Green tea walnuts

Hey, happy New Year, everybody!

As usual, the end of 2013 rattled right up and then whizzed right by. It feels like none of us got any time to breathe over the holidays. And yet we did–I know we did. The Saturday before Christmas, Sam and I cleared our calendars, strapped on our hiking boots, and hiked up the steepest hill around. It was slow going, and it hurt a lot, and I could feel my lungs and my head clearing as we made our way up. I have a photo on my phone from the summit, 2,800 feet above sea level, on a day as dry and blue as December in California can ever be:

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And I made green tea walnuts, too, on New Year’s, with some of my leftover matcha. The idea wormed its way into my head weeks ago, when I stopped for lunch at the Imperial Tea Court at the Ferry Building. They had a sign advertising green tea walnuts, with a bright red sticker over it saying SOLD OUT. But I knew I had green tea powder on hand, and a single egg white in the freezer, a trusty recipe for spiced nuts to riff on. So it was just a matter of finding a free hour in the chaos of the holiday, and sitting down to make something crunchy and a little sweet.

My go-to spiced nuts recipe seems very much like a Christmas treat; these green tea walnuts, on the other hand, feel like a January thing. They’re slightly sweet, like the others, but also a little bracing, with layers of bitterness from the green tea and the walnuts. The matcha stains the walnuts a subdued forest-green color, just enough to signal what the flavor is. Somehow, eating a handful of these makes me feel like I’m healing myself; because of the bitterness and heft of the walnuts, I can’t just eat these mindlessly. Tasting each one is a deliberate act.

I’ll admit, I had to warm up to these. I’m not usually crazy about walnuts, and the walnut flavor here is deep, so at first it put me off. But the more I eat these, the more I like them. And my friends who love walnuts, loved these; in fact, they were happy to gobble up half the batch before Sam had time to photograph. So here they are, as a New Year’s offering–something nourishing for these post-holiday detox days.

green tea walnuts

Green Tea Walnuts (makes about 4 cups)

Inspired by the Imperial Tea Court; adapted from this recipe

Note: The sugar and matcha here are flexible–the amounts can be increased or decreased to taste. These proportions are what I like best, after a lot of trial and error.

3/4 cup raw (turbinado/demerara) sugar

1 tbsp matcha (unsweetened green tea powder), sifted

1/4 tsp fine sea salt

1 lb (16 oz/about 4 cups) raw walnut halves

1 large egg white, at room temperature

1 tbsp water

Preheat the oven to 300º F, and grease or parchment-line a baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, matcha, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg white and water until thick and foamy but not stiff. Add nuts and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the nuts, and toss again until evenly coated. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for about 30 minutes, or until the nuts are deeply browned and just dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet.

Once the nuts are cooled, go through and break up any stuck-together clumps. Transfer to an airtight container, and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

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