The All-American Nut
By Pamela Redwine
April is National Pecan Month – a time to celebrate the “All American Nut” for its delicious taste and numerous health benefits. Pecans are the only tree nut indigenous to North America, and they have quite a history on this continent. In recent years, research has shown pecans are also a great natural source of antioxidants (vitamin E), fiber, protein and other vitamins and minerals.
Pecans are an excellent source of protein and can be substituted for meat, poultry or fish in a healthy diet, according to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines. The dietary guidelines recommend that the average American should eat 5 1/2 servings from the “Meat and Beans” group every day. Pecans are included in this group because they contain approximately the same amount of protein and nutrients as meat, poultry, fish, beans and seeds. Eating 1 ounce of pecans (or about 20 halves) equals two servings from the meat and bean group and 2 teaspoons of oil. That means you still have 3 servings of meat and 4 teaspoons of oil left each day.
Tips for Buying, Using, and Storing Pecans
To keep pecans fresh and flavorful, follow these buying and storage guidelines:
When buying pecans, look for plump pecans that are uniform in color and size.
Shelled pecans can be kept in the refrigerator for about nine months and for up to two years in the freezer.
Pecans can be thawed and refrozen repeatedly during the two-year freezing period without loss of flavor or texture.
Airtight containers, such as jars with lids, are best for storing pecans in the refrigerator.
Sealed plastic bags are best for storing pecans in the freezer.
In-shell pecans can be stored in a cool, dry place for six to 12 months.
After removal from cold storage, pecans will stay good for an additional two months.
Recipe of the Week
By Pamela Redwine
Roasted Vegetable and Pecan Salad
2 medium zucchini
2 medium summer squash
1 red onion
4 plum tomatoes
3/4 cup chopped pecans
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 to 3 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar
4 cups mixed salad greens
24 pecan halves
Parmesan cheese shavings (optional)
Heat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil two baking sheets. Cut zucchini and summer squash lengthwise in half, then cut each half crosswise into large chunks (about 1 1/2-inch thick). In medium bowl, toss zucchini and squash with chopped pecans, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread mixture in a single layer on one baking sheet. Set aside.
Cut red onion into 1-inch thick wedges and place in same bowl. Cut tomatoes lengthwise into quarters and add to onion. Toss onion and tomatoes with remaining 2 teaspoons oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread mixture in a single layer on second baking sheet.
Roast all vegetables 5 minutes. Turn vegetables and pecans and roast 4 to 5 minutes longer or until most of the vegetables are just tender and lightly browned-do not over cook. Combine all the vegetables and chopped pecans in a large bowl, sprinkle with vinegar and gently stir.
To serve, divide salad greens among plates. Top each with a mixture of vegetables and chopped pecans. Pour any liquid in bowl over vegetables. Garnish each serving with 3 pecan halves and, if desired, Parmesan cheese.