Meaty Walnut Mushroom Ragout: Flex Your Meatless Options

Meaty Walnut Mushroom Ragout: Flex Your Meatless Options

Meaty Walnut Mushroom Ragout: Flex Your Meatless Options

Walnut Mushroom Ragout (Ragoût, for zee French appetite)

This walnut mushroom ragout (pronounced like the Italian Ragù) is a veggie and meat-eater favorite that delivers a ground-meat texture and umami-meaty flavor from toasted walnuts. Walnuts are high in umami flavors from free glutamate, the amino acid primarily responsible for savory, brothy, meaty flavors. They’re also high in omega-3 fatty acids that most of us struggle to get into our diet in meaningful amounts and, as a nut, walnuts uniquely are an excellent source of the plant-based form alpha-linolenic acid.

walnut mushroom ragoutDon’t let the nutrient-rich profile and French name fool you into thinking this is a fancy health food; ragout is your basic comfort food. A French ragoût can have any range of vegetable or meat ingredients, but an Italian ragù, with the same sounding name and diverse applications, is traditionally meat-centric.

From the French verb ragoûter, meaning to “refresh or stimulate the appetite” (the noun goût means taste) .

Combined with common ragoût ingredients such as tomatoes and mushrooms, it’s a crave-worthy dish that complements polenta, pasta or rice and can mimic ground meat in some dishes. By making a few additions, like adding vegetables common to bolognese or spices common to sloppy joes, this dish can flex in multiple directions.

I first demonstrated this dish at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris as part of a plant-based class on using plant-based umami to make veggies more crave-worthy.  It also showcased at the national Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Chicago to highlight how to create vegan meals that omnivores, and everyone, will love.

Walnut Mushroom Ragout Ingredients

1 ½ cup (about 3.5 ounces) unsalted walnut pieces
1 pound cremini mushrooms (white button can substitute okay)
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium yellow onion, diced fine (about 2 cups)
2 medium-sized cloves garlic, minced or grated (about 2 teaspoons)
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, minced (about 1 teaspoon)

Steps

1. Heat walnuts in a skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently for 3-5 minutes until toasted. Pour into a food processor and pulse or chop by hand until resembling ground meat.

walnut mushroom ragout prep

2. Rinse the mushrooms to remove any dirt. Keep stems, but slice of any ends that may have trapped dirt or debris. Slice mushrooms ½” thick. Put in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave another two minutes.

3. Heat a large skillet over a medium-high heat and use a slotted spoon remove the mushrooms into the skillet, keep the mushroom liquid. Sprinkle on the salt and cook mushrooms without stirring. Once start to dry out (about five minutes), add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss mushrooms. When mushrooms closest to the pan surface are brown (about 8-10 minutes) stir or toss, cook 2-4 minutes longer then pour into a bowl.

4.Add to the still warm skillet the remaining tablespoon of oil and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to medium, stir to cook the paste for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the onion, garlic, smoked paprika, walnuts and mushrooms. Stir and cook 2-3 minutes. Add wine, tamari and mushroom liquid, cook until walnuts are tender and liquids are absorbed but the mixture is still moist (20-25 minutes). Stir in minced thyme. Season with salt if needed. If desired, add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil for additional rich, supple textures.

walnut mushroom ragout prep | Thetasteworkshop.com

Walnut Mushroom Ragout Serving Options

 

walnut mushroom ragout

Serve with polenta, rice, pasta and baked potatoes or add as a meat substitute for stews or turn into sloppy joes by adding classic sloppy joe spices and ingredients like bell peppers.

Walnut Storage Tips:  Because of the luscious nature of walnuts (lovely fat qualities), store in the refrigerator if using soon or the freezer if they won’t be used for a month or more.

More info here at https://walnuts.org/how-to/how-to-buy-care/

 

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Citrus and Almond Olive Oil Cake with Tangerine Glaze

Citrus and Almond Olive Oil Cake with Tangerine Glaze

Citrus and Almond Olive Oil Cake with Tangerine Glaze

This isn’t a typical olive oil cake. Often they are dense and extra unctuous, which can be desirable, or lighter and cake-like. This version is in between thanks to a flavorful addition of moist almond meal and corn meal. These additions also create a nutrient-rich cake as well.

