Nuts (Recipe: chocolate and hazelnut dipped strawberries)
According to botanists, nuts are composites of a plant's seed and fruit, where the fruit does not open to release the seed.
Cooks are more open-minded, including in the category anything that looks or acts like a nut. Pine nuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios are actually seeds, and peanuts aren't nuts at all.
They're all in my pantry, all of those nuts and seeds, and peanuts, too (legumes, despite their name). Because, as you know, I'm a very open-minded cook.
At any time, my freezer contains half a dozen small bags of nuts: walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, cashews, pistachios, and hazelnuts or macadamias. The oil in the nuts spoils quickly; storing them in the freezer will prevent rancidity and the nuts will keep for a year.
In most recipes, you can substitute one nut for another, and you can use nuts without defrosting them first. Try that in roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic, parmesan and pine nuts, sugar-and-spice candied nuts, miso, tahini and nut paste for broiled or baked root vegetables, banana nut bread, or pumpkin nut muffins with molasses glaze.
Nuts are available year-round, in every type of market, so stock up when they're on sale. A handful of nuts can become pesto, a topping for salad, or a heart-healthy afternoon snack.
Chocolate and hazelnut dipped strawberries
Sometimes the most popular desserts I serve are the easiest to prepare: a bowl of ice cream, a baked apple, a cold fruit salad in summer. This dessert took ten minutes to prepare, and even less time to eat! If you can find the gigantic strawberries with stems still attached, those are perfect. If not, substitute toothpicks or bamboo picks for the stems. Serves 6.
4-oz bar of semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet baking chocolate)
1 cup of hazelnuts (could be pistachios, macadamias, walnuts, peanuts)
18 large strawberries
Cover a plate or baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Break the chocolate into small pieces, and place in a glass measuring cup. Melt in the microwave by heating for 30 seconds. Stir, heat for another 30 seconds. Stir again. If necessary, heat for 20 seconds more. Stir. The chocolate should be melted and smooth.
Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse 10 times, or chop roughly with a knife.
If the strawberries have some grit on them, wash them and dry gently with a soft towel. If there's no stem, stick a toothpick in the stem end. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate, and twirl it over the measuring cup to allow the excess to drip off. Then roll the strawberry in the chopped nuts.
Set strawberries on the parchment-covered plate, and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate to harden. Then, arrange on a serving dish, and store in the refrigerator. Fifteen minutes before you want to serve dessert, remove the dish from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.