Nuts-so useful in your kitchen!

Nuts are delicious to eat and, in moderation, are thought to be a great part of a healthy diet. They are also wonderful to use in your culinary creations. Not only do they add a wonderful flavor but they also give a textural element that can elevate your dish. These great ingredients are the subject of this Cooking Tip.

Many recipes call for roasted nuts as it enhances the nutty flavor. It is usually preferable to roast your own as ones that you buy already roasted often have salt and other ingredients added to them.

How to roast/toast nuts

  • Oven – the preferred method for roasting nuts is in the oven as you get more even heat. To do this, preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the nuts on a baking sheet. Roast for 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and roasted. Remove immediately from the hot pan when done to prevent over-cooking. The timing can vary as whole nuts take longer to roast than chopped nuts and larger nuts will take longer than smaller ones.
  • Stovetop – for smaller quantities of nuts, you may toast them in a dry skillet over medium heat but watch them carefully. Shake the pan occasionally and remove from pan immediately when done.
  • Microwave – there are also those that love to toast small amounts of nuts in the microwave. They feel it is more even heating and, therefore, takes less stirring. Place nuts on a microwave-safe dish and microwave on high for one minute. Stir and repeat in 30 second to one minute bursts until done.

Storage

Nuts can easily go rancid and so, store your shelled nuts in the freezer to prevent this. Whole nuts still in the shell may be stored either in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Keep away from moisture and heat.

No matter which nuts or seeds you wish to use, buy them unsalted if you want to use them in a recipe. Save the salted ones for your snack bowl. Let’s look at a few specific nuts and how to use them in the kitchen.

Almonds

  • These nuts can be found whole, sliced or slivered.
  • Flour – you can buy almond flour or make your own to use as an alternative to wheat flour in baking or as a coating for fried foods.
  • Butter – almond butter is a tasty change from the ubiquitous peanut butter.
  • Almonds can be used in both sweet and savory applications. Some ideas include enrobing in chocolate, added to granola bars, as a salad topping, as a coating for meat (almond-crusted chicken) or as a sauce thickener.
  • Tossing sliced or slivered almonds into veggie dishes is common.

Cashews

  • In my book, there is no better way to enjoy cashews than right out of your hand.
  • Cashews are typically found in Indian dishes such as chicken korma or in Chinese dishes such as cashew chicken or other stir fries.
  • These nuts are often used by vegans to make cream soups or sauces.
  • Other uses include dips/spreads and they also make a great nut butter.

Hazelnuts

  • These are also known as filberts and are typically found in sweet applications especially paired with chocolate such as in truffles or the popular Nutella.
  • They can also be used in savory dishes, especially Italian ones, such as pasta, ravioli and pesto.
  • Roasting them followed by rubbing with a kitchen towel will help you remove most of the skins.
  • They have a lower oil content than other nuts, making it fine to toast them before baking. (see walnuts below)
  • Hazelnut spreads and butters are very popular.

Macadamia nuts

  • These nuts are typically used in sweet applications but can also make a surprising addition to pesto.
  • As they are grown in Hawaii, you will often find them paired with tropical flavors such as pineapple.
  • They are very high in oil, the highest fat content of any tree nut, which results in a very buttery flavor when baked.

Peanuts

  • Peanuts are not only a staple in many American households (usually as peanut butter) but are also often found in many Asian recipes such as sate sauce.

Pecans

  • Pecans are very versatile easily going from sweet desserts to salads.
  • The also pair well with spices in savory dishes and are often found in chicken salad. Just as with almonds, they can make a wonderful crust on your chicken or fish.
  • They can be ground with butter and sugar to make a gluten free pie crust.

Pine nuts

  • Pine nuts have a soft, nutty flavor with an undercurrent of sweetness, similar to cashews.
  • These are an essential ingredient in traditional pesto but can also be used in salads, dips, desserts and even pastry dough.

Pistachios

  • All nuts can be pricey but pistachios are near the top. Buying them in the shells is more cost effective if you are willing to take the time to shuck them.
  • They are commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes (think baklava) and are often used as a garnish due to their pretty green color.

Walnuts

  • Toasting walnuts decreases the bitterness that can be found in walnuts. Because of the high oil content, walnuts toast more quickly than other nuts. It is, therefore, recommended that you use raw walnuts in baking to prevent burning.
  • Walnuts are commonly used in Chinese and Mediterranean dishes as well as sweet applications such as brownies or just tossed in a salad.

Nuts are a great pantry staple all year-round but as we approach the fall and holiday season, they especially shine.
Embrace the use of nuts in your kitchen!