Despite a moist interior, the top of the cake develops a nice crust which holds up well to an addition of almonds and a grand marnier tangerine glaze. If tangerines are not in season, substitute with the related mandarin or clementines or “cousin” orange.

While I recommend following measurements when baking, I made this cake for a taste workshop and class at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris without the benefit of measuring tools or scales, so either it’s very forgiving or I made lots of lucky estimates that day.

Recipe for Cake

Olive oil cake cupDry Ingredients 1 ¾ cup ground almond meal/flour ¾  cup fine ground corn meal 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 2  teaspoons baking powder ½  teaspoon fine sea salt 1  cup sugar

The Topping: ¼ cup slivered almonds

Moist Ingredients ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil 3 large eggs 3-4 Tangerines (2 tangelos or oranges): 2 teaspoons zest for cake 1/3 cup tangerine juice for cake

Glaze Ingredients: 1 ¼ cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon tangerine/citrus zest, finely grated 2 tangerines (3-4 Tablespoons) 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier Small pinch of salt

Steps: Pre-heat oven to 350˚F

  1. Lightly coat the base and sides of a 9-inch nonstick cake pan or a quick-release version.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add flours and whisk well to remove lumps. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well. Add the sugar and mix in.
  3. To an equally large or larger mixing bowl, add the moist ingredients. With a hand mixer, blend the eggs and oil for 2 minutes on medium speed (will form bubbles on the surface).
  4. Add the zest and juice and blend only a few seconds—a moist custard-like texture quickly forms.
  5. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture and blend until incorporated. It has a cornmeal batter texture.
  6. Pour the batter into the oiled cake pan and bake on the center rack for 48-50 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on a rack to cool and run a knife round the edges to loosen.
  7. Sprinkle the almond slices on top of the cake.
  8. For the glaze, pour the powdered sugar into a bowl, add juice, zest, Grand Marnier and salt and mix.
  9. Pour some of the glaze on top of the almonds while the cake still a bit warm and retain some glaze to serve aside cut pieces of the cake.
  • A moderately flavored olive oil works best to infuse the cake with a hint of savory flavor; however, you can use a mild tasting extra virgin olive oil for a mild or even undetectable flavor.

 

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart |Tarte Sucrée Aux Blettes et Noisettes

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart |Tarte Sucrée Aux Blettes et Noisettes

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart |Tarte Sucrée Aux Blettes et Noisettes

Swiss Chard hazelnut dessert tart

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart

 

Really. It’s not so bizarre to use vegetables in dessert. Consider zucchini bread and carrot cake. Other popular recipes include red velvet beet cake, sweet potato pudding and avocado chocolate mousse. Dessert tarts made with Swiss chard have long been popular in the South of France. In Nice, where I first discovered this dessert tart, it’s part of the culture, and it’s delicious.

Swiss chard is an abundant crop in Southern France which makes dessert a clever way to use up excess chard. One thing is for certain, this tart was not created just to make the dessert more nutrient dense or higher fiber–this is not the French way of eating. I discovered this tart from parents of a chef friend who invited me to dinner at their home near Falicon, North of Nice.

Why is this tart delicious?

The French approach to this dessert balances the sweet with the delicate tang of chard and bright citrus notes. The quick and easy light custard contrasts with crunchy, toasted hazelnuts and a low-sugar, brown-butter crust (the easiest “French” crust ever).

Why make this sweet tart with greens?

  • It’s surprisingly delicious and unique
  • It’s stealth nutrition (adds fiber and potassium)
  • It holds well for a 2-3 days
  • You’ve wondered what else to do with chard
  • Experience some history–the tart has Medieval origins

 

Swiss Chard Hazelnut Dessert Tart Recipe

Serves 8

Filling Ingredients:
  • ¾ pound of whole fresh Swiss chard leaf stalks (about 3.5 ounces with stems removed)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk from a large egg
  • 1 ¼ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest (about half a large orange)
  • ½ cup of whole toasted skinless hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of powdered sugar
Tart Dough:

You can use a favorite tart recipe or pre-made tart dough that works for a 9-inch tart pan or use the following easiest, quickest, “non-French” tart recipe I’ve ever made.

