Nuts about this oil
For a taste treat try this savory French-style walnut oil that’s made in Chico
My first experience of French-style walnut oil came courtesy of attorney and locally famous amateur chef Denny Latimer. One day he produced a small square bottle filled with a golden liquid and thrust it toward me. With an enigmatic smile, he said, “Here, taste this.”
Puzzled, I took the bottle and peered at the label, then poured a bit on my fingertip. The liquid was unctuous, oily but light. The aroma was of freshly toasted walnuts. I licked my finger and tasted: wonderful, smooth, savory walnut oil.
“Denny, where did you get this?” I asked, in awe.
With a triumphant laugh, he said, “Chico!”
That was my introduction to R. Genou French-style walnut oil, a fabulous oil that is indeed made in Chico, by Kevin and Janice Sullivan and their partners Ron and Sally Ginochio.
Kevin and Janice, a friendly, outgoing couple, are the owners/ operators of Sullivan Family Walnut Orchards. Kevin also manages Ron Ginochio’s walnut properties. The Ginochios live in the Bay Area but are in the process of building a home in their Chico orchard.
Several years ago, the couples became partners in a venture to make full-flavored oil from their own walnuts. They found that domestic oils are generally lighter in flavor and aroma, while French-style oil is more intense. After much travel and research, they began experimenting in their kitchens to perfect their oil and then custom-designed their own pressing equipment. In the fall of 1999 they began production, and what an oil they’ve made!
Walnut oil can be used in a variety of ways to enhance food. Adding it to salad dressing is one of the more common uses, but there are many other ways to use this delicious oil in everyday cooking.
Used as a condiment it can be drizzled over steamed vegetables. Yukon Gold potatoes are especially luscious this way. Grilled poultry or fish finished with a splash of this glistening gold adds a sheen to the entrée and a subtle flavor to the taste. Any soft cheese such as goat rolled in cracked pepper and chopped walnuts and covered with a mist of walnut oil will quickly turn the most ordinary food into a gourmet treat. Walnut pesto made with walnuts, walnut oil, garlic, parsley, sage leaves and a bit of sherry vinegar will astonish even the most cosmopolitan guest. Try floating a bit of walnut oil on top of soups or stews to bring another dimension to everyday meals.
Walnut oil is also excellent in baked goods such as cakes, yeast bread or shortbread.
A few dishes that will enhance your reputation in the kitchen are Nutty Brussels Sprouts made with walnut oil, honey, sherry vinegar and a tad of Dijon mustard. Penne Pasta with Swiss Chard or Spinach in a Walnut Cream Sauce is easy and opulent (see recipe). My own summer favorite, Minted Rice Salad, made with walnut oil, white wine vinegar, mint leaves, orzo rice and wild rice, will be the easiest, tastiest potluck dish you ever brought to a party.
The uses for walnut oil are limited only by your daring and imagination. Add this oil to your cooking repertoire and wait for the compliments to begin!
(Frying with walnut oil is not recommended. Refrigerate the oil after opening.)
Loretta Metcalf is co-host of the radio food show Mangia with the Mamas alternate Tuesdays from 11:30 a.m.12:30 p.m. on KZFR 90.1FM.
Penne Pasta with Swiss Chard in Walnut Cream Sauce
1/2 lb of cooked Penne pasta
1 lb sliced thin Swiss chard leaves (no stems) or spinach
Fresh garlic minced or roasted garlic paste to taste
1 small diced onion
1/3 cup chicken broth
3-4 tbs. toasted fresh walnuts roughly chopped
1-2 tbs. R. Genou walnut oil
1/3 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup heavy cream (half-and-half could be substituted)
2 tbs. minced fresh tarragon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In large heavy skillet cook onion in a little olive oil over low heat until onion turns translucent. Add Swiss chard or spinach, season with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and add chicken broth, cover with a lid and cook on medium heat until greens start to wilt. (Don’t overcook.) Remove lid, increase heat to high and reduce liquid until almost evaporated. Add cream, walnut oil and simmer sauce over moderate heat until slightly thickened. Add cooked Penne and minced tarragon and toasted walnuts. Stir over low heat for a minute or so to marry the flavors. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.