Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Adar II 5760 - April 5, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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What's Cooking?

by Rivka Tal

"With nuts we shall play,

Pesach is on its way,

Odd or even, what's your guess?

If you're right, you keep the rest."

This ditty, more or less, in Hebrew, reappears every year at Pesach time, reminding us of the connection between Pesach and walnuts. Huge sacks of walnuts can be seen for sale in every Kosher l'Pesach outlet. Childen of all ages vie for the nutcracker. Used as rewards for contributions to the seder; for games, as in the above song; ground for use in place of flour for Pesachdik baking, crushed into oil for everyday use: where would Pesach be without walnuts, egozei melech, the King of nuts, as they are called in Hebrew?

Walnuts have been recognized as one of the oldest tree foods known to man. The walnut tree is found wild and cultivated from China to Europe and North America in temperate zones throughout the world.

The two most popular varieties are the English (also called Persian) and the black walnut.

The term "English" refers to the English merchant marines whose ships once transported the product for trade to ports around the world. Historians prefer the name "Persian" walnuts, referring to Persia, possibly the birthplace of the walnut.

Walnuts were first brought to California from Spain or Mexico. The first commercial planting in the United States began in 1867, when Joseph Sexton, an orchardist and nurseryman in the Santa Barbara County town of Goleta, planted English walnuts. For several years, walnuts were predominantly planted in the the southern areas of California, accounting for 65% of all bearing acreage. Some 70 years after Sexton's first planting, the center of California walnut production moved northward to the Stockton area in one of the most dramatic horticultural moves in history. Better growing areas, improved irrigration, and better pest control methods in the north resulted in greater yields which gradually increase each year.

Today California produces 98% of the total U.S. commerical crop, accounting for two thirds of the world's trade.

Botanists believe that walnuts from the regia species were grown in Lebanon as well as Persia thousands of years ago and in some parts of Gilad. Even today, walnut trees that appear to be quite aged can be found in Israel, primarily in the higher elevations and near water sources.

The English walnut is a massive tree, often reaching 100 feet high, spreading its branches from trunks that can be six feet thick on older trees.

English walnuts are the most widely available and come in many varieties, some with moderately thick shells, others with thinner shells. Walnuts are available all year round.

Walnuts in the shell should be free of cracks or holes. Shelled walnuts should be plump and crisp. Walnuts in the shell can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 3 months. Shelled nutmeats should be refrigerated, tightly covered, up to 6 months. They may be frozen for up to a year. Walnuts are delicious in a variety of sweet and savory dishes and baked goods.

Walnut oil is often available with good supervision on Pesach. It has a distinctive nutty flavor and fragrance. Store in a cool, dark place for up to three months. Refrigeration is best to prevent rancidity. It can be used in salad dressings, sauces, main dishes and baked goods and for frying.



3 egg whites

pinch of salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup good quality Dutch cocoa

1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place egg whites and salt in large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric beater or by hand with a wire whisk until they form soft peaks. Gradually add sugar so the peaks stiffen.

2. Sift cocoa over peaks and fold in with walnuts. Spoon mounds about 1" in diameter and about 1 " apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until dry to the touch. Let cool completely before removing from baking sheet. Store in air- tight container.



1 cup walnuts

7 eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar, divided

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon water

1/2 cup potato starch

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup cake meal

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup honey


1. Heat oven to 300 F. Toast walnuts in flat pan in oven for 6 minutes; cool completely. Line bottom of ungreased 10 inch tube pan with parchment paper. Coarsely chop walnuts. Sprinkle evenly in prepared pan.

2. Beat egg yolks in large bowl until lemon-colored. Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar. Stir in orange juice and water. Combine potato starch, cocoa, cake meal and salt; fold in yolk mixture. Mixture will be stiff.

3. Beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Gradually fold egg white mixture into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared pan.

4. Bake 30 minutes. Without opening oven door, increase oven temperature to 325 F. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly. Remove from oven. Cool in pan on wire rack for ten minutes.

5. Remove from pan; invert so walnuts are on top. Carefully remove parchment paper. Spread softened honey over top of cake.

Makes 12 to 16 servings.

With thanks to the Walnut Marketing Board of the California Walnut Commission for some of the information in this article.


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