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Joan Shelley

Livermore Red Walnuts at the Deli

Red Walnuts Are All the Rage

Bright, bold color and mellow, creamy flavor make for a positively noteworthy nut


I love Irish philosopher John O’Donohue’s deft line, “When red is present, something is happening.” That’s certainly the case here. These crimson-colored California walnuts are tasty. I’ve been eating them in abundance over the last few months. They have a marvelous mellowness to them; creamy on the tongue, with barely any bitterness. I’ve been putting them on salads, pastas, and happily eating them by the handful!

Who even knew that there was such a thing as a red walnut? I sure didn’t. Thanks to long-time Deli Catering chef, Bill Wallo, we’ve had them on our shelves for the last few months. My guess is that we’ll be stocking, selling, and eating them for a long time to come! 

Walnuts date back over 7,000 years and are native to Persia. Some say they’re the oldest tree food! Romans referred to them as “Jupiter’s royal acorn.” Much later, English sailors carried them ’round the world, hence the popular term “English walnuts.” In the American west, walnuts were first cultivated in California by the Franciscan Fathers in the late 1700s. The first commercial plantings were done shortly after the end of the Civil War.

These red walnuts are a more modern development, a colorful twist on a long-standing culinary staple. They were developed at UC Davis about 25 years ago by grafting a popular California variety called Howard with one descended from old French stock that (conveniently for us) is known as the Red Zinger walnut. The UC Davis team named their walnut after Robert S. Livermore (1926-1997), a computer geek, successful business person, and grower who had a lifelong interest in unusual varieties of walnuts. It’s a fitting homage to someone who loved walnuts as much as Mr. Livermore did. 

Although they caught my attention for their color, I’ve been appreciating them for the flavor. Walnuts happen to have a mess of health benefits—cancer-fighting, Omega 3, antioxidants, and more. They’re great right out of the bag. You can throw ’em on granola, fruit salad, or put them out with cocktails. Great snack to carry in your briefcase. Grind them up, mix with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, a nice dose of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, some sea salt, and black pepper and you’ll have a superb red walnut sauce for pasta or fish or toast or whatever you’re inspired to put it on. I’m thinking we could make an amazing Christmas walnut pie. My partner, Tammie, came up with a terrific way to use them: toasted Walnut Sage bread from the Bakehouse, drizzled with some good olive oil, then spread with a good blue cheese (I’m high on the Roquefort at the Deli but any good blue will work), and topped with the red walnuts. The colors are wondrous, the flavor fantastic.

Red Walnuts at the Deli
Dobos Torta from Zingerman's Bakehouse

Dobos Torta at the Bakehouse 

Late 19th-century torte taken to new levels by the Bakehouse 

At the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire, in the second half of the 19th century, the arts, architecture, music, and science all bloomed. So too did pastry-making—like the Rigó Jansci Torta that the Bakehouse makes so beautifully, the Dobos Torta dates to that same era. It was created in 1884, and named after its inventor, József Dobos, one of the best-known pastry chefs of that era, in what's probably the most pastry-loving country in Europe. (To give you some American historical context, 1884 is the year the foundation was laid for the Statue of Liberty, and also when the Washington Monument was completed, making it the tallest structure in the world!) Dobos had a well-known specialty food shop in Budapest that sold everything from caviar to cake. The torte he developed, and named after himself, quickly became a local classic. In 1885 he showed it at the National General Exhibition—over 100 people staffed the pavilion and Queen Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph came by to sample the new creation. He soon became a supplier to the royal court. The Dobos Torta was so popular that an entire book was published about it later that year. 

But Dobos didn’t stop there. Long before UPS, FedEx or DHL, Dobos built wooden boxes in which he started to ship his delicious delicately-layered torte to pastry eaters all over Europe. Later, demonstrating a spirit of generosity that we can all learn from, Dobos donated the recipe for the torte to the Budapest Pastry and Honey-Bread Makers Guild in 1906, when it spread all over the country and eventually all over the world. 

The Dobos Torta at the Bakehouse is a beautiful work of art to behold! It’s made of five thin layers of very light vanilla cake, sandwiched around a chocolate buttercream. More chocolate buttercream coats the sides of the torte, which are then dusted with chocolate crumbles. The rectangular cakes are topped with a thin layer of almost-crunchy slightly chewy, delicious caramel. It's divine. At the Bakehouse, we make the buttercream with Valrhona chocolate and a touch of espresso. Buttercream, by the way, was barely known at the time, so Dobos was on the cutting edge of his field. The cake is topped with a crispy layer of translucent golden caramel. Kudos to the Bakehouse pastry crew for being able to create such a wonderfully delicious and accurate rendition of a Hungarian classic!  

