January 30, 2009


I grew up eating hazelnuts. My mother kept them in a basket in our living room and on winter evening we would toss a few on the edge of the wood stove to roast for a few minutes before knocking them off with the poker and cracking them open, devouring them while they were still hot enough to burn our tongues. During our college days, Will and I used to walk our black lab Morgan through an aged and abandon hazelnut orchard, and scavenger though I was, I never stopped to pick any up. For one thing, the squirrels usually got to them first, and for another, hazelnuts were everywhere in Oregon, every store had them in bulk, every restaurant had them woven into their menu, so why bother. I don't love them the way I love my children, or my husband, or figs, but they have always been there, a part of my food life from birth.

Virginia is not hazelnut country, you can buy them, but they aren't cheap. I've tossed them into our granola on occasion when I want a change up from almonds, but I almost forgot about hazelnuts until this week. As I scanned though food blogs and cookbooks, compiling this week's menu and corresponding grocery list, I came across this interesting looking recipe and thought I'd give it a try. (In the oven as we speak and smelling divine!) So I grabbed a scoop of whole raw hazelnuts last night at the health food store.

Having them around, even for a different recipe, inspired me and for lunch today I pulled out an old recipe that I hadn't made since our pre-Evie, Oregon days. I happened to have chicken left over for the very successful Poule aux Riz, barley in the cupboard and a new pot of caramelized onions on the stove so it was a perfect storm of goodness.

Rejuvenation* Chicken Salad

1 cup cooked chicken, cut in smallish pieces
8-10 hazelnuts (I forgot to toast them first which would be better)
3 T Cesar dressing ( I use Cardini's because as far as Will is concerned, there is no other brand)
2 T caramelized onions (or more to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste as well)
1/4 cup cooked Barley

In a food processor chop the nuts finely then add the chicken and onions, also chopping finely (you want to end up with an almost tuna fish salad texture) Mix in dressing, seasoning and barley, adding more or less dressing until you get a loose cookie dough consistency then gently fold in the barley. Let it sit for a few minutes and then taste and adjust seasoning. This is great on toasted whole wheat or honey wheat bread and if you have it (which I didn't but oh well) some arugula or spinach leaves are a great addition.

*No, this does not have magical powers to rejuvenate you (well, maybe if you were really hungry it would) It's loosely inspired by a sandwich I had in the cafe at Rejuvenation House Parts, the landmark Portland store, years ago.