(BPT) - With the holidays fast approaching it’s time to enjoy some of the season’s tastiest foods. Small twists can turn a traditional dish into a holiday classic.
The good news is it’s simple to add a fresh twist to holiday favorites with easy additions like Fisher Nuts.
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, an Iron Chef and expert on Food Network , says that nuts are one of the most versatile ingredients to use when reinventing dishes. Here are her top five tips for cooking with nuts:
1. Cranberry sauce with a tiny grate of orange zest and a handful of toasted almonds stirred in at the last minute puts a simple but tasty twist on a staple Thanksgiving side dish.
2. Want rich, thick gravy with no lumps? Thicken gravy with ground nuts instead of flour. Simply separate a little of the gravy in a bowl and blend with ground walnuts until smooth. Then just whisk it back in the pot with the remaining gravy.
3. Spruce up holiday side dishes by stirring in some toasted pecans or almonds. Top gratins with a thin layer or stir a handful into sauteed or braised vegetables. The nuts bring out the earthy flavors of vegetables, adding richness without making dishes too heavy.
4. Stir together melted semi-sweet chocolate and a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts. Add a pinch of cinnamon and roll into bite-size candies. It’s an easy way to have something different than a pie or cookies for the holidays. Plus it’s gluten free.
5. Make nuts part of any season by toasting them in a little warm olive oil over medium heat. When the nuts are toasted and coated in the oil, stir in any fresh herb (for example, rosemary for winter or basil for summer) and allow the herbs to gently crisp up and meld with the nuts. Serve as is with a pinch of salt.
These five tips can help you transform traditional holiday fare into instant classics. To "wow" guests, try this tasty recipe from Chef Guarnaschelli at your next gathering:
Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
Sweet potatoes are at their best when combined with something sweet. This recipe blends flavors reminiscent of a cinnamon-infused pecan coffee cake topping and pairs them with sweet potatoes for a change from the more traditional marshmallow topped casserole. Plus, it’s perfect for busy cooks because the potatoes can be microwaved in just 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 8 servings
4 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds
1/2 cup melted unsalted butter, divided
1 teaspoon orange zest, packed
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 cup Fisher Pecan Halves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
2. Pierce sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Microwave on high for 15 minutes or until completely cooked through. Let rest 5 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
3. Topping: Meanwhile, combine the pecans, flour, sugars, cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir to blend. Mix in 1/4 cup butter. The topping should form sandy clumps. Refrigerate.
4. Split the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the flesh inside. Arrange the sweet potato “halves” on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the sweet potato flesh with the remaining 1/4 cup butter, orange zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spoon the filling back into each potato half and top with the topping on a baking tray. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake until the topping browns, 15 to 20 minutes.