Long before Michael Pollan implored us to cook more, my mom spent hours in the kitchen, preparing us dinner from scratch every night. Before Eric Schlosser told us there is shit in the meat, my mom forbade us from eating fast food hamburgers, simply because of a vague sense that "you don't know what's in them." Often she'd go back to recipes she learned from her own mom and mother-in-law, conjuring up their memory in the way she chopped onions, or their tips for gauging the temperature of a pot of boiling rice (Stick your finger on the inside wall of the the pot. If it sizzles, it's done). She would send us to school with a whole tomato in our lunch bag as a snack. She was always trying to get us to eat fruit, more fruit, more fruit. And we would roll our eyes, shoot her some attitude, and eat tortilla chips.
My mom is an Iranian woman, and as such, has an innate sense about food. I think that people from a lot of countries have this, but it's kind of lost its way in the US. She never ever wastes, she balances flavor with wholesomeness. She's impermeable to commercial food conglomerates who insist their packaged products will enhance her life. She cooks with real ingredients.
She tried with every ounce of effort she had to imbue my sister and me with this intuition, but the pull of packaged foods, school lunches, friends with cabinets full of candy bars, were all too much. And now, as an adult in Los Angeles, with its overabundance of strange and wonderful foods everywhere, it'd be positively dismissive of me to reign it in. At late night Ktown haunts, I've eaten things that literally slithered off the plate, I can't not try bone marrow waffles, I've enhanced my world through dumplings that burst with soupy broth as you bite into their delicate skin, I pile vinegary curtido on my greasy, heavy pupusas like a pro, and get a little choked up when I think about my first encounter with birria. When confronted with such an embarrassment of culinary riches as this city is, it's hard to maintain the unwavering dietary compass that my mom tried so hard to instill.
So this recipe is a Violet Sassooni classic, in that it covers all the bases, without ever trying: it's a totally delicious ethnic snack and a summer refresher, but it also happens to be low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, high in protein, raw, and vegan. Plus it's only got two ingredients, and one is water.
Soaking walnuts in the refrigerator for a day or more does a few things. As they soak, they give off much of their brown color, and with it goes their bitter edge. You end up with a beautifully pale rendition of the nut with a much lighter, almost porous crispness, which, served over ice cubes, satisfies and refreshes on a hot day. They're a great snack on their own with a little salt to dip each piece in, and you can even add them to a salad, but they are best as part of a breakfast meal of fresh flatbread, feta cheese, and sweet cantaloupe.
|with flaky salt|
Note: This recipe is extremely simple, but it uses a lot of water. At least in California, we're in a historically severe drought. You can definitely use the water you use to soak the walnuts to water plants.
Also note: The water that comes off the walnuts gives a dingy brown stain to everything it comes into contact with, especially porcelain sinks. You can scrub or bleach it out, but just be aware. Your best bet is to drain the liquid into a pitcher, and then directly use it to water plants.
One more note: Use the best walnuts you can here, as they're the star of the show. Your best bets for highest quality/cost ratio are Middle Eastern stores, Trader Joe's, or bulk bins.
Raw walnut halves
Place walnut halves in a bowl, and top with water to cover. Chill in refrigerator. The first day, change the water every few hours, up to three or four times. Let them continue to soak overnight. At this point, they are ready to eat.
For a single serving, grab a handful, shake off any excess water, and place on a plate with a small mound of salt. Dip each walnut in salt before eating.
For a crowd, drain off liquid and place walnuts in a serving bowl with several ice cubes.
Any remaining walnuts should be stored in water in the fridge. Change the water every day or so. Walnuts will stay fresh and good this way for a week or more.
|after overnight soak|
|sometimes the water freezes in the fridge into cool crystalline formations|