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Tasty Morsels: Holiday tart gets extra crunch from area-grown walnuts

By: Susie Iventosch
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This is the time of year to load up on walnuts. Though it’s a time-consuming proposition, it’s kind of a fun to gather in the kitchen to shell the little treasures. And if you’re short on time, you could always ask the resident football fans to make themselves useful during commercial breaks! Unfortunately, it was a challenging year for local Auburn-area growers, many of whom suffered crop damage due to the harsh freeze last April. But, according to both Jan Thompson of Newcastle Produce and Mark Foley of Blue Goose Produce in Loomis, there is good availability of walnuts from nearby communities, and both merchants sell them in the shell and out. “The walnuts are very good this year,” Foley said. “The crop is sweet and light-colored. We’re selling the Chandler variety, which is very low in acid.” Foley mentioned the frost in April hit certain microclimates hard, while others went unscathed. Newcastle Produce has a supply of walnuts from Salle Orchards of Wheatland this year. “They are part of the Foothill Farmers’ Market group, too,” Thompson said. “We just started getting the walnuts in a week ago and should have supplies through New Year’s.” Now that you know where to purchase walnuts, here is a tart that is bursting with flavors of caramelized onion, walnuts and blue cheese — perfect for holiday entertaining. It’s very easy to prepare, especially if you’ve already shelled all those nuts you just purchased! And, since walnuts are available year-round in the stores, or in your freezer, this dish can be prepared almost any time of the year. The second recipe is for a similar dish, but is made with roasted corn, poblano chilies and sharp white cheddar. Happy Thanksgiving! n Caramelized onion blue cheese tart 1 crust recipe (below) 1 large red onion, peeled and sliced 1 cup walnut halves 2 tablespoons olive oil 4-5 ounces blue cheese crumbled 4 tablespoon half and half, or cream In a large frying pan heat olive oil and add onions. Cook until soft and beginning to brown. Add walnuts and continue cooking over medium-high heat until walnuts are browned and onions are caramelized. Place mixture in cooled tart shell and evenly distribute crumbled blue cheese over onion mixture. Drizzle half and half evenly over filling. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees. n Roasted corn and poblano white cheddar tart 1 tart crust (see below) 2 large poblano chilies 2 large ears of corn on the cob (if you can’t find this, just use frozen corn; also Trader Joe’s sells pre-roasted corn kernels in a bag) 1½ cup sharp white cheddar cheese, grated 3-4 tablespoons half and half, or cream Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove husks from corn and spray with cooking spray, or olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Spray whole poblano chilies with cooking spray. Place corn and peppers on baking sheet and roast in preheated oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning vegetables at least once while roasting. Veggies should become quite browned. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove veggies from oven and place peppers in a small paper bag with top folded closed. Allow to cool. Meanwhile cool corn to room temperature. Cut corn off cob and set aside. Remove skins and seeds from peppers and cut the meat of the pepper into thin strips or bite-size pieces. Mix corn and chilies and place in bottom of precooked tart shell. Sprinkle grated cheddar over mixture and drizzle half and half evenly over all. Bake 15 to 20 minutes in 350 degree oven, or until cheese becomes golden brown. This dish is good hot or at room temperature. n Tart crust 1½ cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 cube unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes 1 teaspoon cider vinegar ¼ cup ice-cold water In a large bowl, mix flour and salt. With fingertips or a pastry cutter, work butter into flour mixture until fine and crumbly. Sprinkle vinegar over mixture and stir in well with fork. Gradually add ice water, a little at a time, until dough can be rolled into a ball. Place ball in tart pan with a removable bottom and with fingers, pat into the pan, filling in up to the tops of the sides. (If using a pie dish, just push dough ¾ of an inch up the sides of the pan, because tart filling will not fill the entire dish, as a pie would. With a fork, poke a bunch of holes into the bottom and sides of the crust and bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Susie can be reached at suziven@gmail.com.