For the first time so far this year it really felt like spring. The entire town came out of hibernation and wandered around absorbing sunlight. Like zombie plants with legs. Beyond the warm weather, I also get excited for new, freshly inspired menus. Also brunch. Because nothing beats a spring brunch with lots of flowers and sunshine.
I’m going to bet you probably have a standard brunch menu in your head. It’s probably boring (sorry but we both know it’s true) and it needs some freshening up. Which is precisely why these two dishes are an excellent addition to your repertoire. They’re also very Instagram worthy which is something I consider every time I make food for people. #Reality.
Both the egg hash with basil walnut pesto and the fennel salad with walnut brittle highlight the versatility of walnuts! Walnuts are the only nut, and one of only a few foods, that are significantly high in omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid. One single ounce of walnuts has five times more than the next highest nut. Since the 2015 Dietary Guidelines highlight the importance of reducing saturated fat intake and shifting food choices from saturated fats (think cheese and steak) to foods high in polyunsaturated fats, it’s just one more crowning nutrition achievement of walnuts. There has also been interesting research showing that plant-based omega 3’s may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality. And I know you’re thinking… but what about marine based omega-3’s? What about that fish oil I’m taking? While marine omega-3’s may reduce the risk of heart related fatalities, there’s something special happening with the ALA in walnuts, and I’m interested to learn more.
Walnuts are also a source of protein and fiber plus a good source of magnesium and phosphorus which are both important minerals. It’s pretty obvious walnuts have it goin’ on, which is why their heart health messaging was one of the first approved qualified health claims by the FDA. And by qualified health claim, I mean companies actually can’t just spout random benefits about foods. A qualified health claim is a big deal. This is serious stuff and hard to obtain unless you have mega proof.
From a culinary standpoint, walnuts are great to have as a pantry staple. I love them for a crunch in a salad or even something like banana bread, but especially for a healthy fat source to balance something more bitter (think cruciferous veggies). In these two recipes we’ll be using them as crunch in the salad and a creamy, nutty addition to pesto in the second. If you want to see more walnut recipe ideas, head to the walnut recipe data base and then to the plant based eating tool kit if you’re looking to plan more plant centric recipes and menus this spring.
Spring Fennel Salad with Candied Orange and Walnut Coffee Brittle
- 1/2 cup walnut halves
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 T butter
- pinch of salt
- Pinch of instant coffee
Directions: Add walnuts, brown sugar and butter to a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter and sugar melt, stir to coat walnuts, reduce to medium-low and cook for seven minutes as the product thickens. Stir constantly. Add salt and instant coffee, stir and use a rubber spatula to pour onto parchment paper on a pan to cool in a single layer. Once cooled, break apart walnuts.
- 1/2 large orange
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
Directions: Slice half an orange into think slices, then quarter. Add sugar and water to a shallow pan over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, add oranges in a single layer and cook for eight or nine minutes. The mixture should cover the oranges. They’re ready to remove from the heat when the oranges darken and are soft to the touch with a fork. Place orange slices on a drying rack to cool. Save extra syrup in the fridge for a cocktail!
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon moscato (or red wine vinegar)
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon honey
Directions: Whisk together.
- 1/2 cup watercress
- 1 cup micro greens
- 1 medium carrot, sliced into thin matchsticks or using a julienne peeler
- 1/8 cup thinly sliced fennel
- 1 Tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
- 4 Tablespoons goat cheese
- candied oranges
- walnut brittle
Directions: To compose salad, layer all ingredients and toss with dressing.
Egg Hash with Basil Walnut Pesto
Basil Walnut Pesto
- 1/4 c peas
- 2 cups basil leaves
- 1/3 olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- a pinch of salt
- 2 Tablespoons walnut halves
Directions: Combine in a food processor. Pulse until thick and smooth. Set aside to add to potato hash later.
Egg Potato Hash
- 2 medium russet potatoes, cubed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 teaspoons cayenne
- sprinkle of salt
- 2 eggs, sunny side up
Directions: Scrub potatoes and cut into small, even cubes. Add butter and olive oil to a cast iron skillet and heat. Add potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Turn potatoes with a spatula and allow to crisp on each side, with a total cooking time of about 15 minutes. Season with cumin, cayenne and salt. Top with sunny side up egg each and pesto.
I really want you to consider the culinary possibilities with walnuts this season. Here are 5 more ideas to get you started:
- Substitute blend of chopped walnut, beans, or chickpeas for meat
- Add nuts instead of cheese and croutons
- Go skinless on chicken breasts and do walnut crust
- Turn it into a creamy spread by soaking and blending them
- Add with dried fruit and other goodies for a snack
Let me know your ideas for how you’re using walnuts this spring and your favorite brunch recipes!
Dietitian Nutritionist. My husband Chris and I create food and beverage photos, videos, stopmotions and recipes. And they're really cool.