California’s Central Valley is one of the country’s most lush growing regions, producing more than 250 different crops, including walnuts. When people pick up a bag of walnuts at the grocery store, they may not realize that the walnuts are likely from a family owned farm in California. More than 99 percent of walnuts grown in the country come from California’s 300,000 bearing acres of walnut orchards. Many of the orchards are owned and operated by families who have been in the walnut business for over a century, across several generations.
Not only are walnuts one of the top 10 commodities grown in the California, but they also have a rich history in the state that dates back to the late 1700s. Walnuts were first cultivated in the state by the Franciscan fathers and the first commercial plantings began in 1867. Today, the California walnut continues to thrive and the Central Valley of California remains the state’s prime walnut growing region.
Walnuts have become a California staple; and they are one of the most versatile nuts, with a flavor profile that pairs wonderfully with many whole foods. Each season offers new opportunities to enjoy walnuts with everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to seafood and cheese, in a wide range of recipes. Their flavor and texture also make them perfect for sauces and spreads, or to add a tasty crunch to any meal.
In addition to their many culinary uses, walnuts are also the champion of plant-based omega-3 (ALA), offering 2.5 grams per ounce. Not all nuts contain omega-3s and walnuts are the only nut to contain a significant amount of this beneficial nutrient.
At the IFBC Culinary Fair and Expo, the California Walnut Commission is excited to share two recipes that celebrate the versatility of walnuts and their delicious partnership with other fresh ingredients. We’ll be serving Roasted Walnut and Cauliflower Tacos and cookbook author Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable & Walnut Pizza. Crunchy walnuts offer a new twist on family favorites that can be adjusted year round to utilize the freshest of ingredients.
Vegetable & Walnut Pizza
Created by cookbook author Mollie Katzen
1 cup wrist-temperature water
1 package (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
A pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil (plus extra for the bowl)
3 cups unbleached white flour (1/4 cup may be whole-wheat or rye)
Extra flour for kneading
Cornmeal for the baking trays or cookie sheets
Note: One batch of dough divides perfectly into two 1-pound ricotta cheese containers—or fit a whole batch into a 1-quart yogurt container—for easy freezing. Take the container out of the freezer before you go to work, and it will be ready to roll, so to speak, when you get home.
Chopped California walnuts
Thin slices of mozzarella
Thinly sliced red onions
Sliced bell pepper (various colors)
Canned artichoke hearts, drained, and sliced
Olives (any kind), pitted and sliced
Ripe tomato slices
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1. Place the water in a medium-large bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and sugar, and stir to dissolve. Let it stand 5 minutes, or until it begins to bubble.
2. Stir in the salt, oil, and 1 cup flour. Beat for several minutes with a wooden spoon.
3. Add the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. The dough will be soft, but should not be sticky.
4. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead for several minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in bulk. This will take about 1 hour.
5. Punch down the dough, and return it to the floured surface. (This is the point at which you can freeze the dough for future use.) Divide it into four equal parts, knead each quarter for a few minutes, then let the four balls of dough rest for about 10 minutes. (This allows the gluten to relax, so the dough will stretch easily into shape.)
6. Patiently stretch each ball into a 6-inch circle. Sprinkle two baking trays or cookie sheets with cornmeal, and place two circles on each. (Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500°F.) Top each pizza with any combination of toppings. Make sure the walnuts are on top, so they can toast.
7. Bake in the lower half of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the edges are crispy and brown. (If you’re not sure whether or not it’s baked through, you can take one pizza out of the oven and cut it in half. If it is still a little doughy on the inside, return it to the baking pan and bake a few minutes longer.) Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.