walnuts, often called English or California walnuts. Their relatively thin shell, large "meat" and mild taste make them the favorite for snacking and cooking.

On the health front, walnuts are off-the-chart good for you, as they're packed with more than 90 percent of the recommended daily requirement of Omega-3 fatty acids in just a quarter of a cup of nuts. According to The World's Healthiest Foods, potential benefits range from "cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function, to anti-inflammatory benefits helpful in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties."

Walnuts1

I didn't love the taste of walnuts when I was a kid, and I guess I didn't want to work hard enough to extricate the meat from the hard shells, either. I still don't, so most often I buy them in halves or chopped, ready to go.

Like all nuts, walnuts are perishable; store them in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator for up to six months, or in the freezer indefinitely. To bring out the flavor, toast walnuts in a dry nonstick frying pan for 2-3 minutes, until they are just starting to brown lightly and give off a nutty aroma.

Walnut squares

This recipe came from my friend Charlotte, who loves these squares because they're not too sweet. This is a quick and easy dessert for someone like me, who doesn't bake very well. Makes 18 squares.

Ingredients

2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chopped walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9x13 pan with baking spray.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Add nuts, mix well, and pour into the prepared pan. Bake 18-20 minutes.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
White chocolate brownies
Ice cream chocolate chip cookies
Maple nut cookie
Muhammara (walnut and pomegranate paste)
Pomegranate fish

Comments

I could've written the first two paragraphs - it's certainly how my parents and their friends passed weekend evenings. As for the bar cookies, they sound great.

I toasted my walnuts before popping them into my oatmeal, so much better, thanks for the tip!

I thought these squares would turn out really hard, but mine were quite soft. They seemed to taste better the longer I let them sit in the container after baking.

That was a trip down memory lane. My sisters and I loved bridge parties because the leftover snacks were a special treat. My ever health conscious mom usually rationed sweets and salty treats.

Also, I never knew walnuts were THAT healthy!

You know, I didn't like the taste of walnuts either and I cracking open and peeling walnuts during chiles en nogada season at my parents restaurant. But now I love them. I have to try these squares, they look quite yummy :)

I too remember those card parties my parents hosted. In fact, they are retired now and still hosting them. I plan on making this delicious recipe and taking them over to may parent's house on card night. Thank you!

I'm shocked...this recipe strongly resembles BAKING :o)

This sounds like a wonderful confection, that would really bring out the flavor of the walnuts. By the way, although my parents didn't play bridge, they did host the same kind of parties! And, I was thrilled when I learned I could buy walnuts already shelled!

These sound so easy and delicious!

I for one am addicted to walnuts and often eat/use them long before needing to worry about storing them in the freezer! This recipe sounds divine too---love desserts that aren't over-the-top sweet. Well, now I have a craving. Off the kitchen to grab my walnuts and do some serious nibbling :-)

I think I will try this and add a handful of butterscotch chips to it...or maybe coconut...or maybe....

I am a walnut lover. These sound delicious.

I will definitely make these, I love walnuts! I too don't like to work too hard for the nut inside the shells. I always hated shelling walnuts, filberts or pecans, but I did do it to help out Mom when she baked Christmas goodies.
Thanks goodness for those lovely bags of shelled nuts at Costco! ; )

My parents also loved eating peanuts with the shell. I hated them and always passed on eating them. Too much work!

Thanks so much for sharing this recipe. I have several pounds of walnuts in my fridge that I'll have to freeze or use soon, so these will help, and they sound yummy!

These walnut squares sound really good.

I had no idea that walnuts were such nutritional powerhouses! Thanks!

Lydia, I did not like walnuts as a kid, either. What a waste of time that was! :D

I guess I'll prepare some walnut squares for myself this weekend!
Thanks indeed!

hi..walnut squares looks delicious..i will definetley give a try!!

I love the tip about keeping them in the freezer! These look delicious and would be welcome around here!

Thank goodness I have no nut allergies, I love them all. But, like many of the other commenters, hate shelling them. There is always an assortment of shelled nuts in my freezer.

Did you know that the shells of pistachio nuts contain an element similar to poison ivy and can cause dermatitis. Found out the hard way that, though I have no allergy to the nut, I can't shell them.

Mmm, lots of walnut flavor in those I am sure!

Constance, thanks for alerting us to the issue with pistachio shells. I haven't experienced that, and never realized that one could get a contact reaction from the shells without being allergic to the nut.

Love walnuts and always keep a Sam's size bag in the freezer. Toasting is like a magic wand on nuts and so brings out the depth of flavor.
Wonderful looking squares!

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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