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Cooking with Walnut Oil

Nothing says summer to me more than walnuts. They recall warm months from my childhood in Santa Rosa, California picking blackberries with my aunts and cousins, dodging in and out of the creek, and lazing around under the Black walnut tree that my great-great-grandfather planted on my family’s ranch. This tree has become a part of our family heritage; once when my great-grandfather came out to New York for a Christmas visit, he actually brought an entire suitcase full of walnuts along with him!

Walnuts and the delicious, flavorful oil made from them are some of my favorite ingredients for adding something special to a dish. The Lot18 team just got back from the Fancy Food show, where gourmet popcorn was a hit. I was inspired – it turns out walnut oil and salt on popcorn makes for a savory, delicious treat!

Walnut oil is one of the oldest oils widely used in Italian cooking, but one of my newest finds. It is delicate, luscious and surprisingly light, offering a delicious fragrance and a satisfying umami taste. And being high in omega-3 fatty acids, it’s healthy. Drizzle it over salads, in soups, on popcorn with a little salt, or use it to replace boring vegetable oils in baking. You can really taste the walnut flavors, and you will be shocked what a difference it makes!

Walnut season is in full swing, to say the least – braving steamy subway platforms and loping around Central Park last week, the city was decidedly empty as everyone stayed inside for the air conditioning. This warm weather means an abundance of fresh veggies, particularly zucchini. I love cooking seasonally, and fresh, sweet and savory zucchini-walnut bread is the perfect summertime treat.

Summery Zucchini-Walnut Bread

Ingredients:

3 large fresh eggs

1 ¾ cups granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups pure walnut oil

2 large zucchini, grated

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

3 tsp fresh ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ tsp ground cloves

1 ½ cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, walnut oil, grated zucchini and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl sift the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and cloves and stir.

Combine all ingredients and mix. Carefully add the walnuts and raisins and stir gently.

Grease two large or four small loaf pans, and pour the batter to about ¾ full. Bake 45-50 minutes for small loaves or an hour for large loaves, until it turns golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean (no batter, crumbs are okay). Allow it to sit for ten minutes, remove from the pan and let cool on a wire rack. Voilà!