by Buck Reed
Cooking with Nuts
I would bet that when mankind first walked the earth from his former home in the trees, the first time he used a tool was to crack open the shell of a nut. Okay, maybe he used a stick, a stick with a pointy end, to kill a saber-toothed tiger, but the nut thing has to be a close second. Then came civilization, and with it, the act of eating for pleasure, which brought us to the Romans and the dinner party. After eating such delicacies as honey glazed sparrow and soups made of garlic and oxen blood, any proper meal was finished off with a serving of nuts. Hence, the term “Soup to nuts.” No, the Marx Brothers did not come up with this term—they just made it funny.
First, when dealing with nuts, try to purchase them shelled, that is without the shell. The shell really has no useful purpose and no real nutritional value. Also, it will save you a lot of work breaking them apart and separating the useless from the useful.
If you plan on storing them for any length of time, your best bet is in an airtight container in the freezer, where they can stay good for up to two years. The fridge is the next best place, lasting up to six months