When it comes to food and cooking, fall and winter are definitely my favorite seasons. One of my all time favorite treats to enjoy during this time of year include chestnuts. Chestnuts are the symbolic fruit of autumn, and in addition to being delicious, they also have many beneficial properties.
The chestnut is a very common tree in central and southern Europe. It tolerates low temperatures well, and is only damaged by very intense cold. Fruits need time to ripen, and a little rain. Chestnuts are enclosed in a very prickly shell, and protected by a brown peel, can thus be harvested in late September, October and November. Grocery store chestnuts have obviously had their outer prikcly shell removed.
In Italy there are about a hundred varieties of chestnuts. The caloric value of chestnuts is high, (isn’t it so for everything that’s delicous?) 100g of chestnuts contain 193 calories. However, this caloric intake tends to drop if the chestnuts are boiled: 100 grams of boiled chestnuts contain about 120 kcal. Chestnuts are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vegetable proteins and mineral salts. They offer an excellent supply of B vitamins and, of course, do not contain cholesterol. Their nutritional profile makes them the perfect health ally, and places them right on my November shopping list, especially for my Thanksgiving dinner table.
Among the recognized benefits of chestnuts, they contribute to gut health, circulation and the nervous system. Their energy boost makes them excellent for fighting stress and fatigue. The good iron content makes chestnuts a valid food to combat anemia. The folic acid contained in these fruits is also excellent for pregnant women. While it’s acceptable to eat them raw, they are heavy on the stomach, so it’s best to always eat them cooked. We are used to “roasted chestnuts,” but chestnuts can actually be prepared in a few different ways.
In the oven: The procedure is very easy and also quite fast. With a paring knife, gently mark each chestnut with an X, cutting through the skin. Place the branded chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast them at 350 ° C for about 30 minutes, shaking the pan several times so they roast evenly. When finished, close the chestnuts in a paper bag or wrap them in a damp cloth and let them rest for five minutes, the steam will soften the skin and it will be easier to peel them.
Boiled chestnuts are a great way to avoid the smoky notes of roasting. In addition, the boiled fruit can become the basis for a delicious dessert: just add mascarpone cream or whipped cream to the chestnut puree. After washing and cutting the fruits, boil some water adding a little coarse salt and, to taste, other aromas such as bay leaves. Dip the chestnuts and boil them. For every pound of fruit, it will take you 45 minutes.
Preparing chestnuts in the microwave is also an option. After cleaning and cutting the fruits, soak them in water for 10 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and arrange them on the microwave plate. Cook at 800W for 5 minutes. Once cooked, also put them in a paper bag to make peeling easier.
If you do not want to use a classic or microwave oven, or to wait the necessary time for boiling, cook the chestnuts in a pan. But remember that you will need the special saucepan with holes to prepare them perfectly. Proceed with cleaning and engraving the fruit. After that, cook the chestnuts in a pan over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Turn them often to ensure even cooking. After cooking, wrap everything in a damp cloth to facilitate peeling.
Now time to go and prepare some chestnuts!
What to Pack for Italy
Cosa Mettere in Valigia per l'Italia
Everyone is always asking me what they should pack for Italy,
so I’ve created a quick reference guide that you can use for your next trip.
Hint: You don’t need nearly as much as you think you do!