Candied walnuts make a sweet addition to salads with Gorgonzola

Ask the Chef

July 21, 2002|By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan | By Jim Coleman and Candace Hagan,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Q. How do I make the sugar-coated walnuts that are often paired with Gorgonzola in certain salads? I love that combination of sweet and sharp flavors.

A. If you're starting your meal with a baby arugula and grape tomato salad topped with Gorgonzola and candied walnuts, I just can't wait to hear about the entree.

Maybe in the back of your mind you're dreaming about your own restaurant -- a nice little romantic place with a blackboard menu.

Or maybe you're just thinking: No, dumbbell, I just want to make candied walnuts.

Here's what you want to do. Toast about a pound of shelled walnuts in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Then in a large saucepan, add 1 1/2 cups of sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, 3/4 cup water and a little bit of salt.

Cook this mixture until it reaches what we call the soft-ball stage, which is right around 240 degrees. At this point, add 1 teaspoon of vanilla and the toasted walnuts.

Stir well until the walnuts are well coated and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Once they are cool, you can separate them and then they are ready for your salad.

You can substitute pecans for walnuts if you want, and if you haven't snacked too much while you are making your salad, you can store any that are left over in an airtight container.

Q. I love to entertain in the summer and have some great barbecue recipes, but I seem to make the same things all the time. I have been thinking about barbecuing a ham -- first cubing it and then grilling it. I was either going to prepare it in some sort of honey-pineapple marinade or grill it first and serve with a dipping sauce. Do you have any ideas about how I can do this?

A. I like your idea of cubing it. What I would do is to cut 1-inch cubes and skewer them by themselves. Then I would make up some skewers of red, green, and yellow bell peppers cut in a similar size, and also some skewers of cubed pineapple.

Make a glaze out of pineapple juice, soy sauce, freshly chopped garlic and a little honey, and baste all your skewers with this mixture while grilling. The advantage of skewering each ingredient separately is that some items take longer to cook than others.

As each skewer is done, pull it off and keep it warm while the rest are finishing up.

I can see serving your skewers of ham, peppers and pineapple with herbed rice pilaf and some Asian coleslaw. Hey, this is sounding pretty good.

Jim Coleman is executive chef at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia, a cookbook author, and host of television and radio cooking shows.

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