5 quick ways with Hazelnuts

From Chris Halpin

2014 Nov/Dec

Hazelnuts or filberts, however you call them, are the same nut. Filbert is a French word and hazelnut is Anglo-Saxon. This is an ancient food that’s first mentioned in writing by the Chinese, in 2838 BC, as one of the five sacred foods given to man. For me, the hazelnut, with its rich, earthy flavour, leaves me looking for more ways to cook with it.

Hazelnut oil is my favourite nut oil. It oxidizes quickly, so store it in the fridge where it will stay fresh for at least a year. Find it in any store that sells fine vinegars and oils.

These are three “offs” for hazelnut oil.

1. Trim and cook 2 handsful of green beans or asparagus to preferred doneness. Drain and turn into a serving bowl with 1 T. hazelnut oil, 1 t. grainy mustard and salt to taste. Toss and serve. Serves 2.

2. To a bowl, add 2 handsful of mixed greens and 1 T. hazelnut oil. Toss until evenly coated, sprinkle with a finishing salt. I will eat this just as is or with a simple something on top, like blueberries and cucumber or pear and crumbly cheese. Serves 2.

3. Instead of using vanilla when you’re whipping cream, whip 1 c. whipping cream to soft peaks, add 1 t. hazelnut oil and 1 T. icing sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks before serving.

Skinning Hazelnuts: hazelnut skin is high in bitter tannins, so it needs to be removed. The quickest way is to bake them at 325°F. for five minutes to roast them long enough to loosen the skins and not to change their flavour. If you want the nuts to have a rich roasted flavour, bake them 10 to 12 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, wrap the nuts in a tea towel and, with both hands, rub vigorously for a minute or so. When you open the towel, you should see that about 80 percent of the skins are removed. Buy lots, skin them, then store them in the freezer. (You can also buy skinned hazelnuts at Italian markets.)

Hazelnut Milk

Delicious with chai and lattes. Soak 1 c. hazelnuts, skinned, in 2 c. distilled water for 4 hours. Drain and rinse the nuts, then put them in a blender with 2 c. distilled water, 1 t. honey and ١/٤ t. cinnamon, and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Using either a nut-milk strainer or cheesecloth, strain the hazelnuts and squeeze out all the liquid. By using distilled water for this, it seems to give a longer shelf life to the milk, like 8 to 10 days.

Roast Squash with Fennel, Hazelnut and Sage

With a knife, randomly poke the skin of a medium acorn squash, evenly coat with oil and bake in a 350°F. oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until slightly pliable to the touch. This can be done several days in advance. When ready to make this dish, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then peel the skin and coarsely dice the flesh. Slice 1 small fennel bulb very fine. Put 2 T. butter and the fennel in a pan over medium heat. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes, then add 2 garlic cloves, crushed, salt and pepper to taste, and sauté a minute longer. Add the squash and 5 sage leaves, finely chopped, 1 T. hazelnut oil, 1 c. hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and roughly chopped, and sauté about 5 minutes more before serving. Serves 4.

Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Marmalade

This recipes also works well with chicken breasts and scallops. Remove any sinew and silver skin from 1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb.) and place it in a bowl. Add 1 T. paprika, 1 t. onion powder, ١/٢ t. ground cumin, ١/٢ t. ground nutmeg, 1 t. Sriracha chili sauce and work everything into the flesh. Let marinate at least 30 minutes. Make an egg wash in a shallow bowl with 1 egg, 1/4 c. water and 1 t. salt. In another shallow bowl, whisk together ١/٢ c. flour and 1 t. salt. Put 1 c. hazelnuts, skinned and chopped to a medium fineness, in a third bowl. Dredge the pork in the flour, then the egg-wash, back to the flour and again in the egg. Then roll it in the hazelnuts, pressing as much of the hazelnut as possible onto all sides. Place on a wire rack in a baking pan and roast in a 350°F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a blender, put 1 c. orange marmalade, 2 heads of roasted garlic, 1/2 t. Chinese 5-spice powder, 1 t. Sriracha sauce and blend until thoroughly mixed. When the pork is done, remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. Slice and serve with warm or room-temp marmalade. Serves 2 to 4.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Hazelnuts and chocolate make a perfect marriage. Think Nutella. My version of that hazelnut spread is even vegan. In a double boiler, melt 1 c. dark chocolate with 3 T. hazelnut oil. When nearly melted, remove and stir until smooth. In a food processor, put 1 c. hazelnuts, roasted and peeled, 2 T. icing sugar and a pinch of salt, and grind until very fine. Add the chocolate mixture and continue to grind into a fine paste, about 5 minutes. This spread is good at room temp for up to eight days or it can be kept in the fridge for much longer. The texture will be stiffer, but it only takes about five minutes at room temperature before it loosens up to easy spreadability. Makes about 2 cups.

Hazelnut Brittle

This is so fast and easy, it’s perfect for those times when we need dessert. Heat 1 c. sugar and ١/٢ c. light corn syrup over medium-high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until it comes to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat so it doesn’t boil over. Continue to cook for another 6 minutes, stirring from time to time, then remove from the heat and quickly stir in 1 T. butter and 1 t. vanilla. Once fully incorporated, add 1 t. baking soda and continue to stir until well mixed in, but still foamy. Quickly pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and gently spread out. Randomly drop ١/٢ c. whole hazelnuts over top. (You can first toast the hazelnuts, if you like.) Allow this to cool at least 10 minutes before breaking into pieces and diving in. Serves 4.