Zel's Vegan NutGourmet

Zel Allen Goes Nuts for Good Health

I’M HAVING AN AFFAIR– WITH CHESTNUTS!

Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on November 7, 2009

I love the versatility of chestnuts. No other tree nut can charm me with its sweetness and its unique potato-like texture that makes a dish like these tasty patties so compelling. Throughout the holiday season, I plan to have a supply of fresh chestnuts on hand. Once cooked and peeled, chestnuts will keep well in fridge for a whole week so I can have them ready to use when I need them for a recipe.

Buying Fresh Chestnuts
One of the neat chestnut growers on the West Coast, Ladd Hill Orchards Organic Chestnuts from Oregon, sells them fresh and dried. They also have a good supply of chestnut flour for anyone who enjoys baking for the holidays ahead. Another item they have available is a chestnut knife that comes in very handy for peeling the chestnuts. I’ve been cooking chestnut dishes for many years and bought my first and only chestnut knife this year. I sure don’t know how I managed without it—well, yes, actually I do. I always ended up with very sore fingers from peeling two or three pounds of cooked chestnuts in one sitting with nothing but a simple paring knife.

Because chestnuts are gaining popularity, some growers have already sold out. Here are other U.S. growers that sell chestnuts harvested from their own orchards: Empire Chestnut Company, Allen Creek Farm, and Girolami Farms Chestnuts.

Awesome Nutrition
Chestnuts totally rock because they’re very low in fat. You’ll never have to worry about gaining weight by eating chestnuts with a total fat content of 0.76 grams for 3 1/2 ounces cooked. That is low, low, low fat for a tree nut. And because chestnuts are about 14% fiber, they help to lower cholesterol.

Calorie wise, that 3 1/2 ounces will deliver 153 calories—not really too bad. At the same time, you’ll benefit from 2.9 grams of protein, 306 mg of potassium, and a good supply of B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, and folate.

Chestnuts are the only nut that contains vitamin C—how about 24.7 mg along with some trace minerals like iron, zinc, and copper, all essential for good health.

Now, let’s get down to some serious cooking. If you’re one who adores cooking and spends a bit of time at it, you probably keep a few things on hand that work into great leftovers. I like to keep cooked grains like pearl barley or short-grain brown rice in the fridge for those spontaneous moments when I feel like composing something unique.

These sweet little patties make a great side dish and can even be the centerpiece of the meal. Serve them with a hearty tossed salad, a steamed vegetable, and a bean dish and you’ve got a fabulously satisfying meal. In keeping with the low fat content of the chestnuts, I’ve also kept the recipe low fat by water sautéing the veggies rather than cooking them the traditional way in oil or some other fat. It didn’t hurt the flavor of the patties one bit—these little babies are very flavorful and retain the natural sweetness of the chestnuts.

chestnutpatties

CHESTNUT PATTIES WITH VEGGIE CONFETTI

Yield: 12 patties

1 large carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced

7 ounces firm tofu, rinsed and drained
1 cup coarsely chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch cayenne

1 cup cooked pearl barley or short-grain brown rice

Garnish
Fresh dill or basil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have ready a large jellyroll pan lined with parchment paper.
2. In a large, deep skillet combine the carrot, bell pepper, and onion and 1/2 cup water. Water sauté the vegetables over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 7 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent. Add small amounts of additional water as needed to prevent the vegetables from burning.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, combine the tofu, chestnuts, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy.
4. Add the cooked vegetables, along with the cooked barley, and pulse chop carefully to combine the ingredients well, yet still retain the appearance of some of the diced vegetables.
5. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, forming 12 patties. Bake for 35 minutes, then, use a spatula to transfer the patties to an attractive serving dish. Garnish with fresh herbs and enjoy.

References:
“Nutrients in Chestnuts” Sandra L. Anagnostakis and Peter Devin. Northern Nut Growers Annual Report, 1999.

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

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