You don’t hear “Nuts!” much anymore, at least as an exclamation.  “Nuts!”  It feels kind of good to say it again.  It’s been a while.  I am going to try to remember to use it.  You can use it anywhere.  Kids Cooking Classes, Teen Classes and Adult Classes where it might even turn a few heads.  My Grandma Peterson always exclaimed, “My Land!” or “My Stars!” which explains why she is undoubtedly looking down from heaven.  “Nuts!” is what my Dad would have said, especially if he accidentally added an ingredient in the wrong order while he was methodically cooking a new recipe for dinner.

Some cooks are nuts, some people are nuts about cooking.  Some chefs are nuts.  It doesn’t mean that their food isn’t good or even great.  Chef’s working hours are nuts.  When I am on a teaching trip to Washington, DC, I work crazy hours.  Crazy and nuts can mean the same thing, but I don’t think of myself as being nuts.  Maybe that is one of the symptoms.  To kids some of the rules that I talk about in my Manners and Etiquette class may seem nuts, although they may not say it.  Once I explain why we have the “silly” rule, though, they pretty much understand as most rules actually do make sense.

When it comes to an actual nut, botanically-speaking, it is a fruit composed of a hard shell and a seed.  Additionally, the hard shell does not open on its own to release the seed.  Culinarily speaking, a nut commonly refers to any large, oily kernel found within a shell.  This of course is according to Wikipedia.  Which any reputable chef knows should be taken with a grain of salt.  Actually, salted nuts are quite good.

There are quite a few fruits and seeds that we call nuts that do not meet the botanical definition of a nut. This list includes most of what I think of as nuts (and that’s nuts!): Pistachios, Pecans, Macadamias, Cashews, Almonds, Pine nuts, Brazil nuts and Peanuts.  (Really?  It says it right in the name!  Nuts!)  In case you are wondering, chestnuts, hazelnuts, and acorns are true nuts (and I do have acorn flour in my pantry, in case you’re wondering about that, too).  Knowing that these are not actually botanically-endorsed nuts won’t make me change how I write my recipes and menus, though.  I just make sure I let everyone know that anything that is considered a nut, botanically-speaking or not, is or may be in the food.  It may not be the same as the Hippocratic Oath or anything, but I will swear that my goal with cooking is to make people feel good, not bad (or worse.)

Almond Salsa

This salsa is great with Grilled Fish, Chicken or Pork. Try it with Grilled Asparagus or Zucchini as well.

2 cups toasted slivered almonds

1 shallot, finely diced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger, squeezed to get the juice out

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

½ cup golden raisins

½ cup minced parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:  Combine all the ingredients.  Serve or chill.  It is best to make and then use, as the “nuts” tend to get a little soggy.  Use as desired.

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