pretzel bites.

pretzel bites.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

dry walnut cookies (are better than they sound)

you know what's the worst? walnuts. walnuts are the worst. it seems to me they exist largely to destroy chocolate desserts. who in their right mind would want to ruin an otherwise lovely brownie with walnuts? or a chocolate chip cookie? think you're about to take a bite of the best cookie ever? BAM. walnut. ruining everything with its... walnutiness.

here is my rating of raw nuts:
brazil nut
all the other nuts i can't think of

no one just walks around eating walnuts because GAH. that would be like walking around eating bitter, expensive sticks..

some people even go so far as to put walnuts in salads. let's not talk about those people.

here is a good life rule: avoid walnuts.
1. fesenjan.
2. my mom's dry walnut cookies. 

i know, the name alone makes them sound like sad, sad things that don't warrant the name "cookie." but trust me. they do. my mom used to make them to give as holiday gifts to people she liked but wasn't friends with. mr. kim, the dry cleaner, mr. patel, the package store guy, all the vet techs, etc. and i never understood why she would go to such trouble to make so many cookies that didn't have chocolate. 
and then something happened. i don't know what. but i started loving these dry walnut cookies. i started gobbling them up one after the other after the other as if they were chewy chocolate chip cookies. i ate them straight from the freezer (where my mom kept them) when i was home to visit. who says people never change?

when my mom died, there was a bag of these cookies in the freezer. and oof, they were like the most valuable cookies of all time. my mom made them with her very own hands. 

last year some time joey started making the dry walnut cookies a lot. it was maybe the first thing he ever successfully baked. (but not the last--he makes bread now!) and he used to text me or call me when he made them. and around thanksgiving, when he was home for a long weekend, he made a few batches for everyone and they were just perfect. so i decided to make them, too. this week was the third anniversary of my mom's death, and i was looking for ways to recognize it, to ritualize it because this year her yahrzeit isn't until july.
that morning i dressed in a flowing, flowery dress of hers that she wore throughout my childhood. it felt so wonderful to be draped in it, to be wrapped in her, and i took nava to her grave and we sat for a while feeling peaceful and grateful for the bountiful blessings my mom gave me, gave us. and then later, after school pick up and work and errands and dinner and bath, the kids finally went to bed and i was alone. i toasted and then ground walnuts, measured flour and salt, oil and lemon juice. i texted with joey all the while to ask for advice. it felt so, so good and right. and i thought hey, look at me, i'm doing so well. i'm not a weeping mess--i'm honoring my mom by living this beautiful, busy, happy life. la di da. and then i proceeded to have a very bad week. a Very Bad Week. the kind of week that makes me just wish i could call my mom and say come over and rescue me! these kids are driving me nuts! or at least call her and have her tell me nani, you're not messing everything up. you're doing fine. better than fine, you're doing great. she would have. she would have made everything okay. and of course wanting that of course added to the feelings that made it a Very Bad Week. and so it goes.
the salve to all of this is knowing there's a little taste of my mom just a room away in my freezer. it's no small thing. and the leftover walnuts? they'll sit around forever. or at least until i run out of these cookies...

this is the recipe joey had. i amended it slightly and got more info by texting joey throughout.

350 degrees
3 extra large eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp lemon juice (one lemon)
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup toasted walnuts, ground

here's what i did.

3 extra large eggs
2/3 canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
juice of one lemon
3/4 cup sugar
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup toasted walnuts, ground
cinnamon and sugar, optional

1. preheat oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet or put parchment on it
2. toast walnuts in heated oven in a single layer on a cookie sheet. this should take between 5-10 minutes. don't let them get too brown. when they're cool grind them in a food processor until they're mostly ground with at least a few chunky pieces.
3. mix the eggs, canola oil, vanilla, and lemon juice in a large bowl.
4. add the sugar, flour, salt, baking powder, and walnuts to the wet mixture and stir until everything is combined.
5. form the dough, which will feel quite wet, into two or three oval logs on the cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until they start browning and the center is mostly cooked through.
6. remove the cookies from the oven and carefully slice them into one inch pieces while trying not to burn yourself. spread the cookies on the cookie sheet on their sides in one layer and return to oven.
7. bake for another 20 minutes or until cookies are darker shade of brown. depending on your oven and the size of your cookies you might have to rotate them while they're baking, or flip them over, or even remove the ones that bake fastest. it'll be worth it.
8. sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on them while they're hot. i did this because i always sprinkle cinnamon and sugar when it's suggested. joey likes them without it.
9. let them cool and enjoy. store in the fridge or freezer.


  1. I've missed your writing and your recipes Nani, they are both so beautiful. What a wonderful, wonderful way to honor your mom.

  2. This is a really honest and beautiful and tribute. Thanks for sharing.

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