Just to put the Hungarian passion for this very special pastry in proper perspective, there was an entire pavilion dedicated to the Dobos at the Millennium Exposition in 1896, and then again in 1962, at a three-day festival set up to honor the Dobos' creation. Today the Bakehouse makes it so well that we might want to start thinking about our own exposition—I can’t tell you how many Hungarians and Hungarian-Americans have told me the Bakehouse’s cake is as good as anything they’ve eaten in Budapest. One Hungarian-American told me that her 80-year-old grandmother suggested she could just pick one up from the Bakehouse rather than make her own!  

You can pick up Dobos Torta as a whole cake or by the slice at both the Bakehouse and the Next Door Café. It’s terrific with an espresso (see the next item on this list) or maybe a cup of the Tree Town blend that the Coffee Company is featuring this month.

Passionate about Dobos Torta at the Bakehouse
Coffee bean being harvested at Daterra Estate

Meet The Grower: With Daterra Estate on September 22

Great coffee and conversation with our coffee-growing friends from Brazil


Want to learn more about what makes great coffee great? Hear stories of how to set up a sustainable business that makes a positive difference for the environment and for the people it interacts with? Understand more about what makes for great “relationship coffees” and how they’re different from other offerings on the market? Sunday, September 22, we have an event for you! From 6 to 8 in the evening, Fernanda Pizol Oliveira and João Carlos Reis of the Daterra Estate in Brazil will be here, at ZingTrain on Plaza Drive (just across the walk from the Coffee Company), to talk about and taste their coffees! If you’re interested in coffee, sustainable business, Brazilian history or just don’t know what else to do with your Sunday evening, put this great event on your list!  

Daterra (which mean “of the Earth” in Portuguese) dates back to the 1980’s, when the Pascoal family decided that they wanted to develop a business that would be more ecologically- and socially-sustainable than the tire trade in which they’d done very well over the decades. The family’s roots in Brazil and in business are long ones—the grandfather of the current owner, Luis Pascoal, came to South America from Italy intending to be a coffee grower. Like József Dobos, he ended up opening a specialty food shop, which became the foundation of the family business. Decades later they began to work in the tire trade, in which they’ve done very well over the years. The coffee business grew from their commitment to find a trade that would create and sell something unique to Brazil, a business that would help their country, its people, and it’s amazing environment. After examining literally dozens of different ways to do that, they settled on coffee, and began the work to build what is now Daterra. And, in the process, Luis is making his Italian-born grandfather’s intention into a very positive reality. 

To quote Luis, “Daterra is a not a farm. Daterra is a project. It’s a coffee concept.” His values, I’m happy to say, are very aligned with ours. “At the end,” Luis says, “every customer wants quality and sustainability. Nobody in the best of his or her mind will say, ‘I’m against that.’ The problem is how to put the two together. They are one. At least, they should be one.” From the outside looking in, they are one at Daterra. Luis shares that, “Sustainable agriculture was still quite unknown for Brazil at the time we started our coffee endeavors. How can one take something from the Earth without harming it? Simple: we borrow it, and then we give back. It is not only about producing the best coffee of the world. It is about producing coffee for a better world.” 

My passion for what they’re doing at Daterra is, in many ways, a hearkening back to one of those obscure subsets of history that I love—the utopian socialist movement of the 19th century in Europe. They’re creating a positive, quality-oriented, environmentally responsible, cooperative and caring community of the sort that the utopian socialists imagined. And they’re doing it in an industry—coffee—that’s not generally known for those sorts of things. Health care for their staff, a lot of work on ecological sustainability, exceptionally high-quality coffee, all coming together in one great cup! 

It’s in a lot of great cups! We’ve been working with Luis and the staff at Daterra ever since we started Zingerman’s Coffee Company 16 years ago. Come by and try their coffees—our Espresso Blend #1, Brazil Peaberry, Brazil Sweet Yellow are all on hand regularly. Test them in various brew methods—you can play Big Brew Board Bingo in the process. (Sneak preview—we have a very small amount of coffee from a single special grove that the Daterra folks have planted specifically for us. Hopefully, later this fall, we’ll have a limited quantity of that crazy good coffee!)

