While walnuts are available year-round, they’re actually harvested in autumn, with this year’s crop just beginning to hit shelves and the bowls of nutcracker-wielding fans. The nut, a powerhouse of omega-3 fatty acids and other good stuff, gets top billing in this vegan-soup recipe from Gwynnett St. chef Justin Hilbert.
Justin Hilbert’s Walnut Soup
1 pound walnuts, chopped
1 medium white onion
5 celery stalks, leaves attached
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 1/2 tbs. for sunchokes
1 cup cold water
3 Bartlett pears
1 quart soy milk, plus extra for consistency
Sea salt to taste
1/4 pound sunchokes
4 pickled walnuts (available at Myers of Keswick)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium pot, cover the walnut pieces with cold water and bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and spread walnuts over a sheet tray, toasting in oven to a golden brown (approximately 10 minutes). Dice the onion and the celery, reserving celery leaves for garnish. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil to a soup pot, and cook celery and onions over a low flame until soft (approximately 20 minutes). Add the toasted walnuts and the cold water, then boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat, and simmer until walnuts are soft (approximately 40 minutes). Remove from heat, and let cool. (1) Dice pears, reserving 1 for garnish, and add the other 2 to a blender with the walnut mixture (blend in batches if necessary). (2) Blend until smooth, slowly adding the soy milk. Season with sea salt. (3) Strain contents of blender into a bowl, discarding pulp, and let chill over an ice bath. For garnish: Cut the sunchokes into bite-size rounds and toss with 1½ tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast sunchokes at 400 degrees until golden brown and tender (about 10 minutes). Mince celery leaves and pickled walnuts and reserve. To serve: Warm soup, adding soy milk and salt if needed. Froth with a hand blender if desired, and garnish with warm roasted sunchokes, the remaining diced pear, pickled walnuts, and celery leaves. Serves 4.