It all started with the idea of harvesting black walnuts from certain trees next to a church in Guilford and using them to cook a Black Bass Walnut Taker or Iranian Walnut and Pomegranate Chicken. But going down the Black Walnut Rabbit Hole instead led me to the country of Georgia, specifically Chicken Satsivi, a Georgian cold chicken dish in a walnut and garlic sauce, and Pkhali, a Georgian pesto with spinach and nuts. I got there on the recommendation of my friend Bill Salisbury, who works for the State Department, and had spent some time in Georgia with his nut kitchen.
But to go back a bit, my black walnuts that I just picked are pictured above. Some people remove the pods when they are green by walking through them with a tractor. I am not joking. I let the pods turn black, at which point they were soft enough to pull out. It is important to do this with gloves. I discovered this the hard way. The black of the black walnuts makes a very good stain or ink for wood, and the stains on my nails would not come off, even with Ajax and bleach. I just had to let them grow up. Here are the shelled and washed shells:
I let them dry in a colander for about a month. You can apparently get more black stain from the hull if you wash them for a while in a cement mixer. Again, I'm not kidding. You don't have to heal them as long as I do. My problem is, I wanted to make Chicken Satsivi and the recipe I found in The Georgian Feast calls for ground marigold petals, which Georgians use in the same way other cultures use saffron. It took me a while to find them. Here they are:
So armed with the ground marigold petals, I thought I'd crack some black nuts to make the Satsivi Chicken. I pulled out a regular nut cracker, which I also use for the lobster. No chance. The only way for me to open the shell was to smash it with a hammer, which resulted in splinters of nuts all over the kitchen. I now think cracking the nut in a towel would contain the shrapnel, but at the time I just decided to use the really good English nuts (aka Persian Walnuts) that I had in my closet. I thought maybe there was something I had done wrong with cleaning and drying my black nuts, but now I know that black nuts cannot be opened with a standard nutcracker, and that the amount of meat inside is small compared to English walnut. , and much stronger, maybe too strong for the dishes I was trying to prepare. Never mind.
Here is the set-up for the Satsivi chicken:
From left to right: a 7 lb roast chicken, 4 sprigs of parsley, 2 bay leaves, (six cups of water), 2 cups of nuts, 6 cloves of garlic, 4 tablespoons of butter, 3 onions , a mixture of spices (from 9:00 a.m.), 1 1/2 tsp. 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 tsp ground cloves, 1 1/2 tsp. 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds 1 1/4 tsp ground marigold 1/2 tsp ground black pepper Paprika, and in the center, 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne and 3/4 teaspoon of salt) and 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar.
Step by step
You first place the chicken in a pot with the parsley, bay leaves and water, bring to a boil, cover, then simmer for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the chicken in a roasting pan, reserve the broth. Roast for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the cooking juices, until golden brown.
Cut into small pieces and place in a serving dish.
While the chicken is roasting, measure the reserved broth. Cook uncovered over medium heat to reduce to 4 cups. Put aside.
Then prepare the sauce. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan. Peel and chop the onions and sauté until translucent.
Grind the nuts with 6 peeled garlic cloves in a food processor.
Then add the onions, stirring well. Return this mixture to the food processor and grind again to make a paste.
Put the dough in a pan and incorporate the spices. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring, for a few minutes. Gradually add the 4 cups of reserved broth. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, then stir in 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar. (The sauce will not be very thick at this point.)
Pour the sauce over the chicken and let the Satsivi cool. Serve at room temperature. This cooling process thickens the sauce. He also gives the dish its name, as Satsivi derives from the word tsivi, which means cold.
I have made Chicken Satsivi twice now. The version above was my second batch, which I boned to make it easier to eat at the buffet. For my first batch, I kept it on the bone, as plated below with dressed Trifecta Tropicana lettuce. Delicious both ways.
Having mastered Chicken Satsivi, I was ready for Pkhali, a Georgian Spinach and Nut Pesto. The recipe I found online calls for 2 pounds of spinach. Instead, I decided to use the mix of spinach, kale and chard in my weekly Trifecta harvest, which weighed only 1/2 lb, so I split the recipe into quarters.
Here is the setup:
Left to right and bottom to top: walnuts, pomegranate, garlic, ground coriander seeds, tarragon vinegar, fenugreek, cayenne, walnut oil, salt, pepper, cilantro and my Trifecta mix of greens.
For 1/4 of the recipe, I used: 1/2 lb of a mixture of spinach, kale and chard; 1/3 cup of walnuts, 1 medium garlic clove; 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro; 1 1/2 T of walnut oil; 1 tablespoon of tarragon vinegar; 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander; 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt; pinch of ground fenugreek; a grind of black pepper; a small pinch of cayenne pepper; and 2 tablespoons of pomegranate seeds for garnish.
Wither the greens in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and wring them out. Grind the greens, nuts, garlic, cilantro and spices in a food processor. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve with crostini or pita.
I used leftover Pkhali to make a Pkhali potato salad with small boiled Trifecta potatoes. Needed to add additional tarragon vinegar, walnut oil and salt.
