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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise


On the Highest Perch


CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE

Revised September 1, 2008



Chestnuts at a Glance
History Cuisine Name Origin Folklore/Oddities Sources
Growing Nutrition Purchasing Preparation Recipes


Chestnut Recipes below

The nostalgic strains of the classic Christmas song, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. . . " by the late Mel Torme tug gently at the lingering memories of our parents and grandparents who still recall those holiday seasons when street vendors could be heard hawking roasted chestnuts along the sidewalks of New York, Philadelphia, and other Eastern cities in the early 1900s. For as little as five cents people could buy a bag of hot chestnuts roasted over a charcoal fire to enjoy as a warming snack while they shopped or strolled along the avenues. Europeans, too, experienced the pleasant, creamy sweetness of hot roasted chestnuts purchased from street sellers throughout the fall and winter months.

The American Chestnut Saga
Well before the Pilgrims arrived on the Eastern shores, the American chestnut tree stood as a mighty monument, a noble giant, many over 100 feet tall, their trunks measuring six or seven feet in diameter. Truly the colossus of the Eastern forest, the chestnut tree would often measure twenty feet in circumference around the trunk. Photographs taken in the early 1900's with people standing at the base of one of these chestnut titans make the humans look like miniature specimens.

Members of the beech family, genus Fagus, native chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) formed the lush forests that spread from Mississippi northward to the southern portion of Ontario and northeast to Maine. The prolific chestnut thrived on the hillside slopes throughout the Appalachian Mountain range. Henry David Thoreau referred to these vast forests as the "boundless chestnut woods." Spreading westward to the Ohio River Valley chestnut trees were found in Michigan and covered prominent forests in Tennessee. There's an old saying that the chestnut forests were so thick a squirrel could jump from chestnut tree to chestnut tree from Georgia to New York without ever touching the ground."

Henry Ward Beecher, an American poet and abolitionist, wrote in the Sunday, September 22, 1870, Pittsfield, a Massachusetts newspaper, "Nature was in a good mood when the chestnut tree came forth."

Even Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was impressed by the magnificence of the American chestnut tree when he wrote his poem, "The Village Blacksmith" in 1842, which begins with the often quoted lines "Under the spreading chestnut, the village smithy stands."

Chestnut trees are often confused with the horse chestnut, the beech, and chestnut oak, none of which bear edible fruit. Chestnut trees bear fruits in the form of greenish burrs with long prickly spines that contain three nuts to a burr. These impressive looking fruits are about the size of a baseball with a fuzzy lining about a sixteenth to one-eighth-inch thick surrounding the nuts. Once removed from the burr, the chestnuts are enclosed in a firm, smooth sable-brown shell that measures about an inch in diameter. The actual fruit inside is firm, lightly striated, and golden in color.

Chestnuts meant survival to many Appalachian communities. There, small animals like squirrels, mice, and birds along with bears and deer feasted on the chestnuts, some storing them for the winter. Thoreau recalls seeing "thirty or forty nuts in a pile left in its gallery just under the leaves by the common wood mouse," and "one February, as much as a peck of chestnuts in different parcels within a short distance of one another, under the leaves placed there . . . by the striped squirrel." Protected by their firm shells and hidden under the forest leaves, chestnuts provided nourishing food called mast throughout the winter for other forest dwellers like the deer, rabbits, bears, raccoons, wild boars, chipmunks, wood rats, turkeys, grouse, crows, and jays.

Thoreau might have been given to exaggeration when he commented, "The chestnut mast is knee deep. . . A man fell waist deep in the mast and had to be pulled out . . . Did game fatten on chestnut? Lord have mercy, yes. Rabbits were so fat and lazy a child could fetch one with a chucking stone."

Chestnut Each year, in June through early July, the ridge tops along the Appalachians were covered in creamy white, suggesting a fresh snowstorm had fallen. Those who were familiar with the chestnut trees recognized that the copious white blooms meant a great chestnut harvest ahead. During the autumn harvest season beginning in September and continuing through November, residents of the region stored sacks full of chestnuts in their cellars as provisions for the winter. What made chestnuts so endearing to their devotees was their pleasantly soft starchy texture and captivatingly sweet flavor.

Several varieties of European chestnut trees were imported into this country in the eighteenth century. Some of the first arrivals in the U.S. were by avid gardener and plant collector Thomas Jefferson who brought some cuttings of a European variety to Monticello and grafted them onto American trees. Eleuthere Irenee DuPont de Nemours, who founded the Dupont Company in the U.S., brought several varieties from Europe when he moved to this country in 1799. He continued to import more chestnut trees, hybridized them, and planted them in the areas of New Jersey and Delaware where he settled. He is most famous for establishing a gunpowder factory in Wilmington, Delaware. His heirs built the company into the present DuPont chemical empire. By1889 there were many hybridized American-European chestnut varieties growing here.

In the late 1880s others were importing and grafting chestnut trees from Japan including Luther Burbank who imported 10,000 nuts for hybridizing. His trees reached many nurseries that sold the hybridized Japanese chestnut trees through the "New Creations" catalog. Trees were popping up all over the East, especially in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Today two surviving chestnut trees, sturdy wizened centenarians, imported from Japan (Castanea crenata), in 1876 by S. B. Parsons of Flushing, New York, are still growing in Connecticut, one at the Bee and Thistle Inn in Old Lyme and one behind the First Congregational Church in Cheshire. Two Chinese varieties imported in 1900 still survive, one in the Durand-Eastman Park in Rochester, New York, known as G25, and the other at the Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Connecticut referred to as PI 36666

The European Chestnut
Chestnuts are also native to Europe (Castanea sativa) and grow throughout the mountainous areas of the Mediterranean where grain crops thrived poorly. Greek physician Galen, 130 to 200 CE, and Dioscoridies, Greek physician, pharmacologist, and botanist, 50 to 70 CE, commented about digestive flatulence resulting from excessive chestnut consumption as well as touting their health benefits.

