Walnuts are one of California’s signature flavors of fall. We use them in all kinds of ways -- as a garnish for savory dishes, as a base for sauces and, of course, in baking. Boy do we like to bake with them -- breads, cakes, cookies, you name it.
One of my favorite ways to use walnuts, though, requires no recipe at all. Here’s what you do: Set out a platter of cheeses, a little bit of fruit (pears, apples, dried apricots) and a bowl of early crop walnuts in their shell. When walnuts are that young, you can crack them by squeezing them in your hand.
How to choose: Walnuts that are already shelled are convenient, but be aware that they do go rancid fairly quickly. Choose nutmeats that are plump and pale; avoid any that are shriveled or discolored. For whole nuts, avoid any where the shell shows signs of mold.
How to store: Whole nuts can be stored at room temperature for several weeks. Shelled nuts must be refrigerated immediately. Even better: Freeze them in a tightly sealed bag and they'll last up to a year.
One simple dish: A basket of Bartlett pears, a plate of cheese and a mound of walnuts are as good a dessert as anyone could hope for.