Sometimes You Feel Like A ...

Outside in a Tree

GUESTS: Squirrel

    [climbs through tree, comes to a squirrel's nest, looks inside] Ah! Bingo! Nuts. You know, I don't think any food delivers as much flavor, nutrition and versatility, at least, not in such a small, easy to store, long-lasting, convenient, and almost watertight containment unit. Squirrels know it. That's why they spend all spring and summer hoarding these woody jewels with their spooky little hands. I mean, think about it. For a tree-rat, a nest full of these is the difference between waking up in the spring, and ending up a squirrel-sicle! [chuckles] That's probably not a very good joke up here.
    But let's face it. We Americans, we don't think about nuts as survival tools, okay? I mean, yeah, we might use them to make our way through a tedious cocktail party. But, by and large, when we think nuts, we're really thinking about this stuff [jar of peanut butter]. Although I am a little surprised to find it up here. It's a real shame, because whole nuts, when allowed out of their shells, provide a whole lot of culinary opportunity.

AB: [to absent squirrel] Um, thank you!

    [climbs down from tree] Ugh. Whoo! Of course, even nut trees are good for a lot of stuff. Heck, you can use the wood to smoke foods, [uses C-clamp to crack nut] and I hear you can even make some pretty good furniture out of them.

SQUIRREL: [in nest] I'll get you, you fuzzy-headed ninny!

    Of course, I'm not Bob Vila.

SQUIRREL: Bombs away! [throws nut]

    And this is no Old House. [nut hits his head] Okay, so maybe it's some thing's old house. But, as for this, well this is just 100% Good Eats. [eats nut] Mmm.

The Kitchen

SQUIRREL: Cavemen #1 & #2

CAVEMAN: [foraging on the ground for nuts]

    Like squirrels, our hunter and gatherer ancestors knew that collecting nuts was an investment in future living, especially in regions where the winters were tough. Although the human machine can store up some sugar, and plenty of fat, it lacks a device for collecting protein. And without protein, the body can't manufacture things like connective tissue, skin or hormones. All of which would come in very handy if you were being, I don't know, chased by a saber-tooth cat! [large cat growl heard]

CM: Ahhhhh! [cavemen scream and run away]
B: [gives chase]

    Okay. Um, actually, we couldn't get a ...

CM: [run, screaming, back the other direction]
B: [still gives chase]

... a sabre-tooth cat, because, see, they're extinct. Um, anyway, nuts are loaded with protein. So, what exactly is a nut? Let's go see.

S: [reading dictionary, sees AB approach] Uh-oh! [leaves]

    Okay, let's see. Hey, look! It's opened to the right page. "Nut: a person with a strong enthusiasm for a thing or activity." It's also "an edible single-seed kernel of a fruit, surrounded by a hard, woody shell." Now, since this strict botanical definition rules out many of the nuts we think of when we think of nuts, like almonds and pecans, I say we should just ignore it altogether.

Harry's Farmers Market: Marietta, GA - 10:03 am

GUEST: Peanut Salesman

    For those of us who prefer to do our hunting and gathering at the local mega-mart, buying in bulk is a pretty darn smart way to nut-up, as long as you're sure your store has a pretty brisk turn-over.
    There are, of course, criteria for buying nuts in the shell. For instance, take a look at the exteriors. There should be no structural damage. No cracks, no mold. They should be pretty heavy for their size. And when you shake them, little or no rattling. If they sound like maracas, put them back. They probably house mummified meats.
    The exception, of course, peanuts. Shake peanuts, and they rattle like a rattlesnake. But let's face it, peanuts aren't really nuts, after all.

PEANUT SALESMAN: Peanuts! Get your hot, roasted peanuts! That's right, folks, peanuts!
AB: Excuse me, sir, but we're trying to make a nut show, here.
PS: And I sell peanuts! Ironic, don't you think?
AB: I think it's a problem!
PS: How's that?
AB: Peanuts in a nut show?!
PS: What are you, nuts?
AB: No more so than those.
PS: Well, of all the pea-brained ...
AB: Peas are exactly the point.
PS: Of nuts?
AB: No, peanuts.
PS: Look, buddy, do you want some nuts, or not?
AB: Yes, please.
PS: [hands AB bag of peanuts]
AB: Oh, no thanks. [puts them back] I'll wait for some nuts.
PS: You want a nut.
AB: [nods] Mm-hm.
PS: [chuckles] You want a nut.
AB: Yeah.
PS: Try looking in the mirror, you freak!