Chestnuts were an important dietary staple since they could be cooked and eaten fresh from September through November when they were harvested. The nuts could also be dried and ground into flour used for extending bread products or replacing grain staples throughout the year. During the 16th century a population living in the highlands of Tuscany is said to have subsisted largely on chestnuts for half the year. As recent as the 19th century, some Europeans substituted chestnuts for grain products. Not uncommon, an individual might have consumed between one and two kilograms of chestnut products daily, which doesn't seem unlikely, since many of us might reach that total when adding up our own daily regimen of eating grain products and potatoes.

Europeans grew two major varieties of chestnuts: the familiar variety that bears three chestnuts to each burr, called chataigne and the prized Spanish variety called marron. The marron is much larger than the chataigne, much sweeter, grows singularly in the burr, and does not contain an inner skin, or pellicle.

With its French name, the marron, sometimes called the Lyon chestnut, was actually grown in Italy and shipped to Lyon, France, then onward to Paris and other French regions. Because marrons were so perishable, and many were spoiled during their lengthy travels to reach Lyon, the giant treasures were only sold where the wealthy could afford them.

While it was mainly the peasants who tended the chestnut trees, harvested them, dried them, peeled them, and lovingly prepared them in numerous ways in their daily meals, French and Spanish noblemen described them as prized dishes in high society. Chestnuts were included on the menu at the royal Golden Fleece banquet held in Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1546.

As prominent and hardy as the European chestnut trees were, they suffered from extreme frosts during the harsh winters of 1709, 1789, and 1870. So many of the trees were lost that the chestnut farmers were discouraged from replanting. This dealt a huge blow to the peasants whose survival depended on chestnuts for sustenance and trade. The chestnut trade, while still active, fell into decline. Financial opportunity brought the silk trade to Lyon and soon mulberry trees replaced chestnut trees because they grew rapidly and were the favored food of the silkworm.

Chestnut Some historians believe it was the Roman legions that introduced the chestnut into other European countries. Chestnuts were part of French cuisine by the 13th century, originally bringing them from Lombardy in northern Italy before growing them on French soil by the 16th century.

Chestnuts must have been enjoyed in England by the 16th century for Shakespeare to have spoken of them in Macbeth. Following is the complaint from one of the witches:

Other factors affected the chestnut. In the mid 17th century, France feared there would be food shortages and took steps to prevent the exportation of wheat, while they encouraged the export of chestnuts. Early in the 18th century, French physiocrats began to question the nutritional quality of chestnuts. These members of French society made it known they considered chestnuts worthy only of providing food for pigs. Their negative attitudes put a damper on the acceptance of chestnuts and only Voltaire spoke out to defend the chestnut.

By the 1800's fewer people were growing and even consuming chestnuts, and by the middle of that century public surveyors noted the chestnut was truly in decline. The death knell of the European chestnut began in Italy in 1842 with the ink disease that rapidly destroyed chestnut trees within two or three years. The disease soon killed chestnut trees in Portugal, and by 1860 French chestnut trees succumbed.

The American Chestnut Succumbs to Disease
Hardy though the mighty chestnut tree was, it fell prey to the deadly fungus, Cryphonectria parasitica, from trees imported from Japan though it took several years and much research to discover the origin of the disease. In 1904 the first infected trees, about 1,400 of them, were found in New York City along the avenues of the Bronx Zoological Park. At first, the park's forester, W. H. Merkel, noticed only a few yellowed leaves. A year later he found chestnut trees sickened with dead branches barren of leaves that signaled serious problems. Mycologist William A. Murrill of the New York Botanical Society, named the fungus Diaportha parasitica as the culprit. When he published his evidence in 1906, he wrote that the destructive blight had affected chestnut trees in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The name of the pathogen evolved over time to become Endothia parasitica in 1912 and Cryphonectria parasitica in 1978

As the blight ravaged chestnut trees in Pennsylvania, the forestry department sought a remedy. Pennsylvania's governor, together with the legislature, formed the Pennsylvania Chestnut Tree Blight Commission in 1911 and worked in concert with plant pathologists at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a blight control plan. The blight had affected 40 percent of the chestnut trees in the state. Findings were that the blight was actively destroying chestnut trees on Long Island as early as 1893, several years before it received notice at the Bronx Zoo.

The two USDA plant pathologists, Haven Metcalf and J. Franklin Collins, learned the blight was radiating in all directions from isolated centers and proposed a test plan to cut down and burn the diseased trees within a thirty-five mile radius of Washington, D.C. They began implementing the program, cutting and burning the infected trees, but by 1913, they realized the fungus was clearly in control and continued its rapid path of devastation from Maine to Georgia and throughout the Appalachians, killing millions of trees within the next three decades.

From a rich fall harvest of thousands of bushels of delicious chestnuts to millions of dead trees, the American chestnut tree became part of the country's historical memory, fungus having laid waste to the Eastern forests within 50 years. Those who were fond of American chestnuts mourned their loss, but plant researchers recognized the country had lost an invaluable natural resource that took its toll on the Appalachian ecosystem. Wildlife that relied on chestnuts for sustenance nearly starved. This virulent fungus instigated one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of American forest biology.

By 1950, chestnut root sprouts that also became infected with the fungus were all that remained. A plant researcher found that the blight also affected the chestnut trees in Japan and China, but since they seemed resistant to the disease, it didn't destroy them.

Mysterious Blight Origins Revealed
While the Pennsylvania Chestnut Tree Blight Commission and the USDA were struggling with the fight against the chestnut blight, Frank A. Meyer, a botanist and plant explorer, was traveling to Asia several times to explore and collect plants, including chestnut varieties.

American plant scientists, in an effort to discover the origins of the blight, were debating two opposing schools of thought. Some believed the fungus was of American origin, while plant pathologist Metcalf and others was convinced the pathogen arrived in this country from a foreign source. Metcalf noted that the Japanese chestnut was resistant to the blight and was a common orchard and park tree here. Scientists Metcalf and Collins suggested the blight came from Japan on imported chestnut trees. Some scientists were convinced the disease was carried by wind.

