Arsip Tag: walnut

caramel walnut upside down banana cake – smitten kitchen

Oh, look what I went and did now. Really, I must be stopped–this is out of control. One afternoon I saw a recipe for Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake in Gourmet and it was one of those moments when you pause and repeat all of the words to yourself slowly, trying to imagine how someone managed to fit all of these glorious elements into one 8-inch pan (they didn’t, but more on that later)–kind of like the Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake of two weeks ago. It immediately went on my Cook This list. The next day, I casually picked up the ingredients for the cake, just in case an opportunity presented itself where a Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake’s services would be called upon. (Hey, these things happen when you run the Smitten Kitchen.) But then it never did and by the end of the weekend, the bananas, they were calling to me and the cake and a few hours later, here we were:

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

Those bananas get me every time. I have an affection for bananas that most sane people reject–call it freckle empathy–and having them around but trying not to a) eat or b) bake jacked-up banana bread with them is torture. To put it another way: I feel like the chimpanzee in this video and the bananas? They never win.

caramel walnut lidbanana cake batterbanana cakecaramel walnut upside down banana cake

So, how was it? Unbearably good. But it was almost unbearably sweet as well. In hindsight, I’m not sure this cake needs caramel on top to make it good, as boring as that makes me sound. The sweetness of the lid nearly overwhelmed it, requiring a two glass of water chaser. It also hardened quite a bit, making it impossible to break through it with the side of a fork and meaning it gets totally stuck in your teeth. But the tender, moist and densely-banana flavored cake within is a gem, and would be a great swap in any layer cake, coated with cream cheese frosting or dark chocolate and coffee ganache. In fact, I can’t wait to make it again exactly like that. But for the love of all that is bathing suit season, I hope to find a better excuse than “It was Sunday, and the bananas called to me!” No, it will at least be Monday.

caramel walnut upside down banana cake

One year ago: Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Roasted Red Peppers and Spiced Cumin Dressing

Caramel Walnut Upside-Down Banana Cake
Adapted from Gourmet, March 2008

If the caramel topping is still calling to you, despite my warnings that it is terrifically sweet and hardens once set, just be sure to serve it warm, before it does. A few other adjustments: the original recipe calls for an 8-inch cake pan, which is an absolute no-no. Mine completely filled a 9-inch pan with 2-inch sides. If you are nervous or don’t have at least 2-inch sides on your 9-inch baking pan, go for a 10-inch pan instead. Finally, I don’t know if my oven temperature is wonk or not, but this cake baked in 40 to 45 minutes in my oven, not 55+, something I have adjusted below.

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
3/4 cup walnut halves or pieces

1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (2 to 3 large)
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

For topping: Spray 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Bring butter, sugar, and corn syrup to boil in medium saucepan, stirring constantly until butter melts. Boil syrup 1 minute. Stir in nuts. Spread topping in prepared pan. Let topping cool completely.

For cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Sift first 4 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until blended. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then mashed bananas, sour cream, rum, and vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 2 additions just until combined. Spoon batter into pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Cut around cake. Place platter over pan. Holding pan and platter together, turn over. Let stand 5 minutes, then gently lift off pan. Cool at least 15 minutes for topping to set. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

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chocolate walnut cookies + more flourless desserts – smitten kitchen

Every year, I see Passover-friendly recipes that frighten me: brick-like honey cakes, “sponge” cakes that still haunt my mother (who receives these in lieu of birthday cakes most years, due to the misfortune of having a birthday that falls in the first week of April), dinner rolls that my father likens to “hockey pucks” and macaroons that nobody (besides me) likes. And every year, I wonder: what ever happened to impossible-to-hate flourless chocolate cakes and truffles? Desserts lifted with egg whites? Ground nuts instead of flour? Do people even realize that one of the best peanut butter cookies on earth has exactly no flour in it?

"finely" choppowdered sugar, cocoa, saltsift, if lumpyadd walnuts

Well, you know what I say? This year in Dessert Epiphany. I promise to stop ranting from this point forward and instead use this post as a repository for the kinds of Passover desserts that you’d be proud to bring to dinner. And for those of you who do not celebrate Passover, fear not, matzo meal only shows up in one of these recipes, and even then, only nominally. (Forgive me, because I have never warmed to the flavor of the bread of affliction in an otherwise-excellent cake.) In short: you don’t need the reminder of 40 years in the dessert to find an excuse to make these, but if you ask me, it’s a good reason as any.

chocolate walnut cookies, ready to bake

For example, did you know that Payard–yes, that Payard–makes a Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookie? It’s in his new book, Chocolate Ephiphany which New York Magazine gave us a preview of yesterday. I tried them out last night, and oh, an epiphany they were, and then some. I know what you’re thinking: just like chocolate meringues! Yet, they’re not–the egg whites are not whipped, just whisked with powdered sugar (a recipe for Passover-friendly powdered sugar is below) and really good cocoa, and the result is crispy but stretchy and very intensely chocolaty. Also, it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and a one-bowl (plus a cutting board) recipe to boot. The recipe is at the end.

flourless chocolate walnut cookies

In the space between here and there, All My Favorite Passover Desserts:

Plus, let’s be realistic, the only Passover dessert you’ll ever need.