Whether you regularly whip up Michelin-worthy meals at the drop of a hat or your cooking skills are best described as “fine, ” you can always benefit from the helpful little tricks of others. Here, 14 of our friends’, families’ and coworkers’ most-used cooking tips.
There’s a time and a place to whip out that complicated coq au vin recipe you’ve been dying to try. A dinner party isn’t that time. With a new recipe, you’ll likely be chained to the kitchen the whole time, plus, when you’re trying something for the first time, there’s always the possibility that it could go horribly wrong. When cooking for a group, we always err on the side of tried-and-true crowd-pleasers.
You do hours of prep work on an intricate dish, only to be totally disappointed once you taste the terminal product. Bummer. Instead of putting in all that effort only to be disappointed, taste while you cook. That way, you’ll realize sooner that the dish isn’t tasting how you’d like it to, and you can make all kinds of last-ditch exercices to save it. This doesn’t just work for bad-to-OK meals. Tasting midway through and realizing how perfect a dash of cayenne or a squirt of lemon juice would be can take a great dinner to legendary status.
Plating pasta means tossing some onto a plate and finishing it with a nice dollop of sauce right on the middle, right ? Wrong. Here’s how to take your carbs to the next level : On the stove there should be two pans, one with pasta and one with sauce. Cook the pasta to al dente and transfer it into the sauce. Then, add a little bit of pasta water ( literally just the starchy water the pasta has been cooking in ), which will help the sauce cling to the pasta while also keeping it the right consistency. Perfection.
In the pursuit of the perfect steak, you have to be OK with your kitchen getting a little smoky. That’s because, to get the mouthwatering sear we’re all after, the meat has to be dry and the pan should be pretty damn close to smoking hot. Trust us, it’s worth a few seconds of a blaring alarm.
Most foods are ruined by too much salt. Steak is different. When it comes to seasoning your meat ( before you cook it ), more is more. Use a generous amount of coarse Kosher salt—more than you think you need. Since most cuts of steak are pretty thick, even though you’re using a lot of salt, it’s still only covering the surface.
This one isn’t too complicated. Whether you’re making avocado toast, pizza, fried rice or a burger, the addition of a fried egg on top will not hurt your feelings. Trust us.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but we’ve definitely found ourselves in a situation where we assumed we knew all of the ingredients that went into chocolate chip cookies only to find out that we had about half the required amount of brown sugar. Ugh. tera avoid a mid-cooking grocery-store trip, read the recipe from front to back—carefully—before you start.
Prepping céréales in mass quantities is less about taste than convenience. Rice, quinoa and even oatmeal last about a week in the fridge after being cooked. When we’re prepping any one of those, we double up our measurements and store the leftovers, which are then impossibly easy to use up throughout the week. Too tired to make dinner ? Heat up some leftover rice from the fridge and toss an egg on top ( remember ? ). Couldn’t be simpler.
So you fried up a pound of bacon for an indulgent ( read : delicious ) brunch. Great, just make sure you don’t throw out the grease in the pan. Instead, save it in the refrigerator or freezer ( it technically lasts for up to a year, but should be used sooner than that to take full advantage of its flavor ). Then, anytime you’re cooking something you typically prepare in oil, try cooking it in the bacon grease instead. You’ll never want to eat Brussels sprouts the old way again.
You’ve probably heard that whenever a dish is lacking a little something-something, the best thing to do is toss in some salt. But, we have it on good authority that salt isn’t always the answer. When you’re tasting a dish at the end and you think it needs a little oomph, often it just needs a splash of acid ( like lemon juice ) to round out the flavor.
You know the difference between a paring knife and a fillet knife, but do you know how to take care of them ? Or, more importantly, how to use them ? A set of good knives can be the difference between a stressful cooking experience and a great one. First, practice your knife skills. Look up tutorials on YouTube and practice chopping, slicing and julienne-ing. It’s amazing what you can do with your cook time when your prep time is shortened with solid knife skills. Then, once you’ve got your skills down pat, learn how to take care of your set. No one ever achieved kitchen greatness with a dull chef’s knife.
The key to tender, flavorful barbecue and roasts ? Cooking it on a low temperature for a long time. The same doesn’t go for roasting veggies. For crispy, perfectly cooked butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and more, remember the magic number : 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Any lower, and you risk pulling a pan of blah carrots out of the oven. It might seem high, but to get the nice roasted flavor, you need high heat. And while we’re on the subject, stop crowding your veggies in the pan, which will also make them soggy.
You know how just about every cookie recipe suggests that you chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but oftentimes you don’t listen because you just want cookies now ? ! ( Same. ) Unfortunately, this step actually does make a difference. In addition to limiting how much the dough spreads while baking, chilling your dough intensifies the flavors and produces that perfect chewy, crispy texture we know and love.
It won’t do your breath any favors, but never ( ever ) scrimp on garlic. In fact, we typically double the amount a recipe calls for. Apologies to anyone who was planning on kissing us.