While Meyer was in China, Metcalf and another plant scientist, David Fairchild, sent blight specimens to Meyer and asked him to see if the Chinese chestnut trees were affected with this same fungus. Meyer did find the same pathogen but noted it did not kill the Chinese trees. Traveling to Japan, he discovered the same pathogen on Japanese chestnut trees and found these trees, too, were resistant to the disease.

The American Chestnut Foundation Established
During the 19th century, scientists began combining genes from the American chestnut and the Japanese and Chinese blight-resistant trees hoping to create a blight-resistant American chestnut that would retain its original characteristics: enormous height for quality lumber; long-forming branches with long, lush leaves to provide a home for forest animals; and sweet nourishing chestnuts to sustain forest animals and provide food for humans. It was Dr. Charles Burnham, a dedicated plant geneticist, who worked with a method of backcrossing the Asian trees with American, a long, patient process that takes six generations.

Founded in 1983 in Washington, D.C., The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) hopes to restore the American chestnut to its original stature in the Eastern forests. After decades of attempting to create a blight-resistant chestnut tree, researchers have been developing techniques and breeding programs that cross our American chestnut with several Asian species with promising results.

The innovative breeding program began with crossing the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut with the American chestnut, to create trees with 50-50% Chinese-American qualities. The next step was to backcross those trees with American chestnut trees, producing trees that were 75% American. Another backcross resulted in American trees that were totally blight resistant and retained their original characteristics.

Chestnut trees are slow growing, making the program a lengthy project that has taken many years. While the process sounds very simple, the scientists faced numerous challenges in concert with Mother Nature to succeed in the battle of the blight.

Chestnut This year, 2008, marks the 25th anniversary of The American Chestnut Foundation with a grand celebration October 24th through the 26th with a weekend of special events taking place in Chattanooga, Tennessee. One of the programs invites the public to travel the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, all or any part of the 2,174 miles of Appalachian land with the goal of identifying any surviving American chestnut trees. Along the way, hikers will surely discover the region's golden treasures: a rich source of thriving wildlife, native trees, and indigenous plants and flowers in addition to stunning natural landscapes. Participating will be the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts marking their miles on an Appalachian Trail hiker's guide.

In 2007, the foundation and Images from the Past co-published Mighty Giants: An American Chestnut Anthology to tell the history of the magnificent American chestnut from recollections of Appalachian families' "chestnutting" days to American poets and writer's fond memories. Even Jimmy Carter, a strong supporter of the TACF's work, shares his childhood experiences collecting chestnuts in the fall. A bounty of chestnut folklore and chestnut-gathering reminiscences fill the pages with enough chestnut nostalgia to spark a strong desire for their return. Part of the history includes the struggle of the chestnut forests to survive the blight and the dedication of the scientists who persevered to find a cure for the disease that destroyed the Eastern chestnut forests. The final chapters share the focus of TACF in its efforts to work with scientists and dedicated members to restore the American chestnut to its homeland, the native forests of the Eastern United States.

Beyond our North American border, the chestnut is considered the most revered tree-food crop in the world, feeding both the poor as well as the rich throughout history. From prehistoric times to the present, people have always looked forward to the chestnut harvest, a delightful task that involved merely gathering them up, since the ripe ones simply fall to the ground.

How the Blight Eradicates Chestnut Trees
The noticeable effects of the fungus began with leaves turning brown and falling by mid summer. The fungus entered the tree through cankers or open wounds in the bark from several causes, namely by nut gatherers, lumbermen, squirrels, birds, rodents, insects, and rabbits.

The fungus literally cut off the sap that formed a sweet gummy layer just under the bark. The sap brought nourishment to the tree but was choked off by the fungus that encircled the branches, denying the tree its life support. The unique thing about this fungus was that it did not affect the tree roots, which were able to continue sprouting. However, as soon as the sprouts reached flowering stage, they, too, became infected, though some are able to grow to 30 feet, flower, and even produce a few nuts before the blight denies them nourishment.

Naming the Chestnut
Chestnuts were growing in China and Japan in ancient times long before the Roman armies brought them into Europe. Many chestnut varieties grew wild throughout Asia, parts of the Middle East, and Europe. By 37 BCE the Romans were actively cultivating robust chestnut trees for the flour they combined with wheat for bread. Greece and Turkey were also fortunate to enjoy the abundance of the harvest from their lusty chestnut forests. The Romans imported the best chestnuts from Kastanum, now the Asian portion of Turkey. The chestnut's genus name of Castanea is derived from Kastanum or Kastanéa.

Other names used to refer to chestnuts include the French chataigne, Chinese chestnut, dwarf chestnut, European chestnut, European horse chestnut, Japanese chestnut, Kastanie, Spanish chestnut, and sweet chestnut.

Growing Chestnut Trees
Residents of the Cevennes, a mountain range in South France in the Languedoc Roussillon region, have said, "Olive tree of your forefather, chestnut tree of your father, only the mulberry tree is yours." The people of this region clearly understood that chestnut trees are very slow growing, take as many as 15 years to bear fruit, and not until they are 50 years old do they bear optimally. Newly planted trees are thought to be not for the present, but for future generations.

Trees growing singularly rarely bear much fruit. They require close proximity to pollinate well. Chestnut plantations, such as those presently being developed in the U.S. are ideal because they can be closely tended and nurtured to produce optimally.

Chestnut trees flourish on hills and mountainsides where the terrain provides excellent drainage, making countries like Italy, Sicily, Iran, and Turkey ideal for growing the trees. Some areas of Greece, where the soil was sedimentary, produced an abundance of chestnut trees grown for their fruits.

Harvesting Chestnuts
Chestnuts tend to ripen on the tree and when ripe they can be recognized by their prickly burrs that have turned brown. Harvesting by hand is relatively easy because the ripe chestnuts simply drop from the tree in early autumn, generally from mid-September through October. Many open before they fall, while others open when they hit the ground, making it easy to remove the chestnuts. Some of the burrs remain tightly closed even after they have fallen and have to be pried open, a challenging task because the burrs are very sharp. Chestnuts do not ripen all at once which means the harvesting season could last about three weeks as the burrs fall little by little.

