More on Green Walnuts


The green walnut emails keep coming. I'm going to ask Jerry Baldwin about nocino, the green-walnut liqueur that is a fall ritual in Emilia-Romagna and other regions. And I have a call in to Rick Bayless--of Frontera Grill, Frontera products, authoritative books, and master of all things Mexican--who's in the wilds of Baja finding Mexican wines, about the dish that my friend Pam Hunter told me she made from the green walnuts I kept running over in her long Napa driveway. Turns out it was one Rick immediately told her she needed to make, and one suited for August in Mexico, where walnuts start to ripen then rather than in September in California. She wrote:

The green walnut story actually ties back to Rick Bayless rather than Darrell [Corti, authority on all things Italian and doubtless nocino too]. He and his Frontera team kept up the demanding fall tradition of hulling green walnuts for the beloved dish of Puebla, Chiles en Nogada. This is a rich festival dish commemorating Independence Day, August 21, 1821, in green, white, and red to celebrate the Mexican flag and General Agustin de Iturbide's defeat of the French.

This dish can be too rich but, as I recall, Rick worked with a recipe that embraced all the beautiful complexity of flavor with some restraint.

Many recipes for this dish use ripe walnuts, but green are better. When I last visited Rick in Chicago, he had worked out a way to source them directly from an organic walnut orchard in California.

For home cooking, this is a dish for a group effort that allows everyone to lose themselves in the social experience to tolerate the tedious work of hulling green walnuts. Tight gloves are essential to prevent longterm purplish black walnut stains.

I'm asking Rick what his source is, so you can try shelling, picking, and blanching the fresh nutmeats yourself--something I've done and can't say I'd leap to do again, though for the "white walnut" sauce of his I found and give you with his office's blessing, I intend to order more by mail. It's got milk and bread, like the original gazpacho, and sherry and cinnamon too. Sounds good enough to invite friends over for, making them help with the work, as Pam sagely suggests--and of course eat the nutmeats, though they're sufficiently astringent that you won't lose too many to the helping hands. Here it is, over fruit-stuffed pork, and more to come on things nogada and nocino.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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