California-Grown Dinner Recipes for All Seasons

California-Grown Dinner Recipes for All Seasons

California’s best fruits and nuts aren’t just for breakfast. Sponsored by CA GROWN.

Sponsored by CA GROWN.

When it comes to fruits and nuts, California really does feed the world. It’s the only state in the US to export foods like almonds, dates, pistachios, raisins and walnuts, and it also provides two-thirds of the fruits and nuts that Americans enjoy every year. You can thank the Golden State’s sunny Mediterranean climate for such a bounty.

But what to do with all those delicious pantry treats? Your mind might go immediately to breakfast staples like granola, sweet and nutty baked goods, and out-of-hand snacking — and those are great, easy ways to enjoy the heart-healthy benefits of these key pantry items. But California-grown prunes, raisins, dates, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are also at the heart of some truly amazing main dishes, often with an international flair.

Check out these recipes featuring California’s best fruits and nuts. They will take you from Europe to North Africa to India and beyond, all from the comfort of your own kitchen.

Chicken Marbella

What is it about Chicken Marbella, the beloved recipe made famous by the 1982 Silver Palate Cookbook? “More than anything, it’s the combination of deep purple prunes, briny capers, and meaty green olives that makes it so spectacular,” says Jenn Segal of Once Upon a Chef. In her version of the original, she is sure to get the overnight marinade — made of garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil, and bay leaves — under the chicken skin for maximum flavor. The succulent, sweet and savory chicken would go well with some simple couscous. 

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Speaking of couscous… Dried fruits and nuts figure prominently in Moroccan cuisine — and they really shine in this Moroccan lamb tagine recipe from the aptly named Delicious Magazine. Prunes simmer for three hours with diced lamb shoulder, chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, and exotic spices. Towards the end, you add chickpeas and lemon, and then it’s all topped off with a sprinkling of herbs, pistachios, and pomegranate seeds for brightness and some serious visual appeal.


Grilled Romaine Salad with Crimson Pear and Candied Walnuts

This salad is all about perfect balance: Flawlessly sweet pear slivers, toasty walnuts, and tangy blue cheese dressing are brought together by the touch of char on the grilled romaine. This one is worth firing up the grill for to make a late-summer or early-fall dinner. With crusty bread on the side and/or a little rotisserie chicken on top, the full, bright taste profile makes it satisfying enough for a stand-alone meal. If you've never grilled lettuce, prepare to be delighted — it's a fancy-restaurant technique that's easy to reproduce at home.


Persian Meatballs with Dried Cherries and Pistachios

You can use lamb, chicken, or turkey for these flavorful Persian meatballs. But whatever you do, don’t skimp on the warm spices, dried fruit, and nuts that make them so unique. In this recipe, from Kevin Is Cooking, the ground meat is combined with a unique mix of toasted and ground spices, chopped pistachios, dried cherries, fresh cilantro, breadcrumbs, and egg, then browned and served over rice with a delectable pan gravy.


Orecchiette with Buttermilk, Peas, and Pistachios

In this Bon Appétit recipe, inspired by a dish at Rolf and Daughters, a New American restaurant in Nashville, pistachios, mint, and buttermilk take a fairly straightforward springtime pantry pasta to the next level. The pistachios add a welcome crunch to the silky sauce, made tangy by buttermilk. If you have frozen peas in your freezer at all times — as one should — this one is a keeper that you can make year-round.


Cuban Picadillo

The New York Times calls picadillo “one of the great dishes of the Cuban diaspora.” And while each family recipe will differ slightly, there are some constants: ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes, raisins, olives. In this version, from María Del Mar Cuadra at Serious Eats, Worcestershire sauce and capers give the dish even more savory depth. Serve with white rice and black beans, to keep things traditional.

Broccoli Apple Salad

A classic! This broccoli apple salad recipe, from Cooking Classy, is a sweet and savory mix of raw broccoli, onions, walnuts, raisins, cranberries, and carrots that is full of crunch and flavor. Add chicken and bleu cheese for a summery meal unto itself, or serve it as-is and you have the perfect side for any Southern-style BBQ dinner.


Warm Kale Salad with Bacon, Dates, Almonds, Crispy Shallots and Parmesan

When I think of dates, my brain — or is it my taste buds? — go straight to one of my all-time favorite apps: bacon-wrapped dates. Here’s a way to get that same sweet-savory flavor in a much healthier main dish. Kristin of Iowa Girls Eats starts with heaps of kale; adds bacon, dates, caramelized shallots, almonds, and a sprinkling of shaved Parmesan; and then uses a maple-almond vinaigrette to bring it all together. “This salad is decadent but so worth it,” she says. Indeed!

Skillet Ground Turkey Curry with Spinach, Garbanzo Beans and Dates

The consensus on this recipe from In Wealth and Health is that it’s an easy, healthy, delicious crowd-pleaser. (Even a 1-year-old is a fan!). Ground turkey is seasoned with your favorite curry powder and turmeric, browned, then combined with garbanzo beans and spinach (just to wilt). What takes this healthy skillet dish to the next level is the fresh citrus and pitted dates, added at the very end, which make the dish not just savory but bright and unexpectedly sweet. 


Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani

From Swati’s Kitchen, this is an authentically complex recipe for chicken biryani that is well worth the work (and additions to your pantry). Swati’s version includes one delicious extra step — fried almonds. First you soak the almonds and remove their skin, then you deep fry them for another layer of savory texture in addition to the marinated chicken, fried onions, basmati rice, and fresh herbs.

 

Life-Changing 30 Minute Masala Sauce

Yes, life-changing is quite a descriptor. But in this case, it’s apt. This spice paste recipe from Pinch of Yum is built from raw, whole almonds puréed in the food processor along with garlic, ginger, onions, and an array of fragrant Indian spices. Just add tomato purée, coconut milk, and your protein or veggies of choice, and dinner really is ready in 30.  


Hearty Vegan Chili

Walnuts provide that meaty something-something in this hearty vegan chili, which also includes black and kidney beans. “Between the meaty walnuts and the umami from the soy sauce and tomato paste, I promise you won’t miss the meat in this recipe,” says Liz Thomson of I Heart Vegetables

Avocado Pesto

If you think pesto begins and ends with Parm and pine nuts, think again! This vegan recipe from Eating Well uses basil, of course, but adds avocado for its silky consistency as well as walnuts, which helps keep things both rich and dairy-free. Bonus: the pesto recipe is endlessly flexible. One reviewer added nutritional yeast for an extra “cheesy” element, while others have added fresh spinach or used zucchini noodles (with chicken, for non-vegans).

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