The most enthusiastic response I ever had to introducing people to the Northern Nut Growers Association occurred when I roasted hickory nuts at a food fair in Grand Army Plaza, in Brooklyn, New York. People could detect the aroma from across the archway, and came seeking out its source. They were desperate to purchase these nuts by the pound. I only had a few pounds as a sample, though, and a few dozen NNGA brochures.
While so many of us nut growers are eager to learn about grafting, the appropriate cover crop, tree spacing for optimal nut production, mechanical harvesting, and nut cooperatives, we should not neglect the end product of our mission to promote nut crops – savoring nuts either raw or in combination with complimentary foods. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Zel Allen has written a wonderful book entitled The Nut Gourmet. Below is a delicious recipe for summer: peaches, chocolate, and walnuts.
Jerry Henkin, NNGA Librarian
From Zel’s Vegan NutGourmet
CHOCOLATE AND WALNUT STUFFED PEACHES
Delicious ripe peaches, one of the summer’s sweetest and juiciest treats of the season, become the perfect perch for plopping an irresistible, walnut-studded chocolate orb into the cavity of a peach half. Can anyone resist chocolate sweetened with nothing more than dates and flavored with almond extract? I sure can’t!
Fresh, sun-ripened peaches play a key role in making this easy and naturally sweet dessert a top choice for a summertime treat. They look so tantalizing, chocolate fans will snap up these gorgeous stuffed peaches in a flash.
The best part is that you won’t need to use the oven or stove-top to prepare this hot-weather dessert–it’s deliciously raw and can be assembled within minutes. And it doesn’t hurt that they look so inviting.
I prefer the yellow peaches for this dessert for two reasons. First, they’re firmer and retain their shape and pleasing texture better than the white peaches. The second reason is they can be cut in half and separated without becoming mushy. They’re often called freestone peaches.
Buy the peaches when quite firm and leave them on the kitchen counter at room temperature for only a day or two. That gives them just enough time to be ripe and ready for stuffing.
Generally, white peaches have a higher water content and are not freestone. A day or two on the counter top Chocolate Stuffed Peaches and white peaches might turn into a mushy mess when you try to separate the two halves. I confess, though, that white peaches are mighty delicious and my family enjoys them thoroughly.
The secret to separating the halves of white peaches is to cut them when quite firm and use a paring knife to cut them off the pit. It’s a little tricky, but patience pays off. Overall, though, the yellow peaches are my first choice.
After cutting the peaches in half, I prepare the chocolate stuffing by softening the pitted dates with a little water in the food processor. As I measure the dates, I snip each one in half with a kitchen scissors. That way I can find the one or two pits that were overlooked during the commercial processing–and it saves my processor blades from damage.
Then I add the raw cacao or cocoa powder and almond extract and process to distribute the flavors thoroughly.
The next step is to transfer the chocolate mixture to a bowl and add the coarsely chopped walnuts. For coarsely grinding the walnuts I use my inexpensive hand-crank nut mill that can be purchased in a well-stocked kitchen shop.
Be sure to set aside some of the coarsely ground nuts for the topping. Now comes the fun part–rolling the chocolate mixture by hand into 1-inch balls and plunking them down into the peach cavity that’s ready and waiting for its sweet treat!
CHOCOLATE AND WALNUT STUFFED PEACHES RECIPE
YIELD: 12 stuffed peach halves
6 fresh yellow peaches
1 cup firmly packed dates, snipped in half with kitchen scissors
2 to 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons raw cacao or unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
12 golden raisins, for garnish
3 to 5 fresh mint leaves, for garnish
Put the dates in a food processor and pulse chop a few times. With the machine running, slowly add 2 tablespoons of the water and process until well mixed but still very slightly chunky, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add all or part of the remaining tablespoon of water only if needed to moisten the date mixture.
Add the cacao and almond extract to the processor and process briefly until completely incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and stir in 3 to 4 tablespoons of the ground walnuts and mix well. Put the remaining ground walnuts into a separate small bowl.
Using your hands, form the cacao mixture into twelve 1-inch balls. Press a ball into each of the peach halves. Holding the peach carefully, invert it and dip the top of each cacao ball into the ground walnuts to coat the top of the ball. Arrange the peach halves on an attractive serving platter.
For the finishing touch, poke a golden raisin into the center of each cacao ball. Sprinkle any remaining nuts around the platter and garnish with the mint leaves.
Take a look at Zel’s blog for other healthful vegetarian meals.