Hazelnuts have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. The hazel part of its name comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “haesel” meaning a headdress or bonnet, referring to the shape of the outer shell covering. Hazelnuts are native to Asia Minor and they spread to Italy, Spain, France and Germany via Greece. Prior to the 1940s, hazelnuts were imported to the United States. Today, they are grown commercially in the Northwest US. In the food industry, hazelnuts are currently eaten raw, roasted, blanched, minced, sliced, powdered and pureed. Hazelnuts are also used as a premium ingredient in chocolates, biscuits, confectionary products, sweets, pastries and ice cream and in sauces and salads.
Hazelnuts are about the size of a small marble. The nut meat is encased in a hard shell that resembles an acorn without its cap. The nut meat has a bitter brown paper-thin skin that is removed before eating. These nuts contain 88 percent unsaturated oil, which is pressed for use and known as the delicately flavored hazelnut oil. Although it cannot be heated to high temperatures, this oil is favored by gourmets worldwide and is relatively expensive. Hazelnut cooking oil has a similar composition to extra virgin olive oil with high content in Omega 9 and Omega 6 fatty acids. This makes hazelnuts another healthy cooking oil option with flavorful taste.
Why are hazelnuts sometimes called filberts?
Well, there doesn’t seem to be one explanation. The most commonly accepted explanation is because hazelnuts mature on or around St. Philibert’s Day on August 20. Other historians believe the term filbert derives from the German, vollbart meaning full beard, a reference to the appearance of the husked shell. Hazelnuts are also known as cob nuts in some areas. Other experts claim these are all different varieties of the nut, but once shelled, they are quite difficult to tell apart.
Buying and Storing Hazelnuts
Check hazelnuts for freshness by picking up a nut and shaking it. If it rattles inside the shell, this is an indication it has lost moisture due to age or mishandling and is now stale. The shells should be free of cracks or holes. Most markets now carry shelled and ground hazelnuts, which can be quite a timesaver in the kitchen.
At room temperature, unshelled hazelnuts seldom last more than a month. Once shelled, they should be eaten as soon as possible. Shelled hazelnuts should last unopened up to 4 months in the refrigerator or 1 year in the freezer.
Hazelnut oil is more fragile. Store the oil in the refrigerator for up to 3 months. Hazelnut oil should be used sparingly. A little goes a long way. Avoid heat when using hazelnut oil so as not to sacrifice its delicate flavor. When adding to sauces, remove the pan from the heat and whisk in at the last moment.
- For full flavor, roast and cool raw shelled hazelnuts before grinding or chopping.
- To remove the paper skin, spread shelled hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and roast at 275 degrees F (130 C), stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the skins begin to break. Roll in a clean kitchen towel, let rest for 10 minutes, and then gently rub back and forth to remove the skins. Some bits of the skin may remain.
- Bring hazelnuts to room temperature before using.
- 2-1/4 pounds hazelnuts in the shell = 1 pound shelled nut meats.
- 1 pound hazelnuts in the shell = 1-1/2 cups nut meats.
- 1 pound shelled hazelnuts = 3-1/2 cups.
- 1 cup shelled = 5 ounces.
- 4 ounces ground, lightly packed = 3/4 cup.
- 1 ounce ground, lightly packed = about 3-1/2 Tablespoons.
- Macadamia nuts may be substituted for hazelnuts.
Arugula Salad with Poached Pears & Hazelnuts
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup Italian white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 pears, peeled, stems attached, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 cups dry red wine
- 2 cups grape juice
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts
- 5 oz baby arugula leaves
- 3 oz red lettuce leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
To make the poached pears:
Remove the core of each pear using a melon baller keeping the pear intact.
Place the wine and grape juice in a large saucepan. Add the pears, bring to a simmer and cook gently for 25 minutes or until tender turning them as needed, then remove pan from the heat and cool the pears for about 10 minutes in the liquid. Remove pears from the poaching liquid, transfer to a plate and let cool. Discard liquid.
