April 10, 2010

Walnut date confections | black onion seeds

Several days ago I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Chow Vegan, and was taken with the almond-date bars described there. These confections appear with regular frequency on blogs, and it wasn't the recipe per se that sent me running to the kitchen — it was the photo. I wanted to eat it. Of course, that was impractical, so I was forced to actually make the treats. Chow Vegan's (inspired by a recipe on dreaminitvegan) alluring version was made with chopped almonds, dates, coconut and vanilla, shaped into almond-topped bars, and drizzled seductively with melted chocolate. They were quite fetching.

I often used to make stuff like this back in the olden days when I was first learning about whole foods and vegetarianism. I remember having a favorite recipe called bliss balls, which if I'm not mistaken, probably contained non-instant dry milk, the nutritional darling of the moment. I was under the impression that adding milk powder to just about anything boosted its nutritional value. My opinion about milk has changed since then, but combining ground nuts, dried fruit and coconut into chewy sweetmeats is just as delicious as ever, and I love seeing the latest versions on blogs.

I followed Chow Vegan's recipe, except I used walnuts instead of almonds because the only almonds I could find in the pantry were salted, and that was unappealing. I had some raw walnuts (1/2 cup) that I combined in the food processor with soft pitted dates (1/2 cup), unsweetened shredded coconut (1/4 cup) and vanilla (1 teaspoon). Since I wanted to offer these treats to my 2-year-old granddaughter, and her mom prefers that she not eat chocolate, I rolled my treats in coconut. They looked and tasted yummy — to me. Miss E would have none of it. She acted as if I were offering her slimy toads to eat, and refused to try even a morsel. Ah well.


Kalonji - black onion seeds - nigella sativa

I was the lucky recipient of a bag of black onion seeds sent to me by River, The Crafty Kook, after I read her blog post about Indian food. They are tiny black seeds about the size of sesame seeds that grow on an annual flowering plant (nigella sativa) native to southwest Asia, and are used as a spice. The seeds are used as part of the spice mixture panch puran, and by themselves in many Bengali recipes, especially in Naan Bread. According to Wikipedia, "Nigella sativa has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, in Asia, Middle East, and Africa. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, as analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, antioxidants, anticancer, antiviral and for general well-being."

I didn't attempt to cure anyone of anything but hunger when I took some no-knead bread dough from the refrigerator, rolled it into a flatbread, dusted it with seeds, and baked it on a cast iron griddle on the stove. Delicious and very pretty!


I recently received the following email:

Hi Andrea,
I just published an article on my site, “100 Blogs Leading the Food Revolution.” First, I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in the article and if you have any questions about that article, how your site is described, etc. I wanted to let you know that you should feel free to email me. In addition, I thought I would bring it to your attention in case you think your readers might find it interesting and consequently would consider giving the article a mention on your site.
In any case, thanks for your time!

Jeanne Peterson
Take a look at the article — you may discover a new blog or two to follow. I'm honored to be included.


  1. I know nigella seeds for a long time as in France we use them to flavor and decorate some kinds of bread (more often North African breads). I also used the oil as a cosmetic basis when I was a teenager with a greasy skin. But I didn't know these seeds were the black onion ones. Thanks for the information.

  2. Ooh, flatbread! That looks delicious. What do the black onion seeds taste like? I know they're not really *onion* seeds but many of my Indian recipes call for them and I haven't been able to find them locally, so I'm very curious...

  3. Virginie,
    I wasn't familiar with these seeds at all but they are known by many names — I've only mentioned two.

    They gave the bread a delicious taste but it's hard to describe the flavor. They don't taste like onion, which for some reason I thought they would. I'll do some taste comparisons with other spices, and if I come up with anything I'll let you know.

  4. Congrats on being on that list, Andrea!

    Those confections look awesome! I really like how easy they are to put together and I bet they were delicious.

    Oh, kalonji, how I love thee. Seriously, I sprinkle that stuff onto and into everything.

  5. Those balls look good, even without the chocolate you deprived yourself of! I must try them very soon. (Hmmm.... Melted choc or coconut? Maybe both...)
    Congratulations on your blog being mentioned in the article! (But I always knew you were great!)

  6. Mihl,
    They were really easy and really sweet.

    I, too, am growing very fond of kalonji. :)

    I think they looked even better with the chocolate but I sacrificed for my ungrateful granddaughter. (I still think she's pretty great!)
    About the article - I feel a little embarrassed about it — so many more deserving blogs, but thanks for the mention.

  7. what an interesting spice! when i first saw "nigella" i thought of the gorgeous love-in-a-mist flower, but that's nigella damascena, not sativa. i wonder if sativa would grow well here.

    and congratulations on the article mention--that site does look like a good resource for finding other blogs, i'll have to check it out more thorougly sometime.

  8. Your looks great! Love the coconut on the outside. I thought about trying it with walnuts too. Good to know it came out yummy. :-)

    I'm not familiar with black onion seed but they sure do look beautiful on your flatbread.

    Congrats on your blog mention in the article!

  9. I live for kalonji black onion seeds! You'll find they are included in all of my Indian recipes, they are essential. They really are that something special that is so hard to identify in all good Indian cuisine, they give off such an earthy, woodsy aroma and have the most subtle taste. I LOVE them!

  10. Emily,
    I'll be reading your blog and watching for photos of your nigella sativa plants! :)

    Chow vegan,
    I had to grind the walnuts very fine because of my "no nuts in things" eating issues, so the balls were very smooth, not crunchy, but I thought they were delicious.

    I hope I find a source for kalonji soon because my supply is going down fast! They do add a "certain something" to food, I agree.

  11. Congrats on being included in the 100 blogs article! I remember the days of powdered milk. . . ugh. But those coconut balls look great (even if E wouldn't eat them!). I'm sure I must have tried onion seeds somewhere along the line at an Indian restaurant, but have certainly never used them. Do they taste like onion?

  12. Mmmmm... slimy toads! Hee hee, that's hilarious! They are so pretty though, I'm surprised she wouldn't even try one.

    I'm glad you're enjoying the black onion seeds, I really miss mine and as soon as we go back home (in a few weeks) I will make more naan.

    Congrats on being mentioned on that great article! There are lots of blogs there that I hadn't heard of before, so I'm going to go browse around...

  13. Wow--Congrats, Andrea! How cool is that to be on the list?! I have had a crazy past few weeks, but I am excited to catch up on all your posts...so many to read. Yay!


  14. Congrats!

    Those balls look fantastic. And that bread...! YUM!

  15. Ricki,
    Funny you should ask if the seeds taste like onion. I was wondering that, too, and was kind of hoping they did. But no, they get called black onion seeds because apparently that's what they resemble. I was told by the owner of an Indian restaurant that they show up in South Indian cooking rather than North.

    I was surprised — and disappointed — but I'll try again next time I have some dates. Maybe she'd like black onion seeds better. :)

    Thank you! It's nice to see you back again. I've missed hearing from you.

    Thanks. They were both so easy to make, and I love stuff that's easy and tastes great!


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