Saturday, April 03, 2010

The Nutcracker And The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook

A short while ago, I wrote a post saying I didn't know if my family/community had many cooking traditions, and what they were. I'm sure they did, just that I never bothered with them that much. But we did have one tradition, no, two, that I remember right now. One was to pour ice cubes into a napkin, gather the ends and clutch it so that none of the ice-cubes fell out, and bang it heartily against the wall. And we would have crushed ice. (Though I no longer remember what it was used for.)

The other, more mine than family's, was this.

The Nutcracker

Don't do that, the doors will get damaged, my grandmother would say, but who would listen to her? (I'm sure one of the adults showed me this trick.) The walnuts, whenever they were available, would be cracked like that in the space between the door and the hinge jamb, and consumed. I wouldn't crack that many walnuts, and never did the doors get spoilt.

A few months ago, my mother sent me a bag of whole walnuts. (Aside: I'm suddenly anxious to buy more whole walnuts even though I have half a bag of them with me still, are they still sold whole?) Anyway, I was more exasperated than happy and I suspected she was getting rid of them (there will be rather indignant recriminations if she reads this, I'm afraid) but managed to sporadically use up about half of them in sundry cakes - I recently went through a baking phase.

They are beginning to smell rather odd from being cooped up inside a plastic packet inside a plastic container, and I despair of using them up before they smell more desperate.

But asides and digressions aside, here's what I rediscovered in my cookbook shelf:

This is The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook, by Jean Hewitt. How I could have not tried something from this since I bought it a few years ago beats my comprehension (or have I?). It's in excellent condition and the inside cover has 'Senke' written on it. Of the many links that I came across about this book, I read just a few, and all of them related how the writer had stumbled on to this cookbook at a sale. Here is some more information about the book.

Bereft of a mystery or a sitcom to immerse myself in, I took this book to bed, and came across this Mediterranean Cucumber Salad, which I made today. It was attractive to me because I had all the ingredients, though the cucumber was regular size, not small, and the raisins were not monukka. I let it chill from morning to evening and ate two helpings of it for dinner. The Spouse has promised to have it for breakfast.

I think the raisins did it. Made all the difference, I mean. This recipe was contributed by "Jane Margulies, New York, NY"

Here's what you need:

Cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced: 1-1.5 cups
Curds/Yoghurt: 1 cup
Raisins: 3 tbsp
Onion, chopped: A small fistful
Walnuts, chopped: 1/4 cup
(Sea) Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mint leaves, chopped: 1 tbsp

Place the cucumbers in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill and serve very cold.

And yes, I've started another tradition here - using my expensive, branded, and very impressionable (read 'not stain-proof'), ab stretch exercise mat as background for my pictures. What crazy traditions did you follow?

This post is off to Haalo who is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging this week, the event started by Kalyn.


  1. I remember breaking walnuts by placing them in between the doors :):)Mmmmmmm,cant think of any other thing now,will post as soon as I recall. Very interesting read. A very refreshing salad. Btw,loved the vibrant exercise mat.

  2. hahah..that really sounds like a wonderful tradition Sra..salad looks very inviting, will surely ask for this the next time we meet..:)..Of course the mat looks lovely this way too..hahaha..

  3. You cracked open half a packet of walnuts that way??? I wouldn't have had the patience:-)

  4. lovely salad and interesting article.

  5. Sra, that is a smart way to break walnuts. The salad is indeed very delicious but you think it is good substitute for breakfast?

  6. what would we do without our traditions to anchor us? i remember damaging my doors with the walnut cracking.:)) govt housing so poor quality doors.

  7. I don't even have the patience to open a bag of pistachios, and you went through 1/2 a bag of walnuts, one by one? But whoever came up with the door-cracker idea was brilliant.
    I make a salad just like this, except for the raisins. And now that you say the raisins makes the salad, I've just got to add them next time.

  8. Haha this is funny. I like your nutcracker tradition. And your exercise mat idea. If you saw my makeshift set-up over would be in shock. It's amazing my pictures come out at all!

  9. Smart nutcrackers. We too do it! And one such funny tradition is if we get the raw manoes (the less sour vareity which we can eat it as is) we will break it with a stone or throw it hard on the clean floor and crack it. Whn broken this way we believe it taste better than cutting the mangoes with knives ;) That salad looks lovely.

  10. That nutcracker brings back memories of my grandma doing that!
    That dish looks like more tasty version of our raita. Perfect for this heat!

    Anything is good if it means a good pic, even an exercise mat. LOL

  11. Seriously. I don't know what it is, but I now have this picture of people bashing ice against a wall. And its quite funny.=) I like how the words flow in your post.

  12. Very interesting. We only used nutcrackers for walnuts, and I remember putting a lot of effort into cracking each shell so that the walnut came out unbroken. My great passion was gathering and cracking pine nuts.

  13. Hi all, thanks for your nice comments. I didn't crack half a bag of walnuts this way all at once, only in instalments.
    Indo, no, not breakfast, lunch or dinner, but The Spouse was full. Anyway, he didn't have it for breakfast and I had it for lunch!!!
    Ann, oh, we used to bash them quite lustily.
    Simona, we get pine nuts here too, super-expensive. And the ones in their shells look fragile, I'm worried I'll destroy the nut inside.

  14. Lovely write up... and an interesting salad... have the ingredients so will be making it soon...
    Cant remember a single food tradition right now :P

  15. omg, we used the door to crack walnuts too...good thing they were made of teak instead of the flimsy particle board of these days...for some reason all the shelled walnuts i have bought in the last 6 months have smelt rancid upon opening...may want to go back to buying whole ones again...lovely post....did i say that already?