To toast the nuts:
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake until the nuts are golden brown, about 12-15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Remove pan from the oven and set the nuts aside to cool; then rub the skins off with a kitchen towel. Roughly chop the nuts and set aside.
To make the dressing:
In a large mixing bowl, combine the shallots and vinegar. Slowly add the oil while constantly whisking to blend. Whisk in the water and season the dressing with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To make the salad:
Cut each of the poached pear halves into 4 wedges.
Toss the arugula, red lettuce, parsley, pears and half of the nuts in a large mixing bowl with enough dressing to lightly coat the leaves.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and gently mound the salad onto a serving platter. Garnish with the remaining nuts and Parmesan cheese and serve.
Chicken Scaloppine with Hazelnut-Cream Sauce
- 2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large shallot, minced (about 1/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup Madeira
- 1/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, husked, chopped
Slice each chicken breast half into 2 cutlets. Place cutlets between 2 pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a mallet, pound each piece to about 1/3-inch thickness. Sprinkle pounded chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.
Melt butter with oil in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to the skillet and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Transfer chicken to plate; cover to keep warm. Add the shallot to the same skillet and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Pour in the Madeira and bring to boil, stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add cream; boil until sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Stir in hazelnuts. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over the chicken and serve.
Lentil and Hazelnut Patties
- 3/4 cups dry lentils or use 1½ cups canned lentils, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 of a medium onion, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Tzatziki Sauce, recipe below
Rinse the dried lentils and place them in a medium saucepan with 1 ½ cups water. Bring the water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. You should only see a few small bubbles and some slight movement in the lentils. Cook, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Add water, if needed to make sure the lentils are just barely covered. Lentils are cooked as soon as they are tender and no longer crunchy. Older lentils may take longer to cook and shed their outer skins as they cook. (The best way to tell if they are cooked is to taste one.) Drain the lentils. Return the lentils to the saucepan and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Combine lentils, onion, bread crumbs, parsley, egg and hazelnuts. Stir in thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Mold into 4 burger-sized patties.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil. Add patties and brown on both sides. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Transfer onto a serving platter and serve with Tzatziki sauce.
- 1 cup grated peeled, seeded cucumber
- 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt (such as Fage)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
Pat cucumber dry with paper towels. Combine cucumber and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; cover and chill 1 hour.
Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin
- 1-1/2 cups finely chopped hazelnuts
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 (12 ounces each) boneless pork tenderloins
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Rosemary sprigs for garnish
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
For the pork:
Trim the pork of its silverskin and cut each tenderloin in half crosswise. (You will have 4 pieces.)
In 3 separate shallow bowls, place the flour, egg and hazelnuts. Add the salt and pepper to the flour. Dip the pork, on all sides, including the ends, first in the flour, then the egg and finally the hazelnuts. Make sure to coat the pork pieces completely with the nuts.
In a 10-inch skillet over moderate heat, heat the vegetable oil and saute the pork on all sides until golden brown. Transfer the browned pork to a baking pan and roast for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the pork reaches 160 degrees F.
For the sauce:
Add the olive oil to the pan used to brown the pork. Saute the shallots over medium high heat until lightly browned. Sprinkle flour over the shallots and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the white wine, chicken stock, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
Cut the pork tenderloins into 1/2-inch slices and place on a serving platter. Top the pork with the sauce and garnish with rosemary.
Italian Hazelnut Cookies
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies
- 2 cups hazelnuts
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Toast whole hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a 275°F oven, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes. Let the nuts cool for a few minutes, then rub together in a clean kitchen towel to remove most of the papery skins.
Position 2 racks as close to the center of the oven as possible; and turn the oven up to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
Pulse nuts and sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a large bowl.
Beat egg whites and the salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture. Add vanilla and gently but thoroughly mix until combined.
Drop the batter by the tablespoon, 2 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies until golden brown, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through the baking time, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes. Gently transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. When the baking sheets are thoroughly cooled, repeat with the remaining batter. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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