Eat Better Nuts: A Brief Guide About Hazelnuts

Hazelnut orchard in fall.
Flickr/Bonnie Moreland

We live in a world teeming with options, from countless clothing brands to seemingly limitless possibilities while perusing the wine section. Frankly, there are positive problems.

When it comes to nuts, it’s all too easy to go with the obvious. Peanuts, almonds, and cashews are plenty tasty, but just as you should try an Albariño instead of a Pinot Grigio sometime, you’d be rewarded if you dug a little deeper in the nut aisle. Enter hazelnuts, the quiet hero of the nut realm.

While grown almost entirely in the Willamette Valley (at least domestically, Italy grows a lot, too), hazelnuts are pretty readily available in most markets. Better, you can source them online from collaborative outlets like the Hazelnut Growers of Oregon. The growers, meanwhile, have just wrapped up another harvest (the nuts are collected early fall each year, just like wine),

The hazelnut has a lot going for it. It’s a healthy nut, ripe with antioxidants and vitamins. It’s tasty and good for your heart. Oh, and it’s versatile as ever, a welcome ingredient in everything from salads and bread to desserts, and even cocktails.

Hazelnuts As a Snack

You really don’t need to do much with hazelnuts. They’re perfectly enjoyable dry roasted on their own. If you get some in the raw, try throwing them on a baking sheet and roasting them yourself. Try with a drizzle of honey and spices like coriander and ginger or go the autumnal pie spice route and add olive oil, cinnamon, clove, and allspice. Just be sure to use a shallow pan and shake it occasionally for even roasting. About 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees F ought to do it, but peek in now and again to check. Once the skins are pretty dark, you’re set.

Hazelnuts in a Salad

There are many directions you can go with hazelnuts as a major salad component. This one, however, is among our favorites. It mixes up earthy beets, peppery arugula, and the one-of-a-kind nut. If you want to add a little more substance, throw in some tofu, chicken, or lentils.

Hazelnut Arugula Salad on table.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 medium-sized beets, tops and tails removed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tsp pure dark maple syrup
  • 1.5 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp roasted hazelnut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 4 ounces ricotta salata, very thinly sliced
  • .5 cup roughly chopped Oregon Orchard roasted hazelnuts
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Place the beets in a roasting dish and fill with water 2/3 of the way up the beets. Add a generous 3-4 glugs of olive oil, and 2-3 generous pinches of salt and pepper. Roll the beets around, so that they’ve been coated on all sides, then cover with parchment paper and tinfoil.
  3. Cook for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven, carefully pull back the tinfoil and parchment paper and rotate the beets so that the side that was submerged in the liquid is above the surface. Re-cover and continue to cook for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the beets. They are done when a chef’s knife can easily slide through the center of the beets.
  4. While the beets are in the oven, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the shallot, vinegar, maple syrup, and mustard. Continue whisking, and slowly drizzle in the hazelnut oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. When the beets are cooked, carefully peel back the foil and parchment and use tongs to transfer the beets to a plate or dish to cool. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skins with your hands, wearing gloves to prevent your hands from staining if you wish. Slice the beets into wedges or rounds.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the beets, arugula, mint, Ricotta Salata, and hazelnuts with the dressing and season with salt and pepper. Divide evenly among plates.

As a Bridge for All Things Pacific Northwest

It’s a major cliché for good reason: Things that grow together, go together. When your homeland is the abundant Willamette Valley, that means a lot of great pairing options. Try a handful with a glass of Pinot Noir and see how the two enhance each other. Top some grilled fish such as salmon with some roasted nuts and maybe even a splash of Frangelico (hazelnut liquor). Dice them up and sprinkle on some of your favorite produce selections. They’re perfect with all kinds of caramelized goodness, from sweet potatoes to roasted cauliflower.

Or, if you really want some comfort food this fall and winter, try this casserole recipe and be instantly thawed to the core.

Broccoli Cauliflower Casserole Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cauliflower, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and finely grated
  • 1/3 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup (4 oz) grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup chopped roasted Oregon hazelnuts
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 1 cup biscuit mix
  • 4 eggs
  • .5 tsp garlic salt
  • .5 tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Precook broccoli and cauliflower by boiling in a saucepan until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well.
  3. In mixing bowl, stir together broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, grated carrot, onion, and cheese; spoon mixture into a well-greased glass 10-inch pie plate. Top with chopped roasted hazelnuts.
  4. Beat together milk, biscuit mix, eggs, garlic salt, and pepper; pour into pie plate over hazelnuts, vegetable, and cheese mixture.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes; let casserole stand 5 minutes before serving.

Hazelnut As a Drink

A good hazelnut syrup can enliven many a drink, from an Old Fashioned to Boulevardier. It’s also great with chocolate, so keep it in mind for just about all of your favorite dessert-style cocktails (looking at you, White Russian). For magnificent nightcap drinks, try this coffee cocktail.

Nitro Coffee Float

Nitro coffee is a unique type of coffee that is cold-brewed and infused with nitrogen gas to improve both its taste and texture.

Ingredients

  • 4-6 oz. Sam Adams Nitro Coffee Stout
  • .75 oz. Frangelico
  • .75 oz. Braulio (or favorite amaro)
  • 1 oz. cold brew coffee
  • Ice cream and condiments

Method

  1. Shake and strain into Pilsner glass.
  2. Top 3/4 of the way with Sam Adams Nitro Coffee Stout.
  3. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  4. Garnish with crushed hazelnuts and/or whipped cream, sprinkles, cherry, and chocolate.

There are a million other ways to enjoy hazelnuts, from trail mix and pasta participant to the milk version for your morning coffee. Check out more recipes from the Hazelnut Growers Association.

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