(BPT) - For food fanatics, spring is the perfect time of year to add fresh produce back into your recipes and meals.
Using seasonal ingredients can really help capture and enhance the flavors of spring and bring your cuisine to life. Whether you’re using first yields from your garden or visiting the farmers market as soon as it opens, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of the season.
Chef Alex Guarnaschelli, a recent winner on Food Network’s Iron Chef and a regular judge on Chopped, is a fan of using fresh nuts to enhance some of her favorite spring recipes. Here are her recommendations for taking your spring cuisine to a new level:
* Spruced-up salads: Healthy greens start to appear early in spring and are a great companion to nuts. Try topping a chopped Arugula salad with walnuts or adding pecans to Dandelion greens. Radicchio is delicious with almonds and apples. Using nuts can easily expand your salad horizon.
* Top it off:Springtime brings garden-fresh herbs; and parsley and basil are great flavors to finish many dishes. Chop up parsley with some Fisher almonds for added texture and taste. The Fisher Nuts Freshness Seal Bag has a re-sealable closure that will keep the leftover nuts fresh after the package is opened.
* Upgraded spice rub:The great spring weather makes it easy to fire up the grill. Add some ground nuts to your spice rub next time you’re cooking meat. The nuts can mellow some of the heat from the spice and add needed richness to the mix.
And who can forget about dessert? Strawberries are some of the earliest arriving berries; you can’t go wrong with Chef Guarnaschelli’s recipe for strawberry crostatas with walnuts. Find this recipe and more of Chef Guarnaschelli’s favorite recipes at www.fishernuts.com/alex.
Strawberry Crostata with Walnuts Serves 8
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus some additional for rolling out the dough1/4 cup granulated sugar 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt Zest of 1 lemon 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed and chilled 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter 2 pints strawberries, hulled and split 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon cornstarch 3/4 cup Fisher Walnut Halves, coarsely chopped
1. Dough: In the food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse to blend. Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Add cold water and pulse only to combine. Form into an 8-inch long cylinder (about 2 inches in diameter) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
2. Filling: Heat a large saute pan over high heat. Place a baking sheet next to the stove. When the saute pan is fairly hot, add the butter for the filling. When it melts and foams slightly, add the strawberries. Toss to coat with the butter and add 1/4 cup sugar, lemon zest and juice. Toss to blend and allow some of the liquid to escape from the berries and reduce. After 2 minutes, sprinkle with cornstarch, reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer to the baking sheet. Spread the strawberry mixture out so it cools faster and refrigerate until very cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a circle that is about 6 inches in diameter and about 1/8-inch thick. Flour lightly under and on top of the dough as you roll it.
5. Meanwhile, remove strawberry mixture from refrigerator and transfer to a fine strainer placed over a bowl. Strain strawberries so that almost no liquid remains with the berries, being sure not to crush the fruit.
6. Arrange the tart rounds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place 1 tablespoon walnuts onto the center of each round. Divide the cooked strawberries evenly among the dough circles. Fold the sides up tightly around the fruit to form a purse, making the fruit the center; they will open slightly during baking. Cover the opening left after folding with a few more walnuts. Refrigerate circles if they become too soft to handle.
7. Place the baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Top with any remaining walnuts. Sprinkle with sugar for added texture. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to serving plates using a wide spatula. Serve immediately.