Swiss Chard Steps:
  1. Prepare to blanch the chard; however, if all the leaves are small, young, thin and supple, you could skip this step (see culinary nutrition notes below). Put a large pot of water (about 2½ quarts or enough to cover the chard leaves) over medium heat. Have a colander nearby and some cold water available.
  2. Rinse the Swiss chard, remove the stems—cutting with a knife is preferred over hand tearing the leaves, since this can leave you with bits and pieces that are a bother if you blanch the chard. When the water is simmering (not boiling), add the leaves all at once. Press the leaves into the water to cover then remove after 45 seconds depending on when the leaves become soft and pliable (too much heat dulls the color.) Thick, dense chard leaves will take more time.
  3. Pour the chard into the colander and rinse with cold water or pour cold water over and around the leaves to stop further color loss. When cool enough to touch, squeeze out the excess water with your hands then chop.

 

Custard Steps: Turn oven to 400˚F (204˚C)
  1. For the hazelnuts, lightly toast them and remove the skins if you purchased whole, raw nuts. Chop the nuts into roughly ¼ inch bits (I scoop up the nuts and shake out the smaller bits and “nut dust” between my fingers.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, eggs, yolk, milk, vanilla and zest. Stir in the chopped Swiss Chard.
  3. Pour mixture into the tart pan of the pre-cooked dough and place on the middle rack. Sprinkle the hazelnuts evenly across the top and lightly press them into the custard. Bake 30-34 minutes or until custard looks set—test with a toothpick inserted into the custard for a clean removal.
  4. Serve slightly chilled, and just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  • Young, supple or pliable fresh Swiss chard leaves could be used without the blanching step by cutting the chard chiffonade style (removing the stem, layering the leaves, rolling them up into a cylinder shape and cutting the leaves into thin strips). Cut the thin strips in half lengthwise to make smaller pieces. Place these in a bowl and let them sit for at least 30 minutes or until they soften further. As long as they feel soft and supple, they will work well in the tart.
  • Most often veggies are blanched (simmering water for 30 seconds or more) in salted water to improve the flavor; however, I don’t find it benefits this dessert.
  • Swiss Chard has some naturally salt-seasoning—this amount has about 200 mg of sodium for the entire recipe which is a low level of sodium.
This dish is rich in culture and historical origins so despite making changes to simplify this dessert, I want to honor the traditional ingredients and techniques by mentioning them:
  • Pine nuts are traditional, but sometimes fresh (non-oxidized/non-rancid) pine nuts are hard to find, instead I use hazelnuts which add an attractive crunch and flavor.
  • Lemon zest: I substituted with orange zest because Swiss chard adds tang and orange pairs well with it.
  • A Tourte: Tourtes have a dough topping and are more common with this dessert, but I prefer tarts they are easier and faster to and without a top crust, it’s less dense and lower calorie.
  • Alcohol: Brandy, eau de vie or pastis are used, instead I added pure vanilla extract as a more common flavor agent.
  • Other traditional ingredients: raisins, pears, Parmesan are also often included.
Swiss chard leaf stalk stack
“The cultural identity of Nice is grounded in Swiss Chard, I am not at all exaggerating”

“L’identité culturelle niçoise s’est forgée dans la blette, je n’exagère rien”

Blog post quote by

Camille Oger

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Almond and Hazelnut Dukkah

Almond and Hazelnut Dukkah

Almond and Hazelnut Dukkah

Almond and Hazelnut Dukkah

Dukkah, a savory spice and nut mix, has Arabic roots and worldly applications. Traditional key ingredients are nuts, coriander, cumin seed, salt and sesame seeds, but it can also include other seeds such as fennel and peppercorns. The word Dukkah is attributed to Arabic references to crush or turn to powder which can be done with a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder.

