Gone Nuts

Have you ever thought there was something nutty going on in your pizzeria? It’s definitely some­thing to consider when it comes to incorporating nuts into your menu. There are so many varieties of nuts that can be used in various ways and in so many dishes.

Now of course, nuts come in a variety of sizes, textures and flavors. The nuts you use anywhere on your menu should be cooked and not raw. When you toast nuts ––whatever type it is –– the flavor profile becomes more enhanced with a much more desirable flavor, and, yes, it even changes the texture slightly.

Before I go any further with some creative suggestions, I want you to understand how serious nut allergies can be. In 1995, a wrongful death suit was filed against a popular pizza chain after a New Hampshire woman died following consumption of a chicken pesto sandwich. The woman had reportedly asked the server if the sauce contained nuts, and the server failed to mention that it did. Following consumption, the woman fell into anaphylactic shock and died a week later, prompting a $10.4 mil­lion lawsuit filed by her family.

If you’re going to use nuts in your recipe in any capacity, however slight, you need to clearly state your use of nuts on your menu. Further care can be taken through proper labeling, staff training and repeated warnings. Take precautionary mea­sures so that cross contamination is not taking place within your own restaurant. The safety of our staff and customers must be our priority.

Cautions completed, let’s take a look at a variety of nuts and how they may be incorporated into your menu. Keep in mind that different nuts have different price points, so make sure you pay close attention to what kind of nuts you’re bringing in and how they’ll affect your food costs. For example if you want to kick up your Hawaiian Pizza by adding some macadamia nuts, it’s important to know that you’ve picked an appropriate nut for that pizza but you’ve also picked a expensive nut as well. Don’t let that stop you from using macadamia nuts just because they’re expensive. Either change your price point to accommodate the costly macadamias or think about coarsely chopping or crushing the nuts and give the pizza a light dusting instead of scattering whole macadamias over the pizza.

You also want to keep in mind, that it may be better to sprinkle any nuts on your pizza after it comes out of the oven. Otherwise, they may burn especially if they are on top of the pizza as it bakes.

I’ve used pine nuts not only in my pesto but also on a pizza called “the Amazing Bangkok.” It was quite an intriguing pizza with a coconut and curry base for the sauce with roasted chicken and red and green peppers, garlic, scallions, Mandarin oranges and pine nuts with a teriyaki drizzle over the pizza just before it got served.

You can get as creative as you want with different kinds of nuts on your pizza. If you decide that you want to add almonds, you now need to de­cide between whole, crushed, sliced or slivered. Each option fits various menu applications.

Obviously nuts are great on sal­ad. In a salad demo that I did both at Pizza Expo and on the Pizza Expo and on the Pizza Today Web sites a few years ago, I showed you how to take a simple and freshly made garden salad and quickly transform into an upscale salad that can literally be made in seconds and they are both made with nuts. The first is a lemon pecan chicken salad. Simply add to your freshly made garden salad a crumbled hard-boiled egg, a scoop of homemade chicken salad, two ounces of toasted chopped pecans and a honey lemon dressing or a dressing of their choice.The second salad I recommend is a Honey Ginger Almond Chicken Salad. Start with a freshly made garden salad, add a crumbled egg, some grilled chicken breast and two ounces of toasted almond slices with a nice honey ginger dressing. Walnuts and candied walnuts have become a popular salad topping and are something to consider.

Obviously, Pad Thai is an ethnic pasta dish made with rice noodles which is far from the spaghetti or fettuccini that we serve on a daily basis, but it is a nice alternative to our every day menu and a gluten free alternative as well. I mention Pad Thai because it has crushed peanuts with its other wonderful ingredients like cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts, scal­lions and chicken or other protein, and these flavors can be combined on pizzas and salads, and even sandwiches.

I think pistachios and cashews are great nuts to add to your meals as well.In a previous article, I shared that I like to finely chop pistachio nuts with sun-dried tomatoes and then roll some one-ounce goat cheese balls into the mixture. These pistachio and sundried tomato encrusted goat cheese balls are the perfect garnish to any salad or meat and cheese platter.

Now you can introduce nuts to your pizza, pasta and salad menu. There’s NUTTin’ to it!

WILLOW STREET’S
COCONUT PRAWN PIZZA

1 dough ball
3 ounces sweet chili sauce
1/3 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup smoked Gouda
15 prawns, sliced in half
2-1/2 ounces red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh shredded coconut
2 ounces rough chopped peanuts
1-1/2 ounces cilantro, picked leaves
1-1/2 ounces fresh mint, picked leaves
Roll out dough ball to 11 inches in diam­eter. Use fingers to create 1/4-inch crust. Spread sauce out from center of dough. Evenly cover with mozzarella and Gouda cheese. Lay red onions, prawns (ridged side up) and coconut evenly across pizza. Sprinkle with peanuts and bake in wood-fired oven until cheese begins to golden and edges crisp. Turn pizzas 2-3 times while cooking to ensure even browning. When finished, garnish with cilantro and fresh mint. Slice and serve.

CANDIED PECANS
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Combine ingredients in a small sauce­pan. Bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer for 5-7 minutes until coated and golden. (If too runny,continue to simmer). Let pecans dry on parchment paper.

Jeff Freehof owns The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia. He is a frequent contributor to Pizza Today and a speaker at the Pizza Expo family of trade shows.