    Ever wonder why we call crazy people 'nuts?' Because in the 19th century, 'nut' was slang for head, so a nut-case was off his nut. Eventually, we just boiled that down to 'nuts.'
    The point is, peanuts aren't nuts. Heck, they're legumes. They grow underground. So they're not even pretend nuts. And anybody who disagrees is just plain wacko.
    If you're buying shelled nuts, and in the case of macadamias and cashews that's probably the only way you'll find them, you'll want to examine them closely. You want to see a lot of whole nuts, not too many broken pieces, and a nice, even color. And if you can possibly extract a sample, break it in half. A nice, clean snap is what you want to hear. If the nut crumbles or kind of bends, it's Well, let's put it this way. Sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you just plain feel rancid.
    Now, vaccuum-bottles are okay, but I don't feel good about cans. Sorry, I'm just not going to buy a nut that I can't see. Also, beware that most packaged nuts have been treated with salt and/or extra oils. So, when cooking with them, you may want to amend your recipe.

The Kitchen

    As long as they're snug in the shells, nuts are relatively impervious to mistreatment. However, when they shed their armor, they become very vulnerable to things like moisture, heat, air and light.
    Why? Well, I'm afraid the answer is fat. You probably remember the 'fat train' sequence from our landmark episode [fat train drives by, overturns, and careens off counter] Fry Hard. Uh, the important thing to remember is that nuts are loaded with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and those fats are notorious for just reaching out in the air and grabbing random molecules. This is a bad habit, because it leads to rancidity.
    What can you do? Airtight containment, my friends. The only way to go. If you want to stretch these even longer, you will go for the refrigerator. Cold slows down oxidation, and that means that you can stretch your shelf life to almost six months.
    Not long enough for you? Fine. Bag 'em, tag 'em and freeze them. That way, you can keep nuts for up to a year. You'll get a few months out of the pantry, which is fine for me. I go through a lot of nuts around here.

The Romans believed that, because walnuts were shaped
like two halves of the brain, they could cure headaches.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Termite #1 & #2

    Although Brazil nuts, beechnuts, kola nuts, walnuts, pecans, chestnuts, hazelnuts and almonds all have considerable culinary cred, I tend to think that the most versatile nuts in the kitchen are macadamia nuts, pistachios and cashews. Yeah, those are my big three. Unlike so many other nuts, which maintain their personalities regardless of how they're integrated into a dish, these nuts can be coerced into [squirrel steals nuts from counter] forgetting themselves for the greater good eats, especially when they're ground.
    We'll begin our study with the cashew, a South American native, and cousin of the mango, that today is grown primarily in India.
    Although I trust that we are all familiar with this shape [cashew kernels], I bet there are at least a few of you out there who have never seen one of these. This creepy little pod is called a cashew apple, and each one of them bears one single nut. When the fruit rots away, [sniffs] which could be any minute now, you end up with this. No, that's not a gigantic lima bean. That is a cashew in its shell, and the shell is actually two shells in one. And it generates a caustic oil that is often used in furniture varnishes as a termite repellant. Don't believe me? Well, go ask some! [camera zooms into the wood counter top]

TERMITE #1: Gross! This wood tastes nasty!
TERMITE #2: Like ...
T1 & T2: Cashews! [throw down wood chunks]
T2: Let's go get a box of toothpicks.
T1: Sweet!

    Told you so. Besides being my hands-down favorite for out-of-hand eating, cashews have an interesting characteristic. They can be ground into a smooth paste that puts regular old peanut butter to shame.

    Our cashew butter begins with 10 ounces, that's approximately 2 cups, of toasted or roasted cashews. Now, since I am using unsalted nuts here, I am going to add a heavy pinch, maybe even two, of salt. Now, clamp on the lid, and take this for a spin. Meanwhile ... 10 oz. Roasted Cashews
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
    [voice over] ... pour 2 tablespoons of honey in a microwave-safe container and microwave on high for about 15 seconds, just to loosen it up and make it easier to work with. Then add one third of a cup of walnut oil. 2 Tbs. Honey
1/3 Cup Walnut Oil

    Pour in your honey and walnut oil mixture, nice and slow, until a smooth emulsion forms. Just let it run a minute.
    [tastes] Mmm. Once you try this, you'll never go back to peanut butter again. And not only is it a really great nut butter, this is a sauce waiting to happen.

    All you have to do is take half a cup of our luscious cashew butter, and put it in a small saucepan or saucier, along with three quarters of a cup of canned coconut milk and one quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Put this to medium heat. There we go. And whisk.

1/2 Cup Cashew butter
3/4 Cup Coconut Milk
1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

    Now, as soon as this is combined and heated through, you may use it. What should you put it on? Well, heck, I happen to like it on grilled chicken with rice. [sniffs] Mmm. It's like a trip to Thailand without having to get a passport or take any shots.

