If you associate walnuts with cinnamon buns and other rich pastries, you might not realize what a healthy food they really are. These delicious little packages are dense with nutrients, an excellent source of manganese, copper and tryptophan. Particularly noteworthy for their omega-3 fats, walnuts are also high in antioxidants. In a recent Spanish study, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with walnuts was shown to significantly lower risk factors for heart disease.
Walnuts are used in sweet and savory dishes throughout the Mediterranean. Along the Italian Riviera, a rich ricotta and walnut sauce traditionally is served with ravioli filled with greens. In Turkey, a thick, garlicky walnut sauce called tarator is served with cooked vegetables, much as aïoli is in the South of France.
In France, walnuts are added to salads, breads and many desserts, and they are eaten fresh as well as dried — a great delicacy in the fall, just after the harvest. I’ve never encountered creamy, fresh walnuts in American farmers’ markets, but if you know a walnut farmer, perhaps you could request some the next time they’re harvested.
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