Drying Chestnuts
In European regions where chestnut trees were abundant, harvest season meant drying a good portion of the crop to grind into flour. Wood smoking sheds were created for drying the nuts, a process that took about two weeks. Since the fires had to be closely tended, an annual social network formed around these smoking sheds and towns close by.

Dried chestnuts were such a valued staple in the Napoleonic era in Italy the government actually placed a tax on them, while the chestnut trees were counted like residents in the official census.

Chestnut Wood
The wood of the chestnut trees is very sturdy and comparable to oak in strength, yet it is lighter than oak. Because of these qualities, Europeans found it desirable to grow chestnut trees for their lumber.

Because the American chestnut trees grew straight, tall, and branchless for nearly 50 feet, loggers found them highly saleable. Like the sturdy redwoods they were also resistant to rot and could be used for nearly everything from telegraph poles, railroad ties, split-rail fences, and shingles to musical instruments, fine furniture, and paneling. After the harvest the surplus ripe chestnuts were packed into railroad cars and shipped to the large cities.

Chestnut Folklore, Traditions, Oddities, and Medicinal Uses
American chestnut trees provided sustenance to humans and animals in numerous ways. Chestnuts were a dietary staple of the American Indians who taught the Pilgrims to cook them in stews or grind them into flour for bread. The Iroquois enjoyed a hot beverage made of roasted chestnuts that resembled our coffee.

The Cherokees handed down a legend called "The Bear Man" from James Mooney's History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees that tells of a bear that knew where to find a large mast of fresh chestnuts, during the years when they were becoming very scarce. He rubbed his stomach and instantly made paws full of chestnuts appear.

Native American Indians taught many American settlers how to remedy their ills using natural plants. They showed the Pennsylvania Germans how to treat whooping cough with the water left after boiling chestnut leaves, a liquid that the Indians also used as a tonic and sedative. The chestnut bark became their treatment for worms and provided a dye as well.

Those earthy, frugal country dwellers who lived among the American chestnut forests would sometimes use dried chestnut leaves to stuff their mattresses. You can imagine the crinkly, crepitating, and rustling noises emanating from their beds anytime they moved. The beds were jokingly referred to as talking beds.

An old Corsican wedding tradition was to prepare 22 different chestnut dishes to be served on the wedding day, a challenging feat even for today's renowned chefs.

Because chestnuts contain a natural sweetness, they were very close to becoming an important source for producing sugar. During the late 18th century Antoine Parmentier, the French apothecary, or pharmacist, who taught France to woo the much-feared "poisonous" potato, discovered he could extract sugar from the chestnut. He then prepared an impressively large chestnut cake and sent it to the Academy in Lyon for consideration as a sugar source in place of regular sugar. Because Napoleon decided France ought to make its sugar from sugar beets, chestnut sugar never came to pass.

Throughout history chestnuts have evoked symbolic meanings and diverse practices in different cultures. In Japan, chestnuts symbolize both success and hard times. Served as part of the New Year's menu, chestnuts symbolize mastery and strength. Apparently connoisseurs thought them worthy enough of flavor and quality to have them shipped from long distances for the festive occasion.

In Modena, Italy, chestnuts are soaked in wine must before roasting and serving as a special preparation on St. Martin's Day. To the early Christians chestnuts symbolized chastity.

While many Native American Indians hollowed out birch trees to make their canoes, those who lived in the southern regions of New England found no birch trees. Instead, they turned to the mighty chestnut trees.

The Cherokee treated heart disease with a tea made of old American chestnut leaves, while a cold tea made of tree bark and buckeye was given to women to stop their bleeding following childbirth. They made a cough syrup of chestnut leaves, brown sugar, and mullein and applied chestnut leaves dipped into hot water to sores.

In the U.S., when we spoke of the poor subsisting on a diet of bread and water, the equivalent French expression was "fasting on water and chestnuts."

Chestnut Cuisine
In Southern Italy chestnuts are cooked much like a polenta and served with cheese. Another favorite dish of Italian origin begins with chestnut porridge cooked with pine nuts, butter, and raisins and flavored with anise. It is then baked like a pudding and served for dessert.

Chestnut The French marron glacé is an indulgent glazed candied chestnut with a long history and an intricate process that involves 20 different steps from the harvest to the finished product. Each year, those who have partaken of this exceptional confection look forward to Christmas when the revered sweet is still prepared in France especially for the holiday season. The French claim they originated this treat in the time of Louis XIV about the end of the 1600s, but apparently a candied chestnut confection was known approximately 150 years earlier in northwestern Italy in the Piedmont region. The confectioning process, a tradition that is done completely by hand, begins with careful selection of the chestnuts. Only the variety known as marrons is used and only those that are perfectly round and free of wrinkles are selected. The confectioners take two chestnuts at a time and enclose them in cheesecloth, which is dropped into boiling water for a specified period of time. They are inspected again and any broken nuts are discarded. The next steps involve candying the chestnuts with a method that drives the syrup into the center of the chestnut. The finishing touch is to apply a sugar coating and then oven-dry the chestnuts. Because the marrons glacés are made by hand using a number of labor-intensive processes, they could reasonably be considered an extravagant treat at approximately $40 for a half-pound box.

Edna Lewis, considered the Grande Dame of Southern cooking, died in 2006 knowing she had brought a venerated Italian tradition to this country--that of holding a chestnut festival at harvest time. Following the Italian tradition held in Piedmont, the Piedmont, Virginia chestnut festival opens with roasting the nuts, peeling them, and then dipping them into novella, a fruity young wine. The dinner that follows features chestnuts in every dish and accompanies the meal with wines from Virginia-grown grapes.

The poor people of ancient Rome tempered the strong taste of their wild greens by cooking them with chestnuts, which no doubt added a pleasant sweetness.

