Did you know that the Macadamia tree is indigenous to Australia? I always associated them with Hawaii but it turns out they were not grown there until 1881 (I suppose when Big Nut was taking over the world). Did you also know that Macadamia trees were named by the director of Australia’s Royal Botanical Gardens, Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, to honor his friend and colleague, chemist Dr. John MacAdam. Ironically, MacAdam died onboard ship while en route to taste the nut that was named for him.* Pretty nutty, huh?
We seem to always have some macadamia nuts on hand. Not that we are huge fans of the nut, I just use them in a dish I make from time to time which calls very specifically for 14 macadamia nuts. The recipe is actually for grilled lamb chops served with “Green Goddess Mint Dipping Sauce.” The recipe comes from Dan Ackroyd of all people. Yes, that Dan Ackroyd of SNL, Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters fame. He shared it while he was a guest on Martha Stewart’s show and it is spot on. The lamb chops are great, but the Goddess Sauce with the fresh mint and cilantro makes it special. I made this on New Year’s Eve for Lola and it’s been a favorite of hers ever since. But I wasn’t going to make that today (although if Lola reads this, she will start to crave it, so it is likely going to be in ur near future). Because this is a holiday to honor the macadamia nut, I wanted to make it special and make something I have never made before.
I debated on making Macadamia Nut Cookies with White Chocolate Chips. Those are one of my favorite cookies and I feel you don’t get them that often. But while I was looking around for recipes, I came upon a creation from Alton Brown and I knew it was what I had to make. We would be celebrating today with some Chocolate Coconut Balls with Macadamia Nuts.
Without getting all braggadocios, let me say that my chocolate balls are almost famous in these parts. It’s something that I usually make around the holidays and share with family. The ones I make are made wth peanut butter and Rice Krispies. That’s a good combo, especially when you are covering them in chocolate. Every time I but them out, I get some rave reviews, some blush-inducing double entendre about how good my balls are, and requests for more. So when it comes to chocolate balls, I’m in my comfort zone. This recipe was made with roasted macadamia nuts and coconut, so how could I go wrong?
They were pretty easy to make but messier than making peanut butter balls. You start by combining all the ingredients and then you roll them into little balls. One of the ingredients is sweetened condensed milk and that made everything sticky. As I went along, I discovered that frequently dipping my hands in water made it easier to deal with and eventually I made it through, ending up with a tray filled with little rolled balls. I put them in the fridge so they could set up and harden.
Later in the day, I melted some chocolate chips on the stove top. Once melted, I carefully plopped each chilled ball into the chocolate, rolled it around so it was completely covered, then placed it on a lined sheet pan so the chocolate could harden. That took about 20 minutes in total and it’s the same procedure for my chocolate balls, so there was a familiarity to it all. The chocolate hardens pretty quickly, but I like to leave them for at least an hour to make sure everything has set up right.
Lola and I each had one around 5 PM. I got a great reaction from her. After one bite, she closed her eyes and drifted away to a happy place as the tastes combined in her mouth. She noted that they were sweet but also had some depth to the overall flavor and she recognized the splash of almond extract that was in the recipe (Lola has a great palette). A success. While the coconut makes up the majority of the ball, the crunchiness of the macadamia nut is there too and creates a nice combo. These will come back again.
To end our Macadamia Nut Day celebration, Lola and I headed to Providence to take in the Waterfire which had a full lighting for Labor Day. Not sure if you have ever been, but it’s a special little part of Providence. They line the rivers that wind their way through the city with these cages of burning firewood that sit atop the water and burn intensely sending the sound of crackling fire and the smell of campfire through the night air (you don’t get that smell in a city very often). They play a soundtrack of etherial, soulful music over loudspeakers which gives the whole scene another depth. You could get lost just watching the fires burn as the music swirls around your head. The fires go for blocks and blocks and people quietly line the banks of the river and watch. There are side attractions too, least of which is beer and wine for sale which you can then walk around with, but there is also food for sale (we enjoyed a doughboy because you have to), some art and even a garden of luminaries and lit up stars in a garden you could walk through (where we walked upon a couple getting engaged). There are gondolas and a few other boats that run down the river, slowly and silently, as the crowds look on. It’s magic. It really is, especially when you are in the heart of a city and you get to hold the hand of someone you love. That’s how you end a great Macadamia Nut Day.
Next Up: National Cheese Pizza Day (and Labor Day)
*Info from the folks at FoodFacts.com