If you’ve made this before, you know the deal: don’t show up without it again. If you haven’t, well, why not? Do you dislike caramel and butter and salt and chocolate and crunch? No, you do not. Finally, if you’re reading this and it’s not Passover, go and make them tonight with Saltine-style crackers instead. You won’t regret a thing.

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walnut tartlets – smitten kitchen

So, yesterday was a fun and totally out of the ordinary day in the Smitten Kitchen. First, I cooked while wearing lip gloss, which — and I don’t mean to destroy your vision of your blog hostess looking as cute as Giada each day as she creams the sugar with the butter — um, never happens. Oh and second, some really nice young ladies filmed me while I worked.

my favorite

As part of their grant from PBS’s Road Trip Nation, these recent college grads are going around the country talking to people who have travelled down entirely different career paths in hopes to get a clearer picture of what they’d like to do with their lives. How fun is that, right? And they wanted to come visit the Smitten Kitchen and talk to me, which is really funny considering that the answer to “what kind of career path led you here” is, in short: “What’s a career path?” chased with a guffaw, because I haven’t a clue.

wee tartlets

The video will be ready and online somewhere in the next few months, and I’ll be sure in all of my wanting to pull a bag over my head awkwardness to tell you about it anyway. In the meanwhile, since it was, after all, the Smitten Kitchen, I was of course baking something. I didn’t get much in the way of pictures, being busy yammering to the camera and totally forgetting to suck my stomach in and/or hold my shoulders straight (sorry Mom) but I did end up with a delicious dessert I’ve been wanting to check out for eons.


Unfortunately, it was a near disaster. You see, these tartlets bubbled up and over the sides and frankly, all over the place. Thank goodness I had them on the tray or you would have one very cranky blogger on oven-scrubbing duty today. Nevertheless, I wondered who tested this recipe and went back to the original photo of it from an old issue of Bon Appetit to see clear evidence that their caramel rose up over the sides too. Ha, vindicated! Or something.

Alas, this doesn’t leave me in a really good place to give advice. Cons: This bubbles over and will make an awful mess, so you’ll probably want to not only put your tartlets on a tray, but line that tray with foil. Pro: Oh, it tastes amazing. Like, they were all gone by 5 p.m. (I gave four out as goody bags. Gosh people, I’m not that piggish!) And I have missed them dearly all the minutes since.

walnut tartlets

One year ago: Chile-Garlic Egg Noodles
Two years ago: Wild Mushroom Pierogis

Walnut Tartlets
Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 1999

Unfortunately, the cure to the bubbling-over drama is not to fill the shells less (I went about 90 percent full, myself) as the filling shrinks back down and you don’t want a half-empty shell. That said, if you can deal with a little mess, you’ll be duly rewarded with an inordinate amount of deliciousness.

Serves 6

1 recipe Great Unshrinkable Sweet Tart Shell, unbaked
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon whole aniseed (we liked this level, but use 1/4 teaspoon if you’re anise-phobic)
1 3/4 cups walnuts, toasted, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 370°F. Cut pastry dough into six pieces, and roll out each one to a 6-inch circle. Transfer to a lightly-buttered 4 1/2-inch-diameter tartlet pan with removable bottom. Press crust onto bottom and up sides of pan; trim overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold overhang in and press, forming double-thick sides. Repeat with remaining dough disks and 5 more pans and prick them all over with a fork.

Freeze crusts for 30 minutes. Lightly butter six pieces of foil and press them tightly against frozen tart shells. Bake crusts for 10 minutes before taking them out, carefully removing the foil, pressing down any pastry that has bubbled up gently with the back of a spoon and baking them for an additional 7 minutes, or until lightly golden at the edges. [More detailed instructions in this post.] Take them out of the oven and let them cool. Increase oven temperature to 400°F.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Stir cream and next 5 ingredients in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil until mixture bubbles thickly and color darkens slightly, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in walnuts then salt.