Because chestnut flour contains no gluten it can only be added in limited quantities in bread making. The Italians, however, were able to incorporate a generous proportion of chestnut meal to prepare little flat cakes that were similar to chapatti and called them necci. These were cooked over hot stones.

Chestnuts are often the featured ingredient in stuffings that appear on present-day Thanksgiving tables throughout the United States, while the French incorporate chestnuts into soups and soufflés. Americans boiled the chestnuts in an extravagant milk broth enriched with butter or cream and choose stock over water when boiling them for poultry stuffing.

Italians prepare castagnaccio, a baked pudding-like dish that includes a variety of nuts and sultanas. Nesselrode pudding, also known as Ice Pudding, originated in Austria. The unique dessert was made from pureed chestnuts, vanilla, sugar, and Maraschino, and thickened on the stove-top with an abundance of egg yolks. The pudding received a final addition of currants and raisins sweetened in syrup and a generous splash of thick cream. It was then frozen in a special mold over ice. To say it was rich may be an understatement.

The French, Spanish, and Italians served chestnuts in a banquet of recipes. Often chestnuts were boiled and presented in a simple oil-based sauce or boiled in a sweet syrup. They turned up in cakes and biscuits, and were included in compotes.

Today chestnut aficionados prepare chestnuts in countless ways, often pairing them with Brussels sprouts or creating a variety of chestnut soups. Inventive chefs and home cooks enjoy the challenge of creating truly innovative chestnut dishes, often with international flavor in fusion dishes, representing two or more cuisines within one recipe. Check the recipes below for some delicious chestnut cuisine.

By 1950, when the American chestnut trees became part of our nation's history, a long-standing American chestnut cuisine was also lost. Many Americans can admit they have never tasted a chestnut. Though Asian chestnut varieties are presently grown in the U.S., they are seldom seen in the chain groceries. Instead, imported varieties from China, Japan, Korea, and parts of Europe are what shoppers find during the holiday season. The good news is that the return of the American chestnut is on the horizon.

Nutrition
Most people don't think of nuts as a low-fat food, but chestnuts are the exception. Low in fat, 100 grams or 3.5 ounces of cooked chestnuts, contain a mere 1 to 3 grams of total fat compared to the same quantity of almonds with about 50.6 grams of fat. You've probably guessed they're also low in calories with that same measure of cooked chestnuts containing between 57 and 153 calories depending on the variety. The Chinese chestnuts tip the scale with the higher figure.

Protein is not a highpoint for chestnuts that contain only minimal amounts, ranging from 0.82 to 2.88 grams for 3.5 ounces. However, unlike their other nut counterparts, they are very starchy, making them a little higher in energy-boosting carbohydrates. The Chinese chestnut tops the other varieties with 33.64 grams of carbohydrates for 3.5 ounces, while the Japanese variety measures 12.64 grams. It's their carbohydrates that make chestnuts, once dried and ground, into an excellent, highly nutritious flour.

Of all the nuts, chestnuts are the only ones that contain Vitamin C. One ounce of boiled or steamed chestnuts delivers between 9.5 mg and 26.7 mg of the vitamin, while the dried variety has double the vitamin totaling 15.1 mg to 61.3 mg for 3.5 ounces.

All three varieties, the Chinese, Japanese, and European, contain B vitamins including folacin. All have significant amounts of trace minerals including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, selenium, and zinc and are an especially rich source of potassium ranging from 119 mg to 715 mg for 3.5 ounces.

Purchasing
FRESH CHESTNUTS: In the U.S. chestnuts begin appearing in the produce section of most supermarkets in October and are available though the holiday season. In this country they receive little attention until Thanksgiving when they are cooked and featured in turkey stuffings. Though fresh chestnuts may be available through March, our supermarkets will usually not carry them after Christmas. Asian markets, however, make them available throughout the winter and sometimes even into early spring.

Even when purchasing fresh chestnuts in the market, expect to find a few spoiled nuts in the batch. For that reason, it's best to buy a little extra to allow for the spoilage. Because chestnuts are totally encased in the protective shell, it's impossible to tell if a chestnut is spoiled.

Look for those that feel heavy for their size, have no cracks, and show no mold on the surface. The largest chestnuts are of the Japanese variety, while the smallest are the American chestnut.

Preparing
Deliciously sweet as they are, chestnuts are laborious to prepare because they require peeling not only their outer shell, but also the inner skin, the pellicle, which seems to cling with firm resolve.

To boil the chestnuts, make a crisscross cut on the flat or domed side of each chestnut with a firm, sharp paring knife. Toss them into a saucepan, cover with water by two to three inches, and cover the pan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly, and boil gently for 20 to 25 minutes for European or Asian chestnuts, 35 minutes for American chestnuts. Cool them slightly and peel with a sharp paring knife, taking care to remove the brown inner skin as well. The shells and inner skin are easier to remove when the chestnuts are quite warm. For that reason it's best to work with only a few chestnuts at a time while the rest stay warm in the cooking water. When the chestnuts become difficult to peel, you may have to add more water to the pan, and heat them again.

To roast the chestnuts, make a crisscross cut on the flat or domed side of the chestnut with a sharp, firm paring knife. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and roast at 375 to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 5 to 6) for about 20 minutes. You can test for tenderness by piercing through the cut side with a fork. Peel with a firm, sharp paring knife, taking care to remove the dark brown inside skin.

A very unique roasting method is sand-roasting, a method suggested by Dr. Jasper Woodroof. Fill a skillet half-full with sand and apply high heat to make the sand very hot. A handful of pierced chestnuts embedded into the hot sand will roast in about 12 minutes.

To eat the chestnuts raw, enjoy them shortly after harvesting by simply by making a crisscross cut either on the flat side or the domed and pulling off the shell and the pellicle.

Because of their starchiness, chestnuts can be cooked and served as a vegetable dish and mashed like potatoes. Shortly after they're harvested much of their starch turns to sugar, giving them a satisfying sweetness and adding a pleasant balance to a savory meal.