Learn about the story behind the estate, the coffee that is grown there, and why Daterra is one of the most innovative coffee producers in the world. By the end of the event, you’ll have tasted some terrific coffees, learned a lot, and, most likely, you’ll understand why we feel so honored to be able to roast and serve the coffee of Luis Pascoal’s exceptional project. 
Save your seat on Sept 22!
Melon and Tomato Salad

Tammie’s Terrific Melon & Tomato Salad

Howell melon and heirloom tomatoes make a great seasonal salad 


My partner Tammie and I eat a bit like Spaniards. By the time I get home from work and she gets home from Tamchop Farm, it’s often around 9:30 or 10:00 at night. First, we cook dinner for our dogs, then dinner for ourselves. Which means that we’re on about the same schedule for supper as someone from Madrid might be—11 pm has become a common time for us to sit down to dinner! 

The other evening when I got home, Tammie had already started cooking. She’d pulled a couple of great, fresh ingredients together that I’d brought back earlier that day from the Farmer’s Market and put them together in a way I’d never considered. She started with the Howell melon I’d bought. If you’re not familiar with this sweet and tasty culinary curiosity, they’re terrific. (You can read more about in this great piece in Edible WOW). There are three or four farmers at the market who sell them—basically, they look like a small cantaloupe with a lot of “webbing” on the rind. The melons are remarkable—as memorable as the famous melons of Cavaillon in southern France! 

Tammie cut the Howell cantaloupe into bite-sized pieces along with some Moldovan Greens she grows. Any of the good ripe heirloom tomatoes you can still find at the market will work, too. She then cut up a few of the incredible Habanada peppers she’s growing—they’re essentially habaneros without any heat—incredibly fruity, and super tasty. The seeds come from my friend Dan Barber, chef at Blue Hill in New York and author of the highly recommended The Third Plate. You can try the salad with any hot fresh chile you like—padrons have been excellent this year; jalapeños, etc. She drizzled some Italian chestnut honey over top. We both like its bittersweet succulence—a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the melon. A pinch of sea salt, and a little bit of the slightly sweet, slightly hot Korean red chile flakes. A drizzle of good olive oil, and it was ready to go. 

What a great treat that was. So much so that I figured I better write it up here so a few others can enjoy it while melons and tomatoes are still in season! The juices from the tomatoes and melons pooled on the plate. You can eat ’em with a spoon, or put some Paesano bread in there to soak them up. You could also add some toasted nuts (like those red walnuts above), or crumbled feta or goat cheese. Give it a try. It’s a wonderful way to mark the season and support local farmers as we move into the middle of September. 

Pick up your ingredients at the Deli!
Chef MyThy Huynh at Miss Kim

Don’t Miss MyThy in the Mitten 

Miss Kim Presents Guest Chef MyThy Huynh: A Mid-Autumn Moon Festival


On Monday evening, September 23, you could, I know, stay home and watch Monday Night Football (the Bears are playing the Redskins). You could also be at the Roadhouse where Joan Nathan will be cooking a pre-Rosh Hashanah harvest dinner. Or . . . you just might want to grab one of the limited seats at Miss Kim for a very special evening—Chef MyThy (pronounced "Mighty") Huynh is making her way back to Kerrytown to cook a mid-Autumn Moon Festival at Miss Kim!

Jewish, Chinese, and Korean cultures all rely on the lunar calendar. The Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the year, which is a full moon day. This year, it’s formally celebrated by the solar calendar, on September 13th. At Miss Kim, we’ll be honoring the festival the following week. The Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important traditional festival in China, second only to the Chinese Lunar New Year. Apart from the tradition of moon-gazing, it represents the reunion of families, which often come together to eat and catch up on work, family matters, and future plans. It’s also a time to give thanks—for being together and for the harvest. Eating mooncakes is an absolute must for Chinese and Vietnamese people around the world, as the round shape represents unity and togetherness.

But back to the dinner at hand! You might be wondering, who is MyThy Huynh? If you like food, history, culture, and creativity, she’s someone you want to meet! MyThy grew up in Southern California, works full time as an ER nurse, and a few years ago, started to bring her culinary and cultural backgrounds into action through cooking. She’s dynamic, she’s intelligent, she’s funny, she’s creative, and most importantly for the evening, she’s quite a cook! She paired up with Ji Hye last year to cook a terrific dinner, and now she’s coming back for another round! 

What’s on the menu? A whole range of wonderful traditional Chinese dishes adapted to our fall harvest here in southeast Michigan! “Typhoon” tomato Panzanella salad, Thai basil herb oil, black vinegar, crispy garlic, buffalo mozzarella; Pork and crab shumai, soy sauce, Masago; Roasted beer duck, steamed bao, Peking sauce, pickled cucumbers, scallions, pickled fermented Fresno chilis; Roasted broccoli with pine nuts and sesame sauce, fried Thai basil and shallots. And more!! 

Limited seats available for this special event!
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