Place crusts on baking sheet lined with foil. Divide filling among crusts. (I had a bit extra. Can we say “best ice cream topping, ever”?) Bake tartlets until filling bubbles thickly and crusts are golden, about 25 minutes. Cool tartlets in pans on rack 5 minutes. Remove pan sides while tartlets are still warm. (Hm, I ignored this and found them easier to remove when they were fully cool, but I’ll let you decide.)

Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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cabbage, apple and walnut salad – smitten kitchen

Today might have started off as Pie for Breakfast Day but I think we all know that the day after Thanksgiving is all about detox. Away with the heavy cream! Begone, you cheesy gratins! Skedaddle, you deep, gooey casseroles, sticky-sweet yams topped with charred marshmallows and green beans with fried onions. Please, don’t make me eat that butter and drippings-laden gravy again… at least until tomorrow.

Detox Day deserves its own dish, and though it is a tad late to get this one in for dinner tonight, I would like to offer up this cabbage, apple and walnut salad as the antidote to a meal that sent us back to the store for more butter and heavy cream not once but three times. (Gasp! My arteries!) This salad is perfect–it has all of the flavors of the season, but also a crunchy healthfulness so missing from the week’s main event, oh and also that slice of pie we know you’re having for dessert anyway.

ahoy, savoy

Cabbage Salad with Apples and Walnuts
Adapted from Chez Panisse Fruit, via Cookstr

This salad is great as it is, but I am already itching to hack the recipe. I’d imagine that some snipped chives or perhaps a pinch of fresh dill would be great, or maybe some diced celery or maybe even a tablespoon of creamy horseradish swapped for the creme fraiche. This recipe is infinitely tweakable.

Serves 6

1 small savoy cabbage
1/3 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or heavy cream (we used sour cream)
2 apples (any crisp, tasty eating variety, such as Sierra Beauty, Granny Smith, or Fuji)
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Tear off and discard the tough outer leaves of the cabbage. Cut it in half and cut out its core. Slice the halves crosswise into a fine chiffonade.

Toast the walnuts in the oven for 8 minutes. While they are still warm, first rub them in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skins, then chop or coarsely crumble them.

To prepare the dressing, mix the vinegar with the lemon juice, some salt, and a generous amount of pepper.

Whisk in the olive oil and then the creme fraiche or cream. Taste and adjust the acid and salt as desired.

Quarter, peel, and core the apples. Slice the quarters lengthwise fairly thin and cut these slices lengthwise into a julienne. Toss the cabbage, apples, and walnuts (and blue cheese, if you’re using it) with the dressing and an extra pinch of salt. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, taste again, adjust the seasoning as needed, and serve.

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fig and walnut biscotti – smitten kitchen

Lest you think my running of at the mouth about the evils of dieting meant that I was going to spend this month in the pursuit of only earnest foods, let me set that straight right now: all weekend, I craved a cookie and by Sunday, I’d had enough. No, I wasn’t going to break out the piping bags or the heavy cream ganaches, but when I need something sweet, I have learned that it’s better to have one and move on than to snack on twent-five other odd ends instead, oh, and still crave a cookie.

sad, dried figswalnuts, ready to toastclementine zestground figs and nuts

As far as my cookie demands went, biscotti seemed a perfect compromise. A little less rich, sweet and heavy than most cookies, they go better with tea, coffee or your morning yogurt (guilty as charged) than they do wtih a platter of even more indulgent desserts. I’d had this recipe from Gina DePalma, pastry chef at Babbo, bookmarked for years, and seeing as I am still wading through pounds of nuts and had some sorry-looking figs in the pantry, it seemed like perfect timing.

slicing the biscottihalf-baked biscotti

Biscotti fall into two categories: those that contain butter and those that do not. The former are closer to a cookie, and what we’re used to seeing in this country. I can’t say I’d dip them in anything, but then again, I’m not much of a dipper (I imagine little oily spots at the top of my coffee… ghuh). The latter — the butter free type — are so crunchy that they beg to be dipped in warm wine. Now, people who consider themselves biscotti purists will tell you that biscotti should never contain butter, and if they do, they’re not biscotti. But when I ran that by an Italian cook, he noted that the word biscotti is derived from Latin (biscoctus) which means twice-baked, and that therefore this twice-baking, and not the ingredients, are the definition of biscotti. He also said that Italian cooking is full of people who like to tell you that the other half of people are doing it wrong and I laughed because I think you could apply that to cooking anywhere.