Chestnuts can be enjoyed whole as a tasty snack. They can also be mashed, pickled, chopped, minced, or sliced. Consider adding them to sauces or soups as a thickener and flavor enhancer.

DRIED CHESTNUTS: These are available on a year round basis in many Asian markets. In their dried form, chestnuts may be stored indefinitely. The Chinese dried chestnuts taste far different from the fresh and may not please every palate.

Chestnut To cook the dried chestnuts, put them into a saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat slightly and boil gently for about 45 minutes.

To speed the cooking time, soak the dried chestnuts overnight in enough water to cover. The cooking times vary depending on the variety. Dried chestnuts tend to retain their firmness even after lengthy cooking. Their firm texture makes them ideal for adding to cooked vegetables, casseroles, grain dishes, fruit and vegetable salads, rice puddings, and soups. Consider them also as a unique garnish for a sweet or savory dish.

To measure dried chestnuts, use half the quantity required in a recipe that calls for fresh chestnuts.

Dried chestnuts may be eaten raw but are often ground into flour and used to thicken soups and stews, to create a porridge, or to prepare a dish similar to polenta. The chestnut flour is often substituted for some of the wheat flour in bread and pancake recipes.

CANNED CHESTNUTS: In the fall, canned and jarred whole, cooked chestnuts can be found in gourmet shops. Some are vacuum packed in jars without liquid; others are packed in water or syrup for making desserts. Pureed cooked chestnuts, either sweetened or unsweetened, are also available in cans or jars during the holiday season. Shop for these at gourmet stores or natural food markets.

CHESTNUT FLOUR: After chestnuts are fully dried, they are ground into flour that can be kept without spoiling for two to three years. Since chestnut flour does not contain gluten, it must be combined with wheat flour for baking breads, though it is often said chestnut breads tend to be heavy and resemble mortar. Consider looking for chestnut four in natural food markets and as well as Italian groceries.

STORAGE: It's best to keep whole, unpeeled fresh chestnuts refrigerated until you're ready to cook them. In this form they may be stored for up to one year, keeping in mind it's always best to eat foods when they're at their freshest.

CHESTNUT SOURCES:

Empire Chestnut Company http://www.empirechestnut.com
Sells fresh and dried chestnuts, chestnut flour, chestnut trees, and chestnut seeds
3276 Empire Road SW, Carrollton, OH 44615-9515
Phone: 330-627-3181
E-mail: empirechestnut!@gotsky.com

Green Valley Chestnut Ranch http://www.chestnutranch.com
Sells organic chestnuts, chestnut roaster, stoneware chestnut roaster, jars of chestnut crème, puree, and spread

Correia Chestnut Farm
Sells American chestnuts and Italian Marroni variety
Phone: 886-492-4769
E-mail: harvey@chestnuts.us

Delmarvelous Chestnuts http://www.buychestnuts.com
Sells fresh and dried chestnuts, chestnut flour, and popcorn chestnuts
648 Oak Hill School Road, Townsend, DE 19734
Phone: 302-659-1731

Girolami Farms Chestnuts
Sells American chestnuts cooked and peeled, chestnut flour, chestnut knife, roaster
11502 East Eight Mile Road, Stockton, CA 95212
Phone: 209-931-0158

Ladd Hill Orchards http://www.laddhillchestnuts.com
Sells fresh and dried chestnuts, chestnut flour, chestnut knife
15500 SW Roberts Rd., Sherwood, OR 97140
Phone: 503-625-1248
E-mail: Laddhill1@aol.com

References:

Anagnostakis, Sandra L. "A Historical Reference for Chestnut Introductions into North America." The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. http://vvv.caes.state.ct.us/FactSheetFiles/PlantPathology/fspp001f.htm

Allen, Zel. The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion. Summertown, Tennessee: Book Publishing Company, 2006.

Bolgiano, Chris and Glenn Novak, eds. Mighty Giants: an American Chestnut Anthology. Vermont: American Chestnut Foundation, 2007.

"Chestnut." The Cambridge World History of Food, Eds. Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Coneé Ornelas. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. 359-363, 1730, 1751-1752.

"Chestnut." Oxford Companion to Food. Ed. Alan Davidson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. 165.

"Conservation Perspectives." New England Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology. http://www.nescb.org/epublications/winter2001/staples.html

Day, Ivan. "Nesselrode Pudding." Historic Food. 2003, http://www.historicfood.com/Nesselrode%20Pudding%20Recipe.htm

East West Journal. Shopper's Guide to Natural Foods. New York: Avery, 1987. 120, 123.

"Harvesting Chestnuts." Empire Chestnut Company. http://www.empirechestnut.com/faqharv.htm

"History of The American Chestnut Foundation." The American Chestnut Foundation. http://www.acf.org/history.php

"Marron Glacé." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marrons_glac%C3%A9s

"Marrons Glacés: Delicate French Candied Chestnuts." Histoire Sucré. http://www.histoiresucree.com/product_pages/marrons_glaces.html

"Notable Trees." Connecticut Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundattion. April 15, 2006. http://ctacf.org/index.cfm/2006/4/15/Notable-Trees

"Restoration of the American Chestnut in New Jersey." U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. http://209.85.173.104/search?q=cache:_IveGDtKZXYJ:www.fws.gov/northeast/njfieldoffice/Fact%2520Sheets

Root, Waverly. Food. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980, 63-65.

"Stories from the Past When American Chestnuts Dominated the Eastern Forests." American Chestnut Cooperator's Foundation. http://www.ppws.vt.edu/griffin/lore.html

"TACF Celebrates 25 Years! 1983 -2008." The American Chestnut Foundation. August 27, 2008. http://www.acf.org/anniversary25th.php

Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne. History of Food. Translated by Anthea Bell. Blackwell Publishing, 1992, 1994, 712-716.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/



CHESTNUT RECIPES


Fit for a royal banquet, these elegant stuffed squashes provide a festive entrée for a holiday season menu. Accompany them with the traditional trimmings like cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, and pumpkin pie. The recipe will be easier to assemble if you prepare the chestnuts the day before. As a time-saver, consider purchasing cooked, peeled chestnuts in a jar. Choose from a number of tasty winter squashes: sugar pumpkins, acorn, small butternut, delicata, or sweet dumpling.

