I had parents who were full of quirky sayings. My dad, being from the south, often said, “If I could only eat one food on earth, I would choose peanuts.” (If he’d been from Minnesota, he would have needed to say walnuts.) Another day he’d put milk or eggs in that exalted position, but it was always one of two or three favorites. In other words, if you had to go on a long hike or be out on the lake fishing for a long time, bring nuts. You’d be happy-crunchy and, while he never mentioned it, you’d be full from the fiber and not be hungry for a long time given the protein and fat content of nuts.
My kids once had a doctor who, beside being a wonderful human being and just as good of a doctor, invited us in to his office each visit. He’d turn around and sit and chat a minute or two before getting down to business. Once in a while, he’d say, “I haven’t had lunch yet; let me get something to eat while we visit.” Out of his drawer would come a big bag of plain almonds. He’d pour a handful or two out for himself and offer the bag to us. “Best lunch available in a drawer,” was his line. He’d chomp several before saying, “All right, I’m ok now; I was starved.”
I’m sure neither of these men had pear-almond crostata in mind when he thought about nuts as an excellent source of nutrition, though I do! It never hurts to add a little protein and fiber to a scrumptious dessert and, while I make lots of desserts (among other things!) with almonds in them– (I use almond paste as the bottom layer of my strudel) — this is my favorite. Most of my friends have eaten a crostata or two at my house. It’s a special occasion treat and I make it for birthdays, dinner parties, or holidays.
If you’ve never made a crostata before, don’t be frightened by the name; it’s just a free-form pie that every self-respecting home and professional cook in Italy makes regularly. (Italian crostatas are often made with jam rather than fresh fruit.) I find it simpler and tastier than an American pie; it’s forgiving in shape, size, and texture; it’s perfectly luscious and has the oooooo and ahhhhhh factor desserts deserve.
Recipe for a raspberry jam crostata here.
The dough for my crostata is made in the food processor and is done in a flash. Try this:
4 regular or six small servings for one crostata
Parchment paper needed for baking
- 2 cups white, unbleached flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2-pound (2 sticks) very cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup ice water
In the food processor, fitted with the knife blade, pulse together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse until mixture is the size of peas. Slowly add iced water through the feed tube until dough begins to come together. Remove carefully from processor and divide in half. Press each into a disc. Wrap one in foil and freeze it. Refrigerate the other for an hour is best, but you can roll it right away if you must. Dust the counter very well indeed with flour and roll the disc, using a rolling pin, into an 11″ circle. Place on parchment lined baking sheet until you have the fruit ready. (Check out the pics here where I give you two options for getting the pastry from the counter to the pans.) You can a. fold it up gently and quick like a bunny pick it up, and centering it over the baking sheet, place it carefully down and unfold it or, b. loosely roll the dough back onto the rolling pin and move the rolling pin over above the baking sheet, lowering it and loosening the pastry down flat onto the pan.
The pastry recipe for this comes from Ina Garten, who, I might have gotten(?) it from Joanne Killeen and George Germon in CUCINA SIMPATICA; ROBUST TRATTORIA COOKING.
Preheat oven to 450 and place rack at center.
In a large bowl, mix cut-up pears with lemon rind and most of the almonds, reserving 1T or so for the top of the crostata. In the food processor, make a crumb topping for the crostata by pulsing together the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter until crumbly. Remove the blade from the processor bowl, and, using fingers, pinch together the crumbs until they hold together
Place pear-lemon mixture onto the pastry, leaving 1 1/2 inches around the edges. Crumble topping on the pears evenly and sprinkle with the last of the almonds. Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit, gently pleating the dough at the corners. You’ll be leaving most of the fruit covered by only the crumbly topping; the pastry just comes up around the edges of this pie.
Place baking sheet in oven and bake 25-30 minutes (use the longer time above 5,000 feet) until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before sliding pie off the paper onto wire rack to cool completely. Will hold at room temperature a day or so and in the refrigerator for several days, though it is best fresh.
Note: If you’d like to make an apple crostata with the other crust, it’s made almost like the above pie, but you’ll need 1 1/2 # (3-4 large Granny Smith) apples, 1 t orange peel and no nuts unless you choose to add some one your own. If you do, toasted walnuts might be best.
The best drink for crostata is a cup of fresh black coffee.
This is a one ounce serving of almonds–about 25 and almost 1/4 cup.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese; they are a good source fiber, copper, phosphorous and riboflavin. When compared ounce for ounce, almonds are the nut highest in protein (6g), fiber, calcium (75mg), vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin (1mg). Talk about good things coming in a small package.
The average woman needs 46 grams of protein per day. She needs 25 grams of fiber. (webmd.com)
Nutrient Content of Tree Nuts–Almond info in RED.
USDA Nutrient Laboratory Database, Release 20 (Nd – no data); Bolded numbers indicate highest value.
|(1 ounce whole natural)||Almond||Brazil Nut||Cashew||Hazelnut||Macadamia||Pecan||Pistachio||Walnut|
|Total Fat (g)||14||19||13||17||21||20||13||19|
|Dietary Fiber (g)||3.5||2.1||0.9||2.7||2.4||2.7||2.9||1.9|
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION COURTESY bluediamond.com
Our blogging group:
I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients: Read more at these sites today or sometime in the future (Not everyone posts this week.):
Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
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This Week on More Time at the Table–Warming Dinners:
Sing a new song,