By Tuesday, December 22, 2009 , , ,

My friend Anne inspired this post. In response to my Tip No. 3: Pasta blog, she shared her favorite go-to, post-work pasta dish:

My favorite quick, after-work pasta: sauté green beans in garlic and olive oil, add cooked whole-wheat penne, toasted walnuts, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese and a bit of pasta water. The heat from the pasta melts the cheese and makes a yummy sauce. Super quick and super good!

Nuts are some of nature's "wonder foods." They pack a punch of protein, antioxidants, fatty acids, monounsaturated fat (good for the ticker!), vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, copper, phosphorous, potassium, folate, and selenium. Wow.

You can cook with them, bake with them, garnish with them ... toast them, roast them, salt them (or not). Great with a cocktail, good on a bowl of oatmeal, perfect for a snack on-the-run.

Walnuts, almonds, pine nuts and pistachios are always in my freezer. Pecans, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts also make regular appearances. I purchase them raw and then toast a whole sheet pan full and freeze them once cooled. Then I have toasted nuts, ready to go whenever I want.

Here's my recipe for walnut paste. It's a multi-purpose condiment, perfect as ... a pizza sauce; slathered on a crostini with a dollop of fresh ricotta; mixed with pasta and sautéed greens; delicious as a garnish for butternut squash or white bean soup. Lasts in the fridge for a week; let it come to room temperature before using. It may need a vigourous whisk to reincorporate.

Walnut Paste
makes roughly 1 cup

1 cup toasted walnuts (cooled)
1/3 cup walnut or olive oil
a teeny tiny clove of garlic or a small chunk from a normal size one
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In the bowl of a food processor with machine running, add garlic through feed tube to mince. Stop the machine and add walnuts, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper. Pulse until coarsely ground. With machine running, slowly add oil until a smooth sauce is produced. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed, adding more salt, pepper or lemon juice.

Happy eating, -s.

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