Chestnut Stuffed Squashes

CHESTNUT, WILD RICE, AND PECAN STUFFED SQUASHES

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

    3 1/4 cups (840 ml) water, divided
    1 cup (240 ml) wild rice
    1 teaspoon salt

    4 or 5 small winter squashes
    Organic canola oil as needed

    3 stalks celery, finely chopped
    1 small onion, finely chopped
    5 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    1 1/4 cups (300 ml) cooked peeled chestnuts* or 1 15-ounce (425g) jar

    4 slices 100% whole grain bread

    1/2 pound (225g) button or cremini mushrooms, chopped
    2/3 cup (160 ml) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
    Freshly ground black pepper

    1/2 cup chopped parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 6) and have ready 1 or 2 baking sheets. Combine 3 cups of the water, the wild rice, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  2. Wash the squashes, cut them in half with a firm chef's knife, scoop out the seeds, and brush the cavities with the canola oil. Arrange the squashes on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake them for 30 minutes.
  3. To make the stuffing, combine the celery, onion, remaining 1/4 cup water, garlic, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until soft and transparent, Transfer to a large bowl along with the chestnuts.
  4. Toast the bread until bread it is dry. Cut it into small cubes and add them to the bowl with the chestnuts.
  5. Add the cooked wild rice, mushrooms, pecans, salt, thyme, oregano, poultry seasoning, and pepper and mix well. Adjust the seasonings if needed.
  6. Remove the squashes from the oven and generously fill the cavities with the stuffing. Cover the baking sheets with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and return the squashes to the oven for 30 minutes longer, or until tender when pierced with a fork.
  7. To serve, cut each stuffed squash in half and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
*1/2 pound (225g) fresh chestnuts in the shell

Notes: Extra stuffing can be put into a covered casserole dish and baked at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 30 minutes.

If using fresh chestnuts, make a crisscross cut in each chestnut. Place the chestnuts into a large saucepan with about 3-inches of water to cover. Boil the chestnuts for 20 to 25 minutes. Peel with a firm, sharp paring knife while still warm, removing the inner brown skin as well as the outer shell.


The holidays are for toasting family unity and bonding with friends. And a little sweet indulgence goes a long way to enhancing the festive mood. Plan to have some cooked and peeled chestnuts on hand to whip up this tasty nog when unexpected visitors drop in or prepare it a day ahead for a special occasion.


SPICY CHESTNUT AND CRANBERRY NOG

Yield: about 3 3/4 cups (900 ml)

    2 cups (480 ml) vanilla soymilk, divided
    2/3 cup (160 ml) peeled and well-cooked broken chestnuts
    1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh cranberries
    1/4 cup (60 ml) cranberry juice cocktail
    1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  1. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of the soymilk into the blender and add the chestnuts and fresh cranberries. Blend on high speed until the chestnuts and cranberries are completely broken down and you have a thick, creamy consistency.
  2. With the machine running, add the remaining soymilk, cranberry juice cocktail, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and spices and blend for 30 seconds, or until all the ingredients are blended and foamy.
  3. Serve immediately, or chill thoroughly. Stored in the refrigerator in a covered container, Spicy Chestnut and Cranberry Nog will keep for up to 5 days.


Heavenly rich and captivatingly delicious, this traditional old world dessert takes on refreshing nuance with a hint of maple flavor, an abundant splash of cinnamon, and a blast of chunky chestnuts nibbles. Adding a hint of texture are toasted sliced almonds. Put it all together and you're about to taste an irresistible fall and winter dessert that's a chestnut sensation! For convenience, the strudel can easily be made a couple of days ahead and refrigerated. Serve it room temperature or warm it gently, uncovered, at 325 degrees for about 10 to 15 minutes to crisp the filo dough.

Chestnut Apple Strudel

MAPLE CHESTNUT APPLE STRUDEL


Yield: about 21 to 24 slices

    1/2 cup (120 ml) sliced almonds, toasted

    Topping
    2 tablespoons organic sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    Filling
    2 cups (480 ml) cooked and peeled coarsely chopped chestnuts
    1 cup (240 ml) raisins
    1 cup (240 ml) organic sugar
    1/2 cup (120 ml) whole-wheat pastry flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon maple extract

    3 tablespoons lemon juice
    2 pounds (1 kilo) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into eighths and sliced

    Dough
    15 sheets filo dough, thoroughly defrosted*
    1/3 cup (80 ml) canola oil (approximately)

  1. Have ready a lightly oiled jellyroll pan. Place the toasted almonds in a small bowl and set it aside. Combine the organic sugar and cinnamon in another small bowl and set it aside.
  2. To make the filling, combine the chestnuts, raisins, organic sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a large bowl, stir well, and set it aside. Combine the maple syrup, vanilla and maple extracts in a small bowl, and set it aside.
  3. Measure the lemon juice into a separate large bowl and stir in the apples, coating them well to prevent them from turning brown. Set it aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and clear off the kitchen counter. You'll need lots of working room to prepare the filo dough. Place a dishtowel vertically on one end of the counter. Open the package of filo and unroll the dough. Place it on the towel, and cover the dough with another dishtowel to prevent it from drying out. Each time you remove a filo sheet, be sure to re-cover the dough. For convenience, place the canola oil in a small bowl.
  5. Remove one sheet of filo and lay it on the counter horizontally in front of you. Using a pastry brush, coat the dough lightly with the canola oil. Remove a second sheet of filo, lay it over the first sheet, and brush with oil. Repeat the process until you have 5 sheets altogether.
  6. Combine the sliced apples with the toasted almonds, chestnut mixture, and the maple syrup mixture and stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  7. Place one-third of the filling horizontally along the center of the filo dough, leaving 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) on either end. Lift up one horizontal edge and fold it over the filling. Tuck in both of the sides. Then, fold the remaining horizontal edge over and brush lightly with oil.
  8. Place the roll on the prepared baking sheet, seam side down, and brush lightly with oil. Repeat the process with two more rolls, placing all three rolls on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the reserved organic sugar and cinnamon mixture over the tops.
  9. Use a serrated knife to cut 1 1/2-inch (3.5 cm) slices half-way through. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove and cool about 10 minutes, then cut through the slices. Use a spatula to transfer them to a large, attractive serving platter. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. Refrigerated, leftover Maple Chestnut Apple Strudel will keep for up to 5 days.

