- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nuts often get a bad rap because of their high fat content. But the fat in most nuts is the healthy unsaturated variety.

It doesn’t mean you should eat nuts with abandon, but it does mean you should feel no guilt about working them into a healthy diet.

The trick is moderation. Because nuts are so rich, moderation can be easy. All that rich flavor means it doesn’t take much to feel satisfied. Whether you prefer to incorporate them into a dish, sprinkle them onto a salad or snack on them by the handful, they make a great choice for healthy eating.

Nuts generally have a deeper flavor when toasted. To toast raw nuts, place them on a dry baking sheet and roast for 10 to 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Keep a close eye on them because they go from toasted to burned very quickly.

The freezer is the best place to store nuts (same goes for seeds). All their healthy oils put them at risk for going rancid. Place them in a zip-close plastic bag and squeeze out the air before freezing. Always give your nuts a sniff and a taste before putting them into your dish. If they have any sourness or bitterness, don’t use them.

We’ve chosen to showcase walnuts in this recipe for a composed salad made from roasted tomatoes (the roasting brings out their sweetness) and creamy, herbed ricotta cheese. For a great dinner, serve this alongside a piece of crusty multigrain bread with some greens and a grilled chicken breast.

ROASTED TOMATOES WITH HERBED RICOTTA AND WALNUTS

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 4

4 large tomatoes, halved and cored

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Spray the rack with cooking spray.

Arrange the tomatoes on the rack, cut sides up. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the salt, sugar and white pepper. Roast for 1 hour. Flip over the tomatoes and roast for another hour, or until the tomatoes are soft, wrinkly and have shrunken considerably in size.

While the tomatoes are roasting, stir together in a medium bowl the ricotta, basil, thyme and oregano. Set aside to allow the flavors to meld.

Serve the herbed ricotta alongside the roasted tomato halves. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar, if using.


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