Me, I step aside from authenticity challenges. I just like what I like. And I really like these, and think you will too.

fig and walnut biscotti

Biscotti, previously: Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti (butter-free), Almond Biscotti (with butter) and Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti (so delicious for a party)

One year ago: Balthazar’s Cream of Mushroom Soup
Two years ago: Viennese Cucumber Salad

Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Adapted from Gina DePalma, The Babbo Cookbook

I hadn’t realized how fragrant these would turn out; our apartment is a cloud of orange and spice. They’re crazy tasty too, they have a good crunch but have small spots of softness from the figs, and a little crackle from the fig seeds.

This is a half-recipe; the original yielded double but this seemed like plenty.

Makes approximately 24 biscotti

1 cup walnut pieces
1 cup dried Turkish or Calimyrna figs, quartered
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons or 3 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1/2 a large orange (I used a clementine)
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (or 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons) unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon. ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 5 to 7 minutes, or until golden brown and fragrant. Allow the walnuts to cool completely

2. Place the walnuts and dried figs in a food processor and process until they are finely chopped.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula occasionally. Beat in the vanilla and the orange zest.

4. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture to form a somewhat firm dough. Add the walnuts and figs and beat until thoroughly combined. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic and chill 35 to 40 minutes or until completely firm.

5. When the dough has chilled, lightly grease a baking sheet. On a floured board, use your palms to roll the piece of dough into a log the length of the baking sheet. Place the log on the baking sheet.

6. In a small bowl, beat the egg white with a fork until frothy. With a pastry brush, glaze the log with some egg white and sprinkle it with granulated sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes (this took longer in my oven, but everything seems to these days), or until the log is lightly golden brown, firm to the touch and just beginning to crack slightly.

7. Allow the log to cool on the cookie sheet until cool to the touch, about 40 minutes. With a serrated knife, slice the biscotti, slightly on the bias, into 1/2-inch slices. Lay the slices on the cookie sheet in single layer (I always end up needing a second baking sheet in this step, as they have a lot more surface area); Return the biscotti to the oven and cook for 20 more minutes, or until the biscotti are toasted and crisp.

Store the biscotti in an airtight container. They will keep up to about 2 weeks.

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walnut pesto – smitten kitchen

I really, really like walnuts. They manage to be vaguely sweet but still meaty and they have this slight bitterness that goes with, well, everything. I like the way they round out the sweetness in these amazing walnut tartlets in the archives that I’m certain get overlooked by everyone but me, and contrast the sweet figs in this biscotti.

walnuts, garlic, parmesan, thyme...

But I think they get especially awesome in savory applications, and not just as an accent to pasta or a salad. This “pesto” caught my eye — in an article about wine bars moving beyond serving the ubiquitous olives and cheese plates, something I can totally get behind — because it’s not basil pesto with a few walnuts for good measure, it’s not an olive tapenade with crunch, it’s actually a base of coarsely ground walnuts picked up with garlic, sherry vinegar and sundried tomatoes.

walnut pesto

Even better, it took five minutes to put together which is equally perfect for those of you who are looking for some quick fixes for a New Years Eve party and those of, well, me who can only find about five minutes to spare each day, or at least until we hire a little extra help next month. Shh, don’t tell Jacob!


Things on toasts, previously: Artichoke-Olive Tapenade, Feta Salsa and Creamed Mushrooms

For Your Next Party: All gathered in one place, and finally updated. Thanks Alex!

One year ago: Pecan Sandies
Two years ago: Caramel Cake
Three years ago: Coq Au Vin

Walnut Pesto Crostini
Adapted slightly from Jody Williams at Gottino in the West Village

Makes about 1 cup pesto

1 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated or crumbled parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, minced
Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
Red pepper flakes
1/2 to 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar 
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons minced sun-dried tomatoes (dried or oil packed) 
Salt, to taste

In a food processor, coarsely grind walnuts, cheese, garlic, thyme, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Stir in oil and tomatoes. Season to taste with salt. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon vinegar if desired.

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walnut jam cake – smitten kitchen

Given my fixation with both walnuts and everyday cakes, it should come as exactly no surprise that the time between me spying this recipe and me getting it in the oven was about six days. Which is the equivalent of less than one day in If You Don’t Have An Impish Four-Month Old terms. I fell for it quickly, it came together even faster (spoiler: the whole thing can be made in a single-bowl food processor) and all of that voluptuous stuff on top — a schmear of jam and a “drift” of whipped cream that’s been tarted up with a little sour cream — are standard no-fuss ingredients. This cake is an easy win.