* Filo dough is available in Middle Eastern groceries in the freezer section.


Ever taste a dish that had such a pleasing blend of flavors you just wanted to keep on eating and eating? This irresistible risotto is worth waiting a whole year for fresh chestnuts to appear in the markets. The ultra seasonal creation is blessed with the creamy sweetness of chestnuts and paired with the earthy flavors of a trio of herbs that make the shiitake and cremini mushrooms melt in the mouth.


Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto
CHESTNUT AND WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO

Yield: 6 servings

    3 large tomatoes, chopped
    3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced

    1 medium onion, chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) diced carrots
    1 stalk celery, diced
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

    1/2 pound (225g) fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems discarded (or use cremini mushrooms, sliced)
    1 pound (450g) button mushrooms, sliced
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary

    1 to 1 1/4 cups (240 to 300 ml) short grain brown rice
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    3 to 4 cups (.75 to 1 liter) water, divided

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) cooked, peeled chestnuts, quartered
    Salt and pepper
    2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley or chives

  1. Combine the tomatoes and minced garlic in a large saucepan or skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes until the tomatoes have begun to break down. Set them aside to add at the end.
  2. Combine the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, water, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet or 8 to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, and rosemary and cook about 2 minutes more, adding as much as a cup (240 ml) of water if needed.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the brown rice, salt, and 1 cup (240 ml) of the water. Keep the pan simmering and add the water, 1/2 cup (120 l) at a time, as the liquid is absorbed. The process of cooking down and adding water may take 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice for tenderness after 30 minutes. You may not need to use all of the water.
  5. When the rice is tender, add the cooked tomatoes and the chestnuts and cook 3 to 5 minutes longer to create a pleasing flavor union. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To finish, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with a pinch or two of herbs.

Note: For a delicious Wild Rice, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto, substitute 1 cup (240 ml) of wild rice for the brown rice, but plan on at least 20 minutes longer cooking to soften the wild rice.


A light, savory curry sauce is the ideal compliment to balance the natural sweetness of chestnuts in this delectable pasta dish. Another facet of this grand marriage is the mushroom combination that allows the chestnuts to take center stage. The recipe is quick to prepare and does not require exotic ingredients. If you're one who enjoys the heat of a spicy dish, adjust the seasoning to the full teaspoon or more of curry powder.


Chestnut  Mushroom Pasta
CURRIED CHESTNUT AND MUSHROOM PASTA

Yield: 4 servings

    1/2 pound (225g) whole-wheat pasta
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
    1/2 cup (160 ml) chopped onions
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder
    1/2 teaspoon turmeric

    1/2 pound (225g) cremini mushrooms, sliced
    8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced stems discarded

    2 cups (480 ml) water
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 tablespoons water

    1 tablespoon lemon juice
    1 cup (240 ml) cooked, peeled, and quartered chestnuts

  1. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet for one minute. Add the bell pepper, onions, garlic, salt, curry powder, and turmeric and cook about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Combine the cornstarch and the 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl or cup and stir to form a runny paste. Add to the boiling water and stir for 1 minute until thickened.
  5. Stir in the lemon juice and chestnuts and mix well. Adjust the seasoning, if needed, and serve over cooked and drained pasta.


For a delightfully rich breakfast indulgence, enjoy this unique "milk" poured over your old-fashioned oatmeal cooked with a stick of cinnamon. Prepare the Creamy Chestnut Milk a day ahead and warm it in minutes while cooking the oatmeal. Pour it into a small pitcher to serve at the table. Then, top your cereal with raisins and chopped seasonal fruit, and bathe it in pool of chestnut milk.


CREAMY CHESTNUT MILK

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups (360 ml)

    1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened soymilk, divided
    1/3 cup (80 ml) peeled and well-cooked broken chestnuts
    2 tablespoons maple syrup

  1. Pour 1/3 cup (80 ml) of the soymilk into the blender and add the chestnuts. Blend on high speed until the chestnuts are completely broken down and you have a thick, creamy consistency.
  2. With the machine running, add the remaining soymilk and the maple syrup until all the ingredients are well blended. Serve gently warmed or chilled. Stored in the refrigerator in a covered container, Creamy Chestnut Milk will keep for up to 5 days.


Almost any hearty dish can be enhanced with a naturally sweet and tangy relish that adds zest to the meal. Serve this unique accompaniment at the table and spoon it into your dish as you might a chutney. Enjoy it with rice dishes, polenta, and even over baked potatoes in place of sour cream. Refrigerated, it keeps well for several days.

CHESTNUT AND RED BELL PEPPER RELISH


Yield: 1 1/4 cups (300 ml)

    2 large red bell peppers
    1 cup (240 ml) broken cooked and peeled chestnut pieces
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
    Pinch of cayenne

  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Place a medium bowl in the sink, and fill it with cold water.
  2. Put the peppers on the foil and place them under the broiler, 3 inches (7.5 cm) from the heat source. Broil, turning with tongs every few minutes, until the peppers are blackened all over. Plunge the peppers into the prepared bowl with water and peel off the skins completely. Discard the core and seeds and transfer the peppers to the food processor.
  3. Add the chestnuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and cayenne and pulse-chop a few times. Process briefly until all the ingredients are well incorporated but not totally pureed, allowing the definitive texture of the chestnuts to emerge. Transfer to an attractive bowl and serve immediately or well chilled.

For other chestnut recipes click on Recipe Index.



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