Nuts about you

It’s true that they are high in fat and calories, but nuts also contain many beneficial nutrients and are very tasty.

December 23, 2010 13:39

nuts. (photo credit: Courtesy)

They’ve been badmouthed; they’ve been slandered. And while it’s true that nuts are high in fat and calories, it’s also true that they contain beneficial unsaturated fat, are nutritionally dense and help reduce cholesterol, the risk of heart disease and diabetes. And that’s just for starters.

All nuts have similar nutritional value, but each excels in one nutrient or another. Almonds contain large amounts of vitamins E and B2, a wealth of minerals and the essential amino acid tryptophan. Walnuts excel in omega-3 fatty acids, pecans have significant amounts of iron, calcium and phosphorus. Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Cashews are a good source of magnesium and are somewhat lower in fat than most nuts, and peanuts are a good source of protein, copper, manganese, folate, tryptophan and vitamin B3.

That means you don’t have to eat a lot of nuts – just a few a day will do, but it is wise to eat a variety rather than the same ones all the time. Add them to baked goods, salads and vegetable dishes, or crush them and use them as a healthy thickener. For those unfamiliar with the Hebrew names for the various nuts, here’s a short primer:
✧ Almonds (shkedim)
✧ Almonds blanched (shkedim mulbanim)
✧ Almonds blanched and sliced (shkedim mulbanim prusim)
✧ Brazil Nuts (Brazil)
✧ Coconut (Kokus)
✧ Cashews (cashew)
✧ Hazelnuts (luz)
✧ Macadamia (macadehmia)
✧ Pecans (pecan)
✧ Pine Nuts (tznobarim)
✧ Pistachios (fistukim)
✧ Walnuts (melech)

Here's what to remember: Nuts are healthiest eaten raw (untoasted), especially if they have been soaked before eating which also makes them easier to digest. Soaking overnight in salt water helps activate enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors, but then the nuts should be dried in a 75-degree oven overnight (turn occasionally) to dehydrate them. Toasting makes them tastier but reduces nutritional value. To prevent rancidity, store nuts in recycled glass bottles in the refrigerator.


Makes 6
✔ 6 large red onions
✔ 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 1⁄3 cup fine bulgur (“grisha”), soaked in third cup boiling water
✔ 3⁄4 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts
✔ 3⁄4 cup chopped parsley or fresh coriander
✔ 1⁄4 cup raisins, preferably organic
✔ 1⁄4 tsp each allspice and cinnamon
✔ 1⁄2 tsp. black pepper or half black pepper, half hot pepper
✔ 2 garlic cloves, crushed
✔ 1⁄2 cup fresh lemon juice
✔ Water

Cut the root end off the onions and take a thin slice off the tops so the onions will sit upright in the pan. Use an apple corer or spoon to remove most of the inside of the onion, making a round cavity but leaving 2 layers of onion on the outside. Chop the onion innards.

Saute the onion innards in 3 tablespoons of the olive oil with a half teaspoon salt, over medium heat, stirring often until the onion is golden brown. Mix in allspice, cinnamon, pepper and garlic. Add to bulgur mixture. Pour a quarter cup water to the and hot and stir to de-glaze the pan (pick up flavors that have stuck to the bottom). Add to the bulgur mixture with 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice.

Toast hazelnuts in the toaster oven or the oven at 160º till lightly toasted, shaking occasionally. Make sure they don’t burn! Remove from the oven and rub to remove as much as possible of the brown stems. Chop finely in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and hit with a mallet) and add to the bowl .

Preheat the oven to 190º. Stuff the onions with the filling, packing gently and place snugly in a non-aluminum baking pan. Fill half-way up with water and add an additional tablespoon of olive oil and remaining lemon juice.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 60 minutes, checking half-way through to make sure liquids have not evaporated. Uncover and continue baking 30-45 minutes until tops are lightly browned and onions are tender. Serve warm.


These are crispy cookies that take no more than 10 minutes to put together and only 12 minutes to bake!

Makes about 50
✔ 1 cup 70% whole wheat flour (“Nitzat Haduvdevan”) or 3⁄4 cup white flour and 31⁄2 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
✔ 1⁄3 cup cocoa powder
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
✔ Pinch salt
✔ 50 gr. butter
✔ 1 cup demerara or raw cane sugar (“sukar kanim”)
✔ 1 egg
✔ 1 tsp. real vanilla extract
✔ 2⁄3 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 180º. Line one or two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, blend butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat briefly. Stir in the macadamia nuts. Wet hands and form 36 balls. Place on the cookie sheet with space between them. Bake for 10-12 minutes (do not overbake or they will be as hard as rocks). The cookies firm up when they cool. Let sit in the pan 4-5 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.

Q & A

Are there any sources of calcium that are low fat? My doctor says that I need more calcium in my diet, but I am overweight.
L. Oren

Some of the best dairy sources of calcium are naturally low fat like buttermilk, ricotta cheese and plain yogurt. Canned salmon or sardines with bones are also excellent low-fat sources, as are green leafy vegetables.

Please settle a debate. My neighbor says that it’s perfectly okay to wash wooden bowls and utensils in the dishwasher. I am afraid to do so, because it seems like wooden utensils would absorb some of the chemicals in the soap powder. Who is right?!
Sue Stern

I definitely agree with you. The few times I have mistakenly put wooden utensils in the dishwasher, I was disappointed to find that they were faded and worn when I took them out. I also believe that they do absorb the chemicals in dishwasher soaps. Incidentally, it is safer to use ecological soap powders in the dishwasher.

Is it possible to find nopales here in Israel? I used to live in California where we had easy access to Mexican ingredients. I am also looking for chayote and other Mexican ingredients.
Richard Raskin

The only place I’ve seen nopales (cactus leaves) sold fresh here in Israel is in the Nitzat Haduvdevan health food store chain, so I’d suggest checking with a branch near you. I have never seen chayote grown here. The best source of Mexican products in Israel is “Tres Pesos:” (site only in English and Spanish) or call 03-5597761, or e-mail:

Can I substitute red wine for white in a recipe? Does it really make a difference? I don't drink wine very often so I was wondering if I can save the bottle and use it for cooking wine. I think I once saw cooking wine here, but haven't seen it the same brand for years.
Ed Gittleman

Chefs and food connoisseurs always say that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink, and the better the wine, the better the finished product. You can use any leftover drinking wine for cooking, and the best way to store it is to pour it into smaller bottles, cork or close them tightly, and store in the refrigerator. Red wine is generally used when a full-bodied flavor and darker color is desirable, as with meats or chicken dishes. White wine can be used for baby lamb, fish and seafood dishes, when a lighter flavor and color is desirable. Carmel Mizrahi once produced cooking wine, but discontinued the product line.

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