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The Richest Nut of All

Regarded as the world’s finest nut, the macadamia is a treasure for the cook. Because it is the richest of nuts and the most subtle in flavor, the creamy-beige nut makes superb sauces for delicate seafood and light meats. Buttery, crisp and slightly sweet, the nuts add an elegant touch to salads and are wonderful with rice and other grains.

There is no end to their uses in desserts. They can be combined with caramel to make praline and can be made into cakes, cookies and mousses. Macadamia nuts are perfect in recipes that call for other delicate nuts, especially almonds or hazelnuts, but are even easier to use because no skin needs to be removed.

With all these advantages, it may be surprising that macadamia nuts are not part of any culinary tradition. The reason is simple--they are relative newcomers in the kitchen. They were discovered in the mid-19th Century in their native Australia by a scientist, John Macadam, and were named for him. It was only about 70 years later that they were grown commercially in Hawaii, which now produces most of the world’s macadamia nuts.

For a while, macadamia nuts were known mainly to vacationers in Hawaii. Today, more and more supermarkets, specialty markets and health food stores are carrying them. They can be purchased raw, dry-roasted and oil-roasted. (The raw nuts are unsalted; the roasted nuts can be salted or unsalted.)

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In the last few years, such a profusion of macadamia nut products has appeared that people are talking of “macadamia mania.” We now have chocolate-coated macadamias, which are lovely for garnishing desserts; macadamia nut butters, both plain and with various flavors; macadamia nut brittle; tropical fruit jams with macadamia nuts and even macadamia nut liqueur, a delightful complement to macadamia nut desserts.

It should be noted, however, that each ounce of Macadamia nuts contains 20.9 grams of fat and 199 calories. In comparison, an ounce of almonds contains 14.9 grams of fat and 166 calories.

For the following recipes, raw or roasted macadamia nuts can be used. Dry-roasted nuts, when available, are slightly preferable to those that are oil-roasted, but for most purposes they are interchangeable. If only salted macadamia nuts are at hand, they can easily and efficiently be desalted for use in desserts.

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SOLE WITH MACADAMIA SAUCE 1 1/2 pounds sole fillets 1/4 cup dry white wine 2 tablespoons water Salt, pepper Sauce 1 tablespoon lemon juice 4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley 1/4 cup lightly salted macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

Run fingers over fillets and carefully pull out bones with aid of tweezers or sharp paring knife. Fold fillets in half, with whiter side facing out, and arrange in 1 layer in well-buttered 10-cup gratin dish or other heavy shallow baking dish. Pour wine and water over fish. Season lightly to taste with salt and pepper. Set piece of buttered parchment paper directly on fish to cover.

Bake at 425 degrees about 10 minutes, or until thin skewer inserted into thickest part of fillets for about 5 seconds feels hot when touched to underside of wrist.

Carefully remove fillets to platter with 2 wide slotted spatulas. Reserve cooking liquid. Cover fish with parchment paper to keep warm. Gradually whisk 2 tablespoons cooking liquid into reserved Sauce. Add lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Pat fillets dry with paper towels. Spoon sauce over fillets. Sprinkle with parsley and chopped macadamia nuts. Makes 4 servings.

Sauce 2 tablespoons chopped shallot 1 tablespoon butter 3 tablespoons dry white wine 3/4 cup whipping cream Salt 1/2 cup lightly salted macadamia nuts 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice Pepper

Place shallot and butter in medium saucepan and saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add wine and simmer over moderate heat until mixture is reduced to about 3 tablespoons. Stir in cream and dash salt and bring to boil, stirring. Cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until mixture is thick enough to coat spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Cool to lukewarm.

Grind nuts to smooth paste in food processor. Add lemon juice. With blades turning, gradually pour in cream mixture and process until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Set aside.

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Ground macadamia nuts form a crunchy crust for these sauteed chicken breasts. The macadamia nut butter, which adds a festive touch to the chicken, can accompany any broiled or sauteed fish or meat.

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MACADAMIA CHICKEN 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (each about 5 ounces), pounded until 1/4-inch thick Salt, pepper 1/3 cup flour 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1 cup raw or dry-roasted macadamia nuts, finely ground 1/4 cup oil 2 tablespoons butter Lime slices, optional Macadamia Nut Butter

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Lightly season chicken to taste with salt and pepper on both sides. Dredge pieces in flour, shaking off excess. In bowl dip into egg, then both sides into nuts to coat, pressing lightly so nuts adhere. Handle chicken gently so coating does not come off. Transfer chicken to plate.

Heat oil and butter in large, heavy skillet. Add chicken and saute over moderately high heat 1 minute, then lower heat to moderate and cook for another 1 1/2 minutes. Carefully turn chicken over, using 2 wide spatulas, and saute 2 minutes longer, or until golden brown. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then to 2 heated plates.

Garnish plates with half slices of lime. Pipe decorative line of Macadamia Nut Butter down center of each chicken piece. Serve remaining nut butter separately. Makes 2 servings.

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Macadamia Nut Butter 1/4 cup lightly salted macadamia nuts 6 tablespoons butter, cut into bits, slightly softened 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley Salt, pepper

Grind nuts in food processor until very fine. Add butter and process to blend. Scrape down mixture. Add lime juice and process until blended. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Stir in parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Nut butter keeps, covered and chilled, up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Transfer nut butter to pastry bag fitted with small star tip and set aside.

Note : Recipe makes enough nut butter for 4 servings. Reserve half for another use, or make half of amount in mini-food processor or nut grinder.

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This French-style tart uses macadamia nuts, both in the creamy filling and as a crunchy garnish on top. The whole nuts become toasted as the tart bakes. Serve this luscious tart as a party dish or as a festive main course with a simple green salad.

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MUSHROOM-MACADAMIA TART 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons chopped shallots 6 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped Salt, pepper 3/4 cup whipping cream 1 large egg 2 large egg yolks 3 tablespoons minced parsley 1 1/4 cups roasted macadamia nuts, finely ground Freshly grated nutmeg French Tart Dough 1 large egg, beaten with dash salt 2 to 15 salted roasted whole macadamia nuts

Melt butter in deep skillet. Add shallots and saute over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, 3 minutes or until mixture is dry. Transfer to bowl and let cool to room temperature.

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Whisk cream with egg and yolks until blended. (Save egg whites for another use.) Stir in mushroom mixture and parsley. Gently stir in ground nuts. Season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Butter 8-inch round fluted tart pan with removable rim. Remove dough from refrigerator and allow to soften 1 minute. Roll 2/3 of dough on lightly floured surface to 10-inch round 1/8-inch thick. Roll dough loosely around rolling pin and ease into tart pan. Using thumb, gently push dough down slightly at top edge of pan, making top edge of dough thicker than remaining dough. Press rolling pin across pan to cut off excess dough. With finger and thumb, press dough gently against pan so that it rises 1/4 inch above rim. Pierce bottom of shell with fork. Refrigerate shell 30 minutes.

Roll remaining dough to thin sheet and cut into 8 (3/8x8 1/2-inch) strips. Refrigerate strips side by side on lightly floured plate. If they become too stiff, let soften about 5 minutes at room temperature before using.

Spoon cool filling into tart shell. Brush rim of shell lightly with beaten egg. Arrange 4 pastry strips parallel to each other at equal intervals above filling. Press to stick ends to glazed rim. Arrange 4 more parallel strips, crossing first group of strips in diamond pattern. Press strips to rim. Remove excess dough.

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Place baking sheet on rack in lower third of 425-degree oven. Set tart carefully on hot baking sheet and bake 10 minutes. Pull out oven shelf, leaving tart on baking sheet. Arrange macadamia nuts on filling between pastry strips. Brush nuts and strips with beaten egg. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake 25 minutes longer, or until pastry browns and filling sets. Transfer tart to wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Remove sides of pan. (Tart can be kept, covered, overnight in refrigerator.) Serve tart hot, warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 appetizer or 6 main course servings.

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French Tart Dough 1 1/2 cups flour 3/8 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into bits 2 large egg yolks About 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons ice water

Combine flour and salt in large bowl and blend in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add egg yolks (save egg whites for another use) and 2 tablespoons ice water and toss mixture until liquid is incorporated, adding more ice water if necessary to form dough into ball.

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Knead dough lightly with heel of hand several seconds to distribute fat evenly. Form into ball. Wrap dough in wax paper and refrigerate 1 hour. (Dough can be kept, covered, 2 days in refrigerator.) Makes enough for 1 (8-inch) tart with lattice topping.

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MACADAMIA MACAROONS 2 1/2 cups raw or roasted macadamia nuts 30 raw or roasted macadamia nut halves 1/2 cups sugar 3 large egg whites 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla Butter

If using raw nuts, toast 2 1/2 cups nuts at 350 degrees until lightly browned. If using salted nuts, desalt both for cookies and nut halves for garnish.

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Grind 2 1/2 cups nuts with 6 tablespoons sugar in food processor until fine. Add egg whites (save egg yolks for another use) and vanilla and process 20 seconds or until smooth. Add remaining sugar in 2 batches and process after each addition 10 seconds or until very smooth.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or wax paper to extend slightly beyond edges of sheets. Butter paper. With moistened hands, roll tablespoons of mixture into smooth balls and arrange 1 inch apart on prepared sheets.

Lightly brush each macaroon with water and press to flatten slightly so cookie is about 1/2-inch high. Set 1 nut half in center of each and press lightly to adhere.

Bake macaroons in upper third of oven at 350 degrees about 18 minutes, or until very lightly but evenly browned and centers are still soft. Remove from oven. Lift 1 end of paper lining each baking sheet and pour about 2 tablespoons water under it onto baking sheet (water will boil on contact with hot baking sheet). Lift other end of paper and pour 2 tablespoons water under it. When water stops boiling, remove macaroons from paper with metal spatula. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely. (Macaroons can be kept 5 days in airtight container.) Makes 30 macaroons.

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Macadamia nuts add enough richness to this torte so that no butter is necessary. Because they are so rich, macadamia nuts cannot be pulverized to a flour-like consistency and should be ground only into very fine pieces.

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CHOCOLATE-FLECKED MACADAMIA NUT TORTE Butter Flour 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into bits 2 1/3 cups raw or lightly salted macadamia nuts 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 5 large eggs, separated, at room temperature 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar 2 tablespoons nut liqueur (Macadamia, hazelnut etc.) 10 whole raw macadamia nuts

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If using salted nuts, desalt 10 whole nuts for garnish and those for cake.

Line bottom of buttered 9-inch round springform cake pan (about 2 inches deep) with parchment paper or foil, shiny side down. Butter and flour paper and pan.

Finely chop chocolate in food processor and transfer to large bowl. Combine 1 cup nuts with 3 tablespoons sugar in food processor and grind nuts as fine as possible. Transfer to bowl. Repeat with remaining nuts and another 3 tablespoons sugar. Sift in 1/4 cup flour and baking powder and stir mixture with fork until thoroughly blended.

Beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar in large bowl with electric mixer about 5 minutes, or until mixture forms ribbons when beater is lifted. Beat egg whites in separate bowl at moderate speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar at high speed and beat until stiff peaks form.

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Sprinkle 1/3 nut mixture over yolks and fold gently. Spoon 1/3 whites on top and fold gently. Repeat until all of nut mixture and whites are added, folding just until batter is blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan, quickly spreading top as evenly as possible. Bake on middle rack at 350 degrees 55 minutes, or until wood pick comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes. Run spatula or thin-bladed knife around sides of cake and turn out onto rack. Remove sides and base of pan. Carefully peel off paper. Let cake cool completely. (Cake keeps, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, up to 2 days at room temperature, or can be frozen.)

Hold pastry brush flat and dab top and sides of cake evenly with 2 tablespoons liqueur. Spread Chocolate Cream on sides and top of cake and garnish with whole nuts. Chill 1 hour before serving. (Frosted cake keeps, covered when frosting is firm, up to 1 day in refrigerator.) Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Chocolate Cream 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, cut into bits 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nut liqueur (macadamia, hazelnut, etc.) plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling 3/4 cup chilled whipping cream 2 teaspoons sugar

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Melt chocolate in top of double boiler set over hot water over low heat. Stir until smooth. Add 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons liqueur. Remove mixture from heat, leaving above hot water.

Beat cream and sugar in chilled bowl until stiff peaks form. Remove chocolate from above water and let cool 30 seconds. Quickly stir about 1/3 cup whipped cream into chocolate mixture, then fold chocolate mixture into remaining whipped cream.

Nuts and Bolts

To Toast Raw Macadamia Nuts: Place raw macadamia nuts on baking sheet and toast at 350 degrees, shaking pan occasionally, 7 minutes or until very lightly browned. Transfer nuts to plate and let cool completely.

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To Desalt Salted Macadamia Nuts: Place nuts in large strainer and rinse with warm water about 10 seconds, tossing often. Drain 5 minutes in strainer, tossing nuts occasionally. Transfer nuts to baking sheet. Dry at 250 degrees 5 minutes, shaking baking sheet occasionally. Transfer to plate. Let cool completely.


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