Years ago, I attended a few interesting workshops put on by a friend of my mother’s. And one of those workshops was on healthy eating. The ladies, I believe, were Seventh Day Adventists who, as I understand it, are recommended to be vegetarian, or otherwise to observe the kosher laws of Leviticus. In this workshop, they were encouraging eating whole grains, lots of fruits and vegetables, etc. And they talked about the use of walnuts for protein.
Now, I knew already that walnuts are a good source of lots of things (though, like most nuts, have a high fat content), but I had never considered using them as the protein in a cooked dish like… spaghetti sauce.
Yes, they were recommending using ground walnuts instead of, well, ground beef, or in my case – veggie ground round.
I remembered this not too long ago, and thought I would give it a shot. The ladies never did send me a recipe, but frankly, I’m confident enough in the kitchen to experiment.
My boyfriend and I are trying to cut down on the super processed things in our diets, and unfortunately, a lot of the soy products are extremely processed and have tons of additives. They are useful for a veg just starting out, to build confidence and not have them rely on cheese for protein all the time, but after a while, it’s more like you’re a junkfood-etarian rather than veg.
So, for experiment one – I picked up some walnuts (they are kind of expensive so I may end up experimenting with other nuts or more mixed ones) and ground them up in my little hand-cranked food processor (yes, it doesn’t have an electrical cord). I toasted the ground up walnuts in a dry fry pan to just give them a bit of a toasty flavour and then set them aside. I had also picked up some portobello mushrooms because they are delicious. Also because they are meaty. I chopped them up and tossed them in the pot with some onion and garlic (of course) and let them sautee a little bit. Then I added the tomato sauce and the walnuts.
Well… The toasty walnuts kind of overpowered the tomato flavour, so I had to add some tomato paste, and spices, which didn’t really help. In the end, I just kind of went with it. Also, there was an unfortunate portobello-ing of the colour. I’m not prone to remove the gills on mushrooms because they’re just as edible. But this kind of turned the sauce a brownish colour. Not very red-spaghetti like. But despite all of this, it was tasty enough and I figured out some things I’d do differently next time.
Tonight was that Next Time. Experiment two – I ground up fewer walnuts than before and did not toast them. I used half an onion, one clove of garlic, and cremini mushrooms, sliced, instead of portobellos. I sauteed them until the mushrooms were a little soft and had released some of their juices, and then added the sauce and the walnuts.
The tomato sauce stayed pretty red. The walnut flavour didn’t overwhelm. I didn’t add any spices this time either, except for a bit of fresh ground black/green/white/pink pepper overtop of the sauteeing onions and garlic (pre-mushroom). Pretty good!
Next time, I might use more walnuts and a bit of spice (oregano etc.) but all in all, a good second attempt. Thanks to those ladies for an interesting option!