It's nutty, it's toasty, it's salty, its garlicy. It's completely and utterly addicting.
I was first introduced to this walnut spread last winter by Camille, my friend and fellow food enthusiast. It was one of the many nights when both of our Matthews were on call at the hospital, and rather than each spend the evening alone, she and I had gotten into the practice of spending it cooking together. Those evenings were often our little forum for trying out new recipes. Around that time Camille had become experimental with bread baking. She was regularly producing fantastic, rustic, and hearty loaves.
That night, as our dinner baked away in the oven, she presented her most recent loaf: a large and beautiful round boule with picture-perfect cracks spread out from the center of its crunchy outer crust; the interior of which was light, spongy, and as soft as butter. She put it on the table with a big bread knife, a small butter knife, and a curious brown topping in a small plastic container. I hesitated. "It's walnut spread," she explained. "My grandma used to call it walnut pate. It's kind of addicting."
Clearly, Camille's kitchen talents are genetic: her grandma Wicks was a lifelong cook who taught high school home economics and had her own cooking-class business. She even authored a food processor cookbook that Camille uses regularly, which was sold at Sears when the food processor first came out in the 70s. Pretty neat, huh?
Anyway, I can't say that she didn't give me fair warning. Even though the bread-making phase has come and gone , this walnut spread is definitely here to stay, and I'm so glad that it was passed on to me, too. I am fairly certain that Camille had to coax the tub of walnut pate from my loving hands so that we could finally sit down to our actual meal. I was, and still am, in love at first bite.
Since Camille is hosting our book club's potluck dinner tonight, it occured to me to whip up a batch of her walnut spread last night. I was suddenly struck by a craving for this nutty and intensely flavorful treat, and since it's ready in a matter of minutes, that craving was satisfied fast. Although it's wonderful eaten on baguette, in sandwiches, or with crackers, I tossed half of my batch with pasta and vegetables to create last night's dinner of capunti with a creamy walnut sauce. I'll post that recipe tomorrow, but it was fantastic!
Grandma Wicks's walnut spread is versatile and delicious. Its uses are endless, but only if you are able to keep keep the batch around for long enough to find them all!
Grandma's Walnut Pate: In a food processor or blender, process 2 cloves of garlic with 1 T. salt, then add about 1 to 2 cups of walnuts (I like to lightly toast them first to bring out their flavors). Pulse a few times to incorporate, then turn the blender back on and slowly pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into the top until it forms a thick, chunky walnut spread. Adjust walnut and or garlic to taste.