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You say PEE-can, I say pa-KAWN, or so the saying goes. However, a new national survey finds PEE-can is the overwhelming choice among Americans.
Nearly half of all pecan consumers prefer this pronunciation of the all-American tree nut, with the rest of the nation roughly split between pa-KAWN and PEE-kawn.
With April being National Pecan Month, now is the perfect time for all of us to start taking advantage of the versatility of pecans and reaping the health benefits at the same time.
The pecan is the only major tree nut indigenous to the Americas. Its name comes from the Algonquin Indians. A member of the hickory family, it originated in the southern and central United States and Mexico and records indicate that Native Americans were utilizing it for food and cultivating it as early as the 1500s.
In one of his horticultural endeavors, Thomas Jefferson transplanted some pecan trees from the Mississippi Valley to his home in Monticello. At that time, he presented some of the trees to George Washington, who planted them on March 25, 1775, at his Mount Vernon home. Washington referred to pecans as “Mississippi nuts.”
Three of those original trees still thrive on the property at Mount Vernon.
Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals—including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, several B vitamins and zinc.
Pecans contain plant sterols, which are known for their cholesterol-lowering ability.
Pecans rank second in popularity among nuts in the U.S., with the number one spot devoted to peanuts.
PECAN CRUSTED SALMON
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Two 8-oz. salmon fillets
Salted butter as needed
Mix the chopped pecans with the garlic, paprika, salt and pepper. Melt some of the butter and brush it on each side of the salmon fillets. Coat both sides of the salmon fillets with the pecan mixture.
Heat about one tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat and saut salmon on each side until golden brown (for thicker fillets, you may need to finish them in the oven at 400 degrees until the fish reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees).
CHOCOLATE PECAN PIE
This recipe makes two pies, but it’s quite easy to cut in half for just one pie.
3 cups granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
7 Tbsps. unsweetened cocoa
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 can (12 oz.) evaporated milk
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups pecan halves
2 unbaked pie shells, deep dish
Mix sugar, salt and cocoa together. Whisk together the eggs, vanilla and milk; stir into the dry ingredients. Add melted butter and stir until well blended. Sprinkle one-cup pecan halves in each pie shell.
Pour equal amounts of filling over the pecans in each pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the filling is set and the center is just slightly jiggly. Makes 2 pies.
SPINACH SALAD WITH STRAWBERRIES AND PECANS
1 lb. (5 cups) fresh torn spinach
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 oz. Gouda cheese, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup toasted pecans
2 Tbsps. fresh limejuice
2 Tbsps. honey
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
Toss together spinach, strawberries, cheese and toasted pecans. Whisk together dressing; pour over spinach mixture and toss just before serving. Makes 6 servings.
OVEN-FRIED PECAN CHICKEN
1 cup flour
1-1/2 tsps. salt
2 tsps. paprika
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 fryer (3 to 4 pounds), cut up
1/2 cup milk or evaporated milk
1/4 cup melted butter
Combine flour, seasonings and pecans. Dip chicken pieces into milk; coat with pecan mixture. Place in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Pour melted butter over chicken; bake at 375 degrees for one-hour, or until tender. Makes four to six servings.
BROWN RICE WITH ONIONS AND PECANS
1 cup long-grain brown rice
3 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
2 Tbsps. chopped green onion tops
Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the onion and saut, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, pecans and green onion; saut over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden and the garlic is tender, about five minutes.
Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for five minutes. Spoon rice into a bowl; spoon the onions and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Garnish with the chopped green onion tops. Makes 4 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at email@example.com.