  • 1/3  cup whole unroasted hazelnuts
  • 1/3  cup unsalted whole unroasted almonds
  • 2  heaping tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 2  tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1  tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1  teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1  teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt (fleur de sel is nice)

Steps: Preheat oven to 375°F

  1. Distribute the hazelnuts and almonds each to their own baking trays to control for cooking differences
  2. Toast nuts in the oven or toaster oven until lightly browned for 4-8 minutes, then remove from oven to cool. Rub the hazelnuts together in batches between your palms to remove most of the skin
  3. Chop the nuts into ⅛” size bits and add to a bowl. A bread knife helps to keep nuts from escaping
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and toast the sesame seeds until golden, remove
  5. Toss the spices into the skillet, shaking it a few times and heat the spices until they become aromatic
  6. Put the sesame seeds and spices in an electric grinder or mortar and pestle grind to a coarse powder
  7. Add the mixture to the chopped nuts. Sprinkle in the salt and stir.
  • Nutrient-dense food with high-satiety protein & healthful spices
  • Because of the natural oils in the nuts and sesame seeds, dukkah does not have a long shelf life but can be stored for a month in the refrigerator.
  • A spice blend of savory and nutty with hints of sweet and heat
  • Coriander adds a hint of lemon and wood notes
  • Crunchy textures from whole and crushed nuts and spices
  • Use as a dip for crudité: radishes, cucumbers, sweet peppers, green onions, jicama, carrots
  • Use as an dip for bread by combining olive oil with the Dukkah
  • Use as a seasoning topping for flat bread
  • Sprinkle on roasted vegetables
  • Add to a fresh grated carrot salad

“A popular spice blend that modern Egyptians enjoy just as their ancestors did thousands of years ago”

 

History.com Spice of Life in Egypt

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast

Garlic walnut herb sauce with nutritional yeast

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast

This sauce is a creamy pesto-like sauce with parsley, walnuts and extra garlic but instead of cheese or added salt, it uses nutritional yeast.   Some people call this “nooch”, to give it a more affectionate, shorter name. Despite the technical, yet correct, ingredient name or its cutesy nickname, nutritional yeast offers authentic nutrient benefits and culinary options as a cheese substitute, low-sodium ingredient and thickener.   I don’t typically use products to substitute for authentic or “real food” ingredients, but I make an exception periodically with nutritional yeast. In addition to its great amino acid and fiber profile, has surprising savory, umami notes when cheese isn’t an option (see the tasting section below).

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce with Nutritional Yeast

 Makes 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and the hard stem base is removed
  • ⅔ cup unsalted walnut pieces
  • 1½ cup tightly packed fresh parsley ( 1½-2 ounces w/ stems)
  • ½ cup tightly packed fresh basil (a bit over ½ ounce w/ stems)
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast (picture posted below)
  • ¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus 2 tablespoons if a more liquid sauce is desired)
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Optional: ⅛ teaspoon cayenne (resist the temptation to add a lot more cayenne since it will mute the herb and nutty flavors)

Prep Steps:

  1. Add the garlic and walnuts to a blender and pulse a few times for a course mixture.
  2. Rinse and dry the herbs. Destem the herbs, but some of the thinner parsley stems won’t be a problem.
  3. Add the herbs, nutritional yeast, olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Blend until sauce is smooth.
  4. Serve immediately. If storing in the refrigerator for later use, place plastic wrap directly on the exposed surface area to reduce oxidation which will turn the bright green color to a more muted army green color.

Garlic and Walnut Herb Sauce

  • Nutritional yeast provides the full range of essential amino acids, but most importantly (since it has to taste good!), it offers savory umami attributes due to glutamic acid.
  • In this recipe, the perception of umami is further triggered by the use of walnuts, also high in glutamatic acid.
  • Nutritional yeast adds salty notes to the sauce despite its minor sodium contribution of 5 mg for 3 tablespoons. Three tablespoons of this brand also offers a nice fiber boost at 5 grams.

I used KAL Brand of Nutritional Yeast Flakes purchased from Whole Foods and available in bulk at some grocery stores. I have no preference for brands; however, there are some taste, texture and quality differences.

  • Serve as a topping for roasted veggies
  • Excellent as a dip for roasted cauliflower florets or raw vegetables
  • Use as a sauce for pasta, rice, salmon, sautéed tofu or poultry
  • Use to garnish tops of creamy soups
Nutritional yeast spoon

“A nickel will get you on the subway, but garlic will get you a seat.”

~Old New York Proverb

About Me

The pleasure of food, good health and well-being through simple habits for eating well and flexitarian low-key cooking.
Michele Redmond

Michele Redmond

French-trained Chef, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist & Food Enjoyment Activist

It's about Making Food First

Get Taste Workshop periodic updates on easy ways to choose and cook foods that satisfy your appetite, nurture your body and make eating well a pleasure.

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