Hazelnuts have a distinctly delicious flavor that you can probably recall if you've ever stuck your fingers into a jar of Nutella. The small, round nuts are low in saturated fats and high in fiber and potassium. And they are a surprising way to add pizzazz to a variety of dishes, not just sweets. Most hazelnuts are sold with the peel still on, but the best way to eat them in almost any iteration is with the skins removed — and roasted. Regular hazelnuts are fine; roasted hazelnuts are a revelation. There are two ways to roast the nuts most effectively. The first: Add hazelnuts with the skin on to a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until skins have started to brown and are loosening from the nut. Remove pan from heat and transfer nuts to a paper-towel-lined plate. (To remove skins, top with another paper towel and gently rub the hazelnuts until skin flakes off.) Alternatively, place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and cook in a 350-degree oven for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove skins. Then, use your naked, roasted hazelnuts in one of the following five recipes.
Michelle Stark, Times food editor
Lemon Herbed Quinoa With Toasted Hazelnuts
This quinoa dish is able to be served warm or cold. Start by toasting ½ cup raw hazelnuts using the dry skillet method, then remove skin. Give them a rough chop and set aside. To a large bowl, add 2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, ¼ cup chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons each chives, dill and oregano. Add hazelnuts and stir. Now, make a dressing for the salad. In a small bowl, whisk together the juice of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Pour dressing over the top and mix to combine. Recipe adapted from simplyquinoa.com.
Hazelnut Honey Cookies
Save this recipe for the holidays, and consider adding chocolate for even more decadence. Start by mixing 1 cup of unsalted butter with ½ cup dark brown sugar. Whisk in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add 2 eggs, one at a time, and mix after each one. Then add ¼ cup honey and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix again. Now, grind ½ cup of skinless hazelnuts (a food processor works best for this) until they are very fine, almost like flour. Add that, along with ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda and ¼ teaspoon salt to the wet mixture and mix well. Add 3 cups oats and more hazelnuts, this time ½ cup of them coarsely chopped. Scoop batter in heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet and bake for roughly 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Recipe adapted from willcookforsmiles.com.
Hazelnut Date Bars
These granola bars use hazelnuts and another nut butter for a rich flavor. They're no-bake bars, so they come together quickly. Soak 8 pitted medjool dates in a bowl with warm water for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mix 2 cups rolled oats, ¾ cup toasted and skinless hazelnuts, ¼ cup cacao nibs and ½ cup dehydrated banana slices in a large bowl. Drain the dates well, then put them in a food processor along with ¼ cup roasted almond or peanut butter and ¼ cup rice malt syrup. Mix until smooth, then pour over the dry ingredients in the bowl. Mix thoroughly until thick and dense, then pour mixture into a rectangular or square pan. Press down firmly to flatten, then sprinkle 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips on top. Place the pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes so mix can set, then cut immediately into bars or squares. Recipe adapted from cocooncooks.com.
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Start with about 8 ounces of cooked whole wheat penne. Roughly chop 3 ounces roasted, skinless hazelnuts. Then smash 3 cloves garlic with the side of a large knife, then mince very well to form a paste. Chop 2 small dried chili peppers (removing the seeds first) and the leaves from about 3 stems of flat-leaf parsley. Next, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium pan and add the garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, then transfer garlic to a small bowl and set aside. Add chili peppers to the pan, cook for 3 minutes, then add parsley. Grate 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the pan, then add 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano cheese as well. Add 2 tablespoons water, along with the cooked pasta. Stir lightly, then add the hazelnuts and garlic and toss again to coat evenly. Salt as needed, then serve with a drizzle of olive oil. Recipe adapted from the Washington Post.
Apple Salad With Gruyere and Hazelnuts
I recently had an "apple salad" at Edison in Tampa that was more apple than any form of greenery, and it was a refreshing part of the meal. This salad has a similar vibe, and is ideal for this time of year, when most varieties of apples are in season. You can use whichever type you'd like, though your Granny Smiths and your Galas are going to be best for the crunch they provide. To make, juice 1 lemon into a bowl. Thinly slice 2 large Granny Smith apples, placing them in the bowl of lemon juice as you go. Then add the following to the bowl and toss: 1 stalk thinly sliced celery, 2 ounces Gruyere cheese cut into cubes, ½ cup roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts, 2 teaspoons minced chives and ½ cup baby arugula. Top with 2 tablespoons good olive oil and mix until ingredients are coated. Recipe adapted from thegourmetgourmand.com.