one brown, three white eggs
whipped cream with a little sour

And yet, I must fuss. It is my way. I am 33 years old, clearly too old and entrenched to change. I found the jam a little overpowering. Now, I intentionally went out and sought a jam that would be more tart than sweet, and then I did add the optional lemon juice to further the punch. Nonetheless, when you have a subtly delightful cake — built on a flavor bed of walnuts toasted nearly to the point of caramelization) — it’s hard to find that under a pile of jam. I might halve it next time, or just spread a thin slick of it on top. Or even skip it and for once, listen to my husband who thinks that everything is better with chocolate and perhaps puddle some ganache on top instead. Or my waistline, that thinks this cake is rich enough plain? Nah, definitely the husband.

jam on walnut cake

And the whipped-with-a-touch-of-sour cream, lordy, I was excited about that but wow, that sure is a lot of it. I barely even know who is talking right now, because surely this would never come out of my own mouth but maybe a little less whipped cream next time? Clearly, I’m feeling under the weather today and it shows.

walnut jam cake

Beyond my fussing, however, this is one of those cakes that I can imagine as many, many things: I could see it as a birthday layer cake. Or the kind of breakfast muffins you know are really just small cakes but look, jam! Clearly that makes them breakfast material. You could split the cake once or twice and slip the jam between the layers, if you’re feeling fancy. Pecans would be an obvious substitution, if you don’t like walnuts (but how could you not?). And I dare say that given the small amount of flour in the cake, it seems ripe for some Kosher for Passover or Gluten-Free adaptability, yes?

Go. Have fun with it. This should totally be your Just Because It’s Wednesday Night dessert.

walnut jam cake, my wedge

One year ago: Crisp Black Bean Tacos with Feta and Slaw

Walnut Jam Cake
Adapted from, long sigh

1 1/4 cups walnuts (4 1/2 ounces or 130 grams), toasted (in a shallow baking pan at 350°F for 10 minutes) and cooled
2/3 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces or 113 grams), cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (2 1/4 ounces or 65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
1/2 cup (150 grams) jam or preserves (apricot or raspberry are recommended; I used black currant)
2/3 cup (160 grams) chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup (60 grams) sour cream
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan, or hit it up with the butter-and-flour spray of your choice.

Pulse cooled walnuts and sugar in a food processor until finely chopped. Add butter and process until combined, then add eggs and vanilla and process until combined. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse just until incorporated. Spread batter in cake pan.

Bake until cake is just firm to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in pan, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.

Whisk lemon juice (if using) into jam. Spoon jam over cake.

Beat heavy cream with sour cream, sugar, and vanilla until it holds soft peaks, then spoon over jam

Do ahead: Cake (without topping) keeps, well-wrapped, at room temperature for 4 days. With topping, it has kept so far in the fridge quite nicely for over a day.

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charred eggplant and walnut pesto pasta salad – smitten kitchen

Source: Walnut pesto adapted from Jody Williams

  • Salt
  • 1/2 pound pasta (I used Setaro’s organietti, but other radiatore shapes are great here)
  • Additional olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant (1 pound)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Additional sherry or red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces ricotta salata, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley or basil
  • Dressing
  • 3/4 cup (2 3/4 ounces) walnuts, toasted and cooled first for best flavor
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, cleaned
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar, plus more at end
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more at end
  • 2 tablespoons (about 3) minced sun-dried tomatoes (oil or dry-packed will both work)
  • Freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes

Cook pasta: In very well salted water until 1 to 2 minutes before doneness and drain.

Prepare eggplant: Trim eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch coins. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat grill to medium-high. Arrange eggplant in one layer and cook until charred underneath, about 8 minutes. (If it’s sticking to the grill, it wants to cook longer.) Flip pieces over and cook until charred on second side, about 5 to 8 minutes more. Set aside to cool slightly then chop into chunks.

No grill? Heat oven to 425. Trim eggplant and slice into 1/2-inch coins. Coat a baking sheet generously with olive oil, arrange eggplant on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, without disturbing, for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully flip each piece: the undersides should be blistery, dark and a bit puffy and should release easily; if they don’t want to, cook them a few minutes longer. Flip each piece, sprinkle again with salt and pepper, and roast on the second side for 10 to 12 minutes, or until charred underneath again.

Make dressing: In food processor, coarsely grind walnuts, cheese, garlic, thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper and/or red pepper flakes. Stir in oil and tomatoes, then whisk in vinegar to taste.

Assemble salad: Toss cooked pasta with walnut dressing and additional vinegar and oil to loosen (I used about 1 tablespoon extra oil and 2 tablespoons extra vinegar in total). Chop eggplant into chunks, add to bowl and toss again. Adjust seasonings to taste, then stir in cheese and herbs.

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