(Chocolate) Hazelnut Butter

Toasted hazelnuts (or filberts as we used to call them in Oregon) are one of my favorite snacks. Between growing up in Oregon and Germany and lots of time in Italy, hazelnuts are in my blood. If you grind them up with a little salt, honey, olive oil and cocoa powder (optional), you get a spectacular treat. Eat by the spoonful, spread on toast, top your granola . . . good lord, it’s delicious! It’s a bit more like a nut butter than Nutella but the cocoa puts it in Nutella territory for sure. Try it without first and see what you think.

 

If you happen to have nuts in their shells, get cracking! It took me just about an hour to crack a pound of filberts yesterday. The nuts will be fresh and delicious (they keep better in shell) and you’ll save lots of $ but by all means use whatever you can get your hands on.

 

A jar of this makes a fantastic gift for someone you really love! And speaking of gifts, Cook With What You Have gift certificates make a good one too! Food makes people happy and we all need to eat so why not make it really delicious?!

 

(Chocolate) Hazelnut Butter

–adapted from Debbie Driscoll

 

Yields about 3 half-pints (ideal size for gift-giving)

 

If you use the cocoa you’ll need a little more oil to keep the texture creamy. It will be very creamy, even with less oil, when you’re making it but once you refrigerate it will solidify a bit more and get crumbly. Still very delicious but harder to spread.

 

1 lb shelled hazelnuts

1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (or maple syrup), more if you want a sweeter version but start with this

1/4 cup olive oil (or more neutral oil like sunflower; make sure if using olive oil, it’s not at all bitter or it will overpower the nuts) + more if you’re using the cocoa powder (see below)

1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (more to taste)

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

Spread nuts on a sheet pan and toast for about 15 minutes or until quite toasty smelling and a shade darker. Put toasted nuts on a dishtowel and let cool for a few minutes. Then use the towel to rub the skins off the nuts as best you can. Some will certainly remain, which is just fine. Collect the nuts, leaving the skins behind and put them in a food processor. They should be mostly cooled by now. Process for a few minutes, scraping the sides whenever needed until the butter forms and it moves in a big clump, about 3-4 minutes. Add the honey, salt and 1/4 cup oil and continue processing for another minute or so, scraping the sides as needed. Taste and see what you think. If you’d like, add cocoa and another 2-3 tablespoons oil. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, if needed. Then try not to eat it all right then and there!

 

Portion into 1/2 pint jars and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

 

When Olive Oil & Salt Aren’t the Answer

 

“Just sauté in olive oil, season with salt and enjoy!” I say this a lot. Sometimes it’s true but sometimes it’s really not what’s needed. Tonight I had a large turnip, 1 leek and some yellowing stalks of celery. Luckily I also had a little knob of fresh ginger and some garlic and a few tangerines and my pantry always has sesame oil and soy sauce. And I had a block of tofu! And pretty much every time I’m at the store I buy a bunch of scallions and cilantro so there was that. It’s a habit that makes many meals so much better and why you see this usual greenery as I’ve come to call it in so many of my recipes. The mint in my garden has withstood the freezing temps and is still thriving so I also tossed in some mint. So I made up a sort of teriyaki tofu with turnips, leeks and celery and served that over rice. It was great. My kid who “hates” turnips ate all the vegetables and I enjoyed it much more than I would have a pan of sautéed vegetables with nothing but salt and olive oil.

 

It’s really not that most people don’t like vegetables. It’s just that preparation matters. It’s fun to prepare vegetables in ways that makes the most of the situation–the ingredients and the proclivities of the eater! No, we don’t always or even often have the bandwidth for any of this but sometimes the soy sauce, sesame oil, plenty of ginger and the usual greenery-formula is just what we need!

 

P.S. Do you need a gift for someone in your life who likes to cook and would enjoy the free-wheeling cook-with-what-you-have mo? Give the gift of a Cook With What You Have gift certificate! No clutter, no postage, just daily inspiration, flavor and good health!

 

Teriyaki-ish Tofu with Random Vegetables

 

1 block (usually about 8 ounces) firm tofu, briefly pressed between plates to remove some of the liquid, then cut into cubes

2 tablespoons oil

1 large turnip or 3 cups of whatever vegetables you have (carrots, peas, green beans broccoli, cauliflower, etc), finely chopped

1 leek or 1/2 onion, sliced

2 stalks celery, thinly sliced (optional)

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted for about 2 minutes in a dry skillet (optional)

Rice for serving

Marinade

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon or more, favorite chili sauce like Sriracha

1 tablespoon ginger, grated on a microplane or very finely chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced or grated on microplane

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lime

1/3 cup orange juice

 

Cook rice.

 

Mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Put the tofu cubes in a baking dish and gently toss with half the marinade, making sure they’re in one layer.

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over high heat and add tofu and cook for 5-7 minutes or until browning in spots. Remove tofu from pan and set aside. Add the remaining tablespoon oil and saute turnip, celery and leek or whatever vegetables you’re using, stirring often for about 5 minutes or until vegetables are just softening. Add the remainder of the marinade to the vegetables and mix well and cook for another minute or two. Serve vegetables and tofu over rice and garnish with herbs and scallions and toasted sesame seeds, if you’d like.

 

Fudgy & Quick Chocolate Cookies

Need a gift for your child’s teacher? A sweet treat to bring to a party? Or just something to have on hand? These are the quickest and one of the most satisfying cookies I know. I vary these each time I make them. Sometimes I use whole-wheat pastry flour, sometimes spelt or sometimes just all-purpose. Around the holidays I use golden raisins and candied orange peel but sometimes it’s dried cherries or apricots. And sometimes I swirl in a few tablespoons of orange marmalade or other jam instead of the dried fruit.

 

So if you have 20 minutes (that includes the baking time!) and some cocoa on hand and a few other pantry basics you can have your chocolate/cookie fix or a gift in no time.

 

–adapted from pastry chef, writer, food stylist and friend Ellen Jackson

 

You mix these incredibly easy, fudgy cookies right in the saucepan.

 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, spelt or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup granulated sugar or coconut sugar
*1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed) or coconut sugar
generous 1/3 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cups dried fruit or 1/3 cup jam (see headnote) (half and half chopped golden raisins and candied orange peel is my holiday favorite as dried sour cherries or cranberries

 

*I just made this live on a TV show and realized after the fact that I forgot the brown sugar! They are still really delicious so if you like dark chocolate and want a minimally sweet cookie, go ahead and skip that part!

 

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine flour, soda, and salt and set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars. Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until just mixed. Add any dried, fruit nuts, and/or jam. If adding jam just gently swirl it through the batter, don’t evenly mix it in or it will get a bit lost in the final cookies.

 

Drop by level tablespoons 1 inch apart onto baking sheets or use a #40 cookies scoop (3/4 oz). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Don’t over bake and err on the side of underdone, if you like moist, chewy cookies that is. They will firm up as they cool. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

 

P.S. Do you need a gift for someone in your life who likes to cook/bake? Give the gift of a Cook With What You Have gift certificate! No clutter, no postage, just daily inspiration, flavor and good health!