It is fairly difficult to surprise me with food combinations, but I managed to be wowed with this simple recipe.
I decided to clean out my fridge today and realized I had a few items that I needed to finish using. I had a small amount of buttermilk and decided to make some ranch dressing for the salad tonight. I looked in the tahini jar and really only had a scant ½ cup left if I scraped it really well with a spatula. I noticed a full jar in my pantry before the holidays, so I wanted to clear out the older stock. I thought about making a small batch of hummus, but then I noticed a box of Trader Joe’s vacuum packed prepared roasted chestnuts. A friend passed these along after Thanksgiving because she did not use them for her stuffing. I sort of looked at her with a squint, and she admitted they had been an impulse buy, and she had no idea what to do with them after all.
That makes two of us.
I’m from the South. In the big book of WOE, we have the war of Northern Aggression and the sad, sad tale of the chestnut blight. Our mighty trees with all that food and lumber resource were wiped out between 1900 and 1940 never to be seen again. Rather than recover and accept that chestnuts have always been available in other parts of the world, we cling to the loss with stubborn conviction. *sob*
Anyway, I have been wondering what to make with this “gift” of free food for several weeks. At one point before Christmas I almost made a chestnut and chocolate mousse, but my dinner plans shifted and I put that recipe to the side. In the distant past, I have eaten chestnut puree and chestnut soup, and a really long time ago, I remember candied chestnuts. None of that sounded thrilling to me. This package only contained 6.5 ounces of chestnuts, and most recipes required twice that amount. Of more concern were the various reviews about the blah factor of most of those recipes.
In all my reading about chestnuts, I discovered that the nutrition factor was up there in the healthy snack column. Factor in that they’re gluten free, full of healthy fats and complex carbs, and have the ability to swing sweet or savory, and I was starting to imagine ways to use this now interesting ingredient.
When I came across the package today, I decided it was time to get on with it. I had tahini, I had chestnuts, and I had at least a dozen ideas for flavor combinations. I tasted a plain chestnut, and it reminded me of a perfectly roasted sweet potato, a little earthy and slightly sweet. I emptied the rest of the chestnuts into the food processor and gave it a few pulses to break them down. I added the tahini and processed it until I thought it was well combined. When I opened the top, I actually had a dry crumbly mixture that looked like graham cracker crumbs.
I gave it a taste and it was…
Two incongruous ingredients resulting in a deep, earthy, satisfying combination!
The resulting texture could not be used as a spread as it was too dry and crumbly. I thought about those few occasions when a batch of hummus refused to become a perfect smooth consistency, and I remembered that hot water was the trick for smoothing out emulsions in the food processor. A few tablespoons of very hot water tipped into the feed tube while the processor was on full speed made a beautiful smooth nut butter type of mixture.
I was torn between two ideas, one sweet and one savory. I could add some honey and melted chocolate to make a Nutella type spread or go the garlic and herb savory direction. Instead, when I tasted the smooth mix, I opted to add ¼ teaspoon salt and called it quits. With just the chestnuts and tahini and a bit of salt, I had a surprisingly satisfying spread that reminded me of a very earthy hummus.
I had plans to make a lunch of carrots and celery and maybe a few crackers, but I was so full after tasting this a few times that I could not even finish the whole carrot I had prepared!
So that’s it. Nothing ground breaking or decadent, just a surprisingly tasty and healthy spread full of good fats, a little salt, and very, very filling.
I should clean out the fridge more often!
- 6.5 ounces roasted and prepared chestnuts
- ½ cup tahini
- 2-4 Tbsp. hot water (I boiled some in my kettle)
- ¼ tsp. salt
- Add chestnuts to a food processor and pulse a few times to break them into smaller pieces.
- Add the tahini and pulse several times until combined.
- Remove the lid and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Add the salt and replace the lid.
- Turn the processor on high and add the hot water slowly through the feed tube, a small amount at a time. You may need more than 2 Tbsp. to get a smooth texture.
- Taste for salt and scrape out into a storage container with a tight fitting lid. I would guess this will last at least a week in the fridge, but I’m not sure it will stick around that long!