CRANBERRIES—THE BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL MEET WALNUTS—THE OMEGA 3 CHAMPS
Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 5, 2009
If you’re like many people who are starting to plan a Thanksgiving menu, the mention of cranberries brings to mind the standard cranberry sauce that clings to its traditional place on the Thanksgiving table. In many households, that’s where cranberries begin and end their existence—simply as cranberry sauce. Quite often, the convenient can of jellied cranberry sauce is the only association to cranberries people have ever had. I know, it’s easy—just open the can and plop the deep red blob into a bowl and pass it around the table at Thanksgiving—and maybe the canned cranberry sauce will even make a reappearance at Christmas, and maybe not.
But quite honestly, cranberries have a treasured place in my heart because they’re the darlings of the holiday season. In my house, they show up as Spiced Chestnut and Cranberry Nog, Tangy Cranberry Soup, Cranberry Fruit Salad, Spiced Cranberry Salsa, Cranberry Pomegranate Salad Dressing, Cranberry Spread, Hot Cranberry Punch, Cranberry Oat Muffins, and a ton of cranberry desserts like the one I’m sharing below. Putting it bluntly—they’ve got piss and vinegar! That’s verve and pizzazz to the less daring!
Cranberry Health Benefits
Healthwise, cranberries are packed with antioxidants. According to The Cranberry Institute, the antioxidant activity of flavonoids and polyphenols in cranberries works to prevent heart disease by preventing oxidation in the arteries. Those antioxidants protect the body from damaging molecules known as free radicals. Brain cells, too, receive that same protection. Aside from their beauty and versatility, cranberries add awesome health benefits during this winter season, when you want to chase away the sniffles, coughs, and flu.
Walnut Omega 3 Benefits
And when you pair the cranberries with nuts, like walnuts, which are another fabulous harvest delight, you get a double benefit. Walnuts are a rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries. In turn, walnuts help to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke because they lower cholesterol, especially the LDL bad cholesterol.
The Omega 3 in walnuts also helps to alleviate the pain of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Omega 3 works to boost the function of the brain, helping people to perform on a high level, maintain good concentration, and keep the memory sharp. Those who suffer from mild depression may find the Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts a gentle way to bring relief.
This Thanksgiving, consider adding another dessert to the menu–one that will sit proudly beside the venerable Pumpkin Pie and promise to send quivers of anticipation among the awaiting diners. This exquisite pie from The Nut Gourmet cookbook is beautiful, emits a wonderful aroma, and knocks the socks off with its assertive sweet and tart full-throttle tang.
Toss showy red cranberries, walnuts, and raisins into a pie crust and the result is a stunning dessert that features a zippy sweet-and-tart flavor. This tantalizing treat is an ideal, easy-to-prepare, make-ahead holiday dessert. Cranberries have arrived at the market and will be available throughout the holiday season. Buy several packages and enjoy combining them with walnuts and sweet or dried fruits to temper their tartness. Convenient, ready-to-eat shelled walnuts freshly harvested this fall await your tender touch.
CRANBERRY WALNUT PIE
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
1 recipe Flaxseed Pie Crust (below)
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground in a hand-crank nut mill
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries, divided
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a 9-inch metal pie pan.
2. Put the walnuts into a large mixing bowl and set aside.
3. Sort the cranberries and discard any spoiled ones. Wash the cranberries in a strainer and drain them well.
4. Place 1 cup of the cranberries into the food processor and pulse-chop them coarsely. Transfer them to the bowl with the walnuts and add the remaining whole cranberries.
5. Add the raisins, organic sugar, brown sugar, and almond extract and toss well.
6. Combine the cornstarch, lemon juice, and water in a small bowl or cup, and stir to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the cranberry mixture and stir thoroughly.
7. Spoon the filling into the prepared pie shell and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool about 30 minutes. Serve warm, or cool completely and refrigerate until ready to serve.
The Crust of the Matter
Truthfully, pastry making is a bitch! Some people whip out a pie crust as easy as making smoothies—but not me! It has been such a challenge that for years I tended to avoid making pies at all. That is, until I came up with a few pie dough recipes I could consider friendly to the most timid of bakers. This easy pie dough is impossible to kill. Just toss the ingredients into the food processor and use your fingers to spread it into the pie pan. It’s as easy as that.
You can even use this recipe to make pre-baked pie crust when preparing a no-bake pie. Just spread it into the pie pan and cover the dough with aluminum foil, shiny side down. Weight the foil down with a thick layer of dried beans and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. The process is called blind baking.
FLAXSEED PIE CRUST
Yield: 1 9-inch pie crust
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons organic sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1. Combine the whole-wheat pastry flour, flaxseed meal, and salt in the food processor and process to distribute the dry ingredients evenly.
2. Add the canola oil and water and pulse and process until well combined and the mixture forms dough that holds together.
3. Spoon the dough into a 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to spread the dough evenly over the bottom and sides of the pan.
4. Fill the crust with the desired ingredients and bake.
For a sweeter crust, add 2 to 3 tablespoons of organic sugar or brown sugar