    I believe it was Andy Warhol who said, "In the future, every nut will be famous for fifteen minutes." Well, I don't know if he actually said that, but I'm guessing that if Andy ever painted nuts, they were definitely pistachios. I mean, look at them. If there's a pop art nut, it's got to be this cousin of the cashew. Now the nutmeat is deep green, thanks to the presence of chlorophyll, and in the nut industry, the deeper the green, the more highly valued the nut.
    Of course, most of us buy our pistachios in the shell. With any other nut, that would mean a lot of work. But not so here, because the pistachio splits, or 'smiles,' when ripe. And if you've ever seen pistachios with those vibrant red shells, that's just not natural! Well, it's a little bit natural. As you can see, right before they smile, the shells turn pink around the edges. Processors just dye them the rest of the way, so that us consumers will go "Ooh, aah!" I think such punk pistachios should be avoided. Now although these are great for out-of-hand eating, believe it or not, pistachios make a great pesto.
    I know. Most people think that pesto is all about the herbs and the cheese. But in reality, it's nuts that pull it together and give it its unique texture. Now traditionally speaking, pesto usually contains pine nuts, which I think is the problem with most pestos. You see, pine nuts grow on trees that have to be ... [goes to indicate a pinecone but notes it missing] ... 75 years old before they're commercially viable.

AB: [to nobody in particular] Has anybody seen my stone pine pinecone?
S: [above oven, squirrel munches on pinecone]

    See, they form these little pinecones and they're really hard to get and [AB looks behind him, but squirrel has darted out of sight] Oh, bother.
    Well, here's the thing. They have to be 75 years old, and they can't be cultivated. So pine nuts are very expensive, and sometimes you can't find them at all. And they're so loaded with protein that they burn very easily when you cook with them.
    Now pistachios, on the other hand, are readily available, they're cheap, they're easy to work with, and they're already green. Convenient, no?

The Queen of Sheba so loved pistachios that she
hoarded all that were grown in her country for herself.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Carolyn O'Neil, Registered Dietitian

    [voice over] Your pistachio pesto begins with your blender on high. Drop in one half to one clove of garlic while the machine is running. 1/2 - 1 Clove Garlic
    Then add 2 tablespoons each fresh thyme and tarragon leaves, and one tablespoon each fresh sage and oregano leaves. 2 Tbs. Fresh Lemon Thyme
2 Tbs. Fresh Tarragon
1 Tbs. Fresh Sage
1 Tbs. Fresh Oregano
    Last but not least, 2 packed cups of flat leaf parsley and half a cup of parmesan cheese. Oh, and I almost forgot. Three quarters of a cup of roasted pistachios. Clamp on the lid and take that for a spin. 2 Cups Packed Fresh Flat
    Leaf Parsley
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
3/4 cup Toasted Pistachios
    When the ingredients are finely chopped and well-combined—like that—time to add the oil. With the machine running, pour in two thirds of a cup of olive oil. I wouldn't waste my expensive, extra-virgin stuff on this, by the way. 2/3 Cup Olive Oil

    [spreads some on toast] Mmm. Now that's good toast. Of course, that's another show. You know, if you weren't already familiar with pesto, you might not even notice that there are nuts in here. And that can be a problem, because nuts are one of the foods that some people have extreme allergies to. So much so, in fact, that some folks can't even eat food that was prepared in the same room with nuts. So if you're going to cook with nuts, always check your guest list for allergies first. Now, as for those of us who can eat nuts, well we're ...

CAROLYN O'NEIL: Protein, get your fresh, hot protein! Fiber, anti-oxidants, omega-3's!
AB: Excuse me, Miss. Did I hear you say "Omega-3's?"
CO: Yes, omega-3's. The very same fatty acids found in fish oil are also found in nuts.
AB: No!
CO: Yes. And did you also know that nuts can lower your risk of heart attack and type-two diabetes?
AB: This I didn't know. But what about all that fat?
CO: Well, nuts do contain fat, but it's good fat. Mostly the unsaturated kind ...

    [pointing to the camera] Told ya.

CO: ... which can lower cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs, which are responsible for carrying cholesterol into the arteries.
AB: I'm feeling better already!
CO: And don't forget, nuts are a great source of vitamin E, and potassium, magnesium, calcium, folic acid and zinc.
AB: Okay, I won't forget. Bye!
S: [steals pistachios in background]
CO: Hey, you want to buy some nuts?
AB: Oh, no. We've got plenty of our own around here. See ya!

    Did I ever mention that pistachios ... [notices missing pistachios] ... uh, that pistachios often play the leading role in Middle Eastern desserts? Well, they do. I just, I guess I need to get a few more.

    Start by taking 1 cup of pistachios for a spin in your food processor. Just grind them until they're fine. 1 Cup Roasted Pistachios
    In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl, combine one half cup dates, one half cup dried apricots, one half cup raisins, golden raisins would be nice, and 1 cup of dried cherries. Now, set up your meat grinder, either electric or an attachment on your mixer, or, like mine, manual. You want a medium die in that, and grind your fruit. Very nice.

1/2 Cup Pitted Dates
1/2 Cup Dried Apricots
1/2 Cup Golden Raisins
1 Cup Dried Cherries

    Now take off all your jewelry, make sure your hands are clean, and then lube up with a little vegetable oil. This is going to make the work a lot easier.

    Flatten out your fruit paste, add one half of the ground pistachios, along with a tablespoon of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of Crème de Cassis. Work that together very well, kind of squishing it between your fingers, and then round it into small balls.

1 Tbs. Orange Juice
2 Tbs. Crème de Cassis

    Roll each one of those in the remaining half-cup of pistachios, place in an airtight container, glass or plastic be best, and keep refrigerated for up to a week. Remaining 1/2 Cup Roasted
    Pistachios, Chopped Fine

    The macadamia nut is indigenous to Australia, but centuries of island-hopping through Polynesia brought it to its adopted home of Hawaii, where it's paired with everything from mangos to marshmallows to mahi-mahi. [finishes pounding saucepan onto nuts wrapped in kitchen towel]

    To make a yummy crust for mahi-mahi, [unfolds towel to reveal pounded macadamias] coarsely crush 5 ounces of macadamia nuts. Yeah, you could use your food processor, but this is easier. 5 oz. Coarsely Ground,
    Roasted Macadamia Nuts
    Put these in a mixing bowl and combine with 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and half a cup of Japanese, or panko, breadcrumbs. Yeah, you can find them in like the ethnic aisle of most mega-marts. 2 Tbs. AP Flour
1/2 cup Japanese
    You're also going to need half a stick of butter, melted. Stir to combine very thoroughly. It's going to look a little bit on the dry side. There. And then turn your attention to the fish. 1/2 Stick Butter, Melted

Mahi-Mahi is the Hawaiian name for dolphin the fish, not the marine mammal.

The Kitchen

    [voice over] Here we have four 6 to 8 ounce mahi-mahi fillets. But first, a large piece of foil goes onto a sheet pan and is liberally lubricated with vegetable oil. No sense having your fish stick. Just lay out the fillets with a healthy amount of open space between them. Remove the glove, and season with coarse salt. I'm using kosher here, of course. And several grindings of black pepper.

4 6-8 oz. Mahi-Mahi Filets

Vegetable Oil

    Now the idea is to give the fish kind of a jump-start in the oven. We're going to par-cook this before adding the crust. So, straight in, middle rack, 425 degrees for 5 minutes.
    Now, remove the fish, carefully, to a heat-proof surface. I like doing this kind of thing on my cook top.

    Now, we're going to brush this down with some coconut milk. It's going to take about 2 tablespoons.

2 Tbs. Coconut Milk

    Why coconut milk? Well, for one thing, it's the only milk I know of made from a nut, and we are cooking nuts, here. And besides, I like the way it tastes. But, if you don't have any at home, you could just as easily use sweetened condensed milk.
    Now, distribute the nut mixture between the four pieces. And use the sides of the foil to kind of hold the mixture up onto the fish. I like to pat it down a little bit, but don't pack it too tightly or it won't brown evenly. Now this is going to go back into the 425 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, or until the crust is golden-brown and delicious.
    [smells the fish] Ahh! [inhales deeply] Mmm-mm! Just smell that! It's like ... Oh, you can't. I'm sorry. Well, it smells good. Let this sit for about 10 minutes, so the crust can solidify a little bit. Your patience will be rewarded.

    Mmm! Trust me, this tastes as good as it looks. The macadamias make an ideal crust. A little sweet, a little nutty, just the right amount of crunch. In fact, I think this would make a wonderful crust for a pie or a cheesecake. Just follow the recipe, but leave out the part about the fish, and press the mixture down into the bottom of a 9 or 10-inch cake, pie or springform pan, and follow your recipe as you normally would. If you want a blind-baked crust, just pop it in the oven at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious. Either way, this is good stuff.

Go to
for the recipe for
Macadamia Nut Crust.

    Well, I hope that we have opened up your eyes to the potent potential of the nut. They are flavorful, flexible, versatile, and all-around good ... [sees squirrel, holding pull-cord dangling from above]

AB: You!
S: That's right! It's me!
AB: You nut-thieving tree rat! Gimme my nuts back! What's the rope for?
S: Here they are! [pulls cord]
AB: [nuts rain down on him]
S: [bows to camera] Thank you.

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Transcribed by Elctowolfe

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010