Facebook Twitter

COOKING WITH THE VERSATILE HAZELNUT

SHARE COOKING WITH THE VERSATILE HAZELNUT

There he was, loudly ranting and raving at the passers-by and spouting hellfire and brimstone on the amphitheater-style brick steps of Pioneer Courthouse Square in downtown Portland, Ore., the gathering place and transit hub in the business-retail core of Oregon's largest city.

"Hey, I just saw your state's official nut," I told my hosts a few moments later.Then I was informed that while the Hyde Park-type soapbox orators may be a little nutty at times, the official official Oregon nut is the falvorful hazelnut, also known as the filbert. This year the Oregon State Legislature passed a "nut bill" giving the hazelnut official state recognition and status.

Considering that 99 percent of the nation's domestic hazelnut crop comes from Oregon, contributing as much as $38.3 million annually to the state's economy, Oregonians can be justifiably proud of their hazelnut.

An ancient Chinese manuscript, circa 2828 B.C., is said to have described the hazelnut as one of five sacred nourishments God bestowed on mankind. More recently -- about 150 A.D. -- Dioscorides, a Greek physician, in his book "Meteria Medica," recommended hazelnuts as a cure for the common cold when cooked with black pepper.

We can't vouch for any medical claims, but the nuts are an excellent source of B vitamins and vitamin C.

Hazelnuts are nifty little things. When you crack them open, there's this nice, round kernel inside. You don't have to dig out little pieces of shell, as with walnuts and pecans.

And they're so versatile. Hazelnuts can be used in a variety of foods, including snacks, salads, main entrees, breads and desserts.

The first hazelnut tree planted in Oregon was in Scottsburg in 1858 by Sam Strickland, a retired employee of the Hudson's Bay Co. In fact, according to the Hazelnut Marketing Board, which was founcded in 1949 to promote the state's hazelnut industry, a piece of wood from that original tree was used to create the gavel used by presidents of the Nut Growers Society of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

Oregon's first significant planting came nearly two decades later in 1876, when Frenchman David Gernot sent to his homeland for seeds of the thin-shell variety. (It was in France where they earned the name filbert. They ripen around Aug. 22, Saint Philbert's Feast Day.) Gernot planted 50 trees in the lush soil of the Willamette River Valley along a fence row, as was the practice in the old country.

George Dorris of Springfield was the first grower in the West to have sufficient faith in the hazelnut to make a real planting. For many years, he was the largest commercial grower as well as producer of hazelnut nursery stock in America. There are a number of Oregon orchards still producing good crops after more than 50 years.

Today, Oregon has more than 3.6 million trees on nearly 29,000 acres, mostly in the Willamette Valley.

Hazelnuts have found their way into many regional Oregon dishes.

Chef George Poston of Atwater's, an elegant restaurant on the top floor of the 30-story U.S. Bancorp Tower, Portland's tallest building, uses them because they're a local product. He often utilizes them to create a compound butter.

""The rich, warm flavor of hazelnuts lends itself particularly well to entree salads," he told a writer for Restaurants USA magazine.

"I use warm hazelnut oil and vinegar dressing on a sauteed lamb and vegetable salad," he added, noting that the hazelnut-oil flavor mellows the acidic flavor of wine and vinegar.

The Hazelnut Marketing Board has a number of publications available including an eight-page recipe booklet (50 cents), information on bakery and confectionery formulas, instructions for roasting hazelnuts and a home economics kit containing more than 30 recipes.

Write to:

Hazelnut Marketing Board

P.O. Board 23126

Tigard, OR 97223

*****

Hazelnut butters

Hazelnut butters can be used in sandwiches, dips, sauces, puddings and on breads, pancakes and crackers. Following are directions for simple butter recipes from the Hazelnut Marketing Board's "Inside Scoop" newsletter. These recipes have no stabilizers and should be refrigerated. They'll keep about three months in the refrigerator.

*FOOD PROCESSOR: Place roasted hazelnuts in food processor container with all-purpose blade. Process to course butter texture, about three minutes. As the nuts are ground, they form a pasty ball that later smooths out. Gradually add sugar, salt or other ingredients through feed tube. Scrape down sides and continue to process until desired texture is achieved, about 4 to 7 minutes.

*BLENDER DIRECTIONS: Place roasted hazelnuts and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in blender container and grind to meal on low speed. Continue to blend on low speed for several minutes, scraping down sides of container as required and adding another tablespoon of oil, if necessary. When butter is fairly fluid, blend on high for 2-3 minutes, or until desired texture is achieved. Gradually add other ingredients and blend on low until thoroughly mixed.

The following recipes use two cups (9 oz.) roasted Oregon hazelnuts, in addition to the other ingredients. *NATURAL HAZELNUT BUTTER: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on preference); 3/4 teaspoon powdered sugar. Follow the general directions. Makes one cup. Butter will be dark brown in color, due to the presence of hazelnut skins.

*CINNAMON AND SPICE HAZELNUT BUTTER: 1/3 cup powdered sugar; 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice; 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Follow general directions. Makes 1 1/4 cups. The taste is reminiscent of a pumpkin pie or spice cake.

*CHOLCOLATE HAZELNUT BUTTER: 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar; 3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa. Follow general directions. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

*FOR CRUNCHY BUTTERS: Stir in 1/4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts to the finished butter.

*GOURMET HAZELNUT BUTTER: (This can be used as a sauce for seafood or poultry entrees).

Ingredients: 1/3 cup finely chopped Oregon hazelnuts 1/2 cut butter or margarine

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of celery salt and cayenne pepper Soften butter or margarine until just workable. Add other ingredients and thoroughly blend together. Serve at room temperature as topping for fish, chicken or warm vegetables. Serves 6.

*****

Recipes listed:

Hazelnut Chocolate Apricot Bread

Hazelnut Snacking Cake

Viennese Hazelnut Torte

Hazelnut-Apple Dressing

Hazelnut Bleu Cheese Dressing

Hazelnut Chocolate Mousse