Monday, November 2, 2015

Season Favorite Chestnuts

Today is All Soul's Day a time to remember the saints and souls we have lost. It's celebrated in the simple  celebration of eating chestnuts. he holy day also opens up to chestnut season. What is great about chestnuts is their nutritional value and versatility.

Chestnuts have been around for millennia, having come from the East and into Europe.  Alexander The Great and the Roman emperors  ordered them to be planted. They were easy trees to grow along the rocky mountainous areas bordering the Mediterranean, and were ground into cereals and flours, often substituting grain. Early Christians used them as the symbol for was considered food for the poor for many centuries , however roasted chestnuts were eaten for All Soul's day as well as Saint Martin's  day in Portugal and Saint Stephen's Day in Italy. The nuts are widely popular in Asia . They are a big part of Japan's New Year's Day dinner, because they symbolize mastery and strength..The  British brought them over to India where they reign supreme in the Himalayas. The indigenous American tribes were eating chestnuts for decades, long before the Europeans came over. We almost lost all chestnut tress in 1904 thanks to   chestnut blight, a fungal disease that came from Asian chestnuts. Sicily is the largest importer of them,having exported them to the States for the last sixty years.Sicilian chestnuts are one of the best species. Chestnuts are primarily carbohydrates with some sucroses or sugars. In some areas of Europe, they're call bread fruit because they can be ground into flour for loaves.

What can be done with chestnuts? A lot. One of my favorites is just roasting them over the stove and eating them straight from the shell. This is the best way to enjoy their sweet, almost milky lingering taste.Many Americans make chestnut stuffing to go with their holiday turkeys.It does work in it, giving a usually mushy texture some meaty crunch.      Chestnuts can often open a meal in either soup or salad.A cream of chestnut soup is  the perfect foil for a chill Saturday night.A chestnut madeira soup would be a great way to open a Thanksgiving dinner.Add some quartered roasted ones to any salad to give it some oomph. For a different spin on a Northern Italian classic, try making chestnut gnocchi.  It       does have the dish's traditional potato in it for body along with bread is served with a burnt butter sauce, rich with garlic and parsley.The nuts can also go into a risotto,too.The   French and the Italians candy them into marron glace which would be perfect over vanilla ice cream, creating a sophisticated take on a sundae.. They can be turned into a chestnut mousse along with being a main ingredient in brownies.

All Soul's Day heralds in the start of the chestnut season. These are versatile nuts that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Try them to experience their meaty texture and sweet nutty taste.

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