Anyone who has ever stored their tree nuts in the refrigerator or freezer will appreciate how delicious they are cold! Not only does it preserve them longer, but frozen tree nuts also have a wonderful crispy, crunch and seem to cool you all over. Nuts are also intrinsic to so many summer foods and can add a wonderful dimension to your frozen or chilled drinks, desserts and cocktails. Here are a few ideas for serving tree nuts on warm summer days:
Gelato: The Italians often base their gelatos on nuts – think pistachio, hazelnut (nocciola), almond and walnut – the nuts add a creaminess and denser texture that adds to the cooling effects and delicious character of gelato! See below for a pistachio gelato recipe you can make in your own home.
Granita: Granita is another Italian frozen dessert that is basically a flavored ice with larger crystals than sorbet, and it’s very easy to make. Most often it starts with a simple syrup, then you can add fruit puree or juice, coffee, tea or other adult beverages before freezing in a shallow tray. After an hour, scrape mixture with a fork to break up into crystals and repeat every half hour until the desired consistency. On the final stir, fold through chopped nuts. You can go fancy and make one with Champagne and Flaked Almonds; Asian style with mango, lime, coconut and macadamias; or this classic Apple Walnut Granita.
Home Designer Ice Cream: Impress your family or guests by ‘upgrading’ a store-bought ice cream with nuts and other ingredients. That way you can buy any flavor, choose an alternative milk base if there are allergies, and get creative to make it your own. Simply soften the ice cream a little in a bowl (don’t soften to a liquid as it won’t refreeze as nicely). Stir through nuts, spices, dried or fresh fruit, or whatever your heart desires and refreeze back in the container or in ice cube trays for small bits. Get the new-wave spirit and experiment with combinations such as almonds, salt and dark chocolate; hazelnuts, chili flakes and honey swirled through; walnuts and pecans with cardamom and currants; pine nuts with fresh basil; macadamia nuts, pear puree and white pepper; Brazil nuts with rum-soaked raisins. Permission to go crazy!
Nutty Pops: You can put your ice cream creation in popsicle makers, but better still, freeze whole bananas with a popsicle stick (or chopstick for fun), dip in white, dark or milk chocolate and roll in your favorite chopped nuts. Here’s a recipe for Chocolate and Pecan Dipped Banana Pops to get you started.
Smoothies: Smoothies made just with fruit and yogurt are wonderful, but often leave you feeling hungry shortly thereafter. Adding some frozen tree nuts will thicken it up while adding valuable protein, nutrients and healthy oils. It will also keep you satiated longer. Here’s a recipe for a Raspberry Almond Smoothie.
This is based on a traditional Italian gelato recipe, using a custard base. You could substitute any nut for the recipe.
To make the base, heat milk over medium heat until small bubbles appear around outside – don’t allow to boil. Beat the egg yolks and sugar with a whisk in a separate bowl until thick and creamy. Gradually add some of the hot milk, a few spoons at a time, while whisking the mixture, then add the remainder of the milk in a thin stream, constantly whisking.
Transfer the mixture to a double boiler and cook, stirring until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Pour into a glass or ceramic container, cover closely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool. You can do this the day or even two before.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and churn for 1-2 minutes before adding ground pistachios and finishing according to instructions for your ice cream maker. Fold through as many pistachio chunks as you like.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze custard and pistachios in ice cube trays. When frozen transfer to a blender, puree and refreeze – do this a few times to get the ice crystals very small, then freeze in a plastic tub with a lid.
Have fun experimenting with nutty treats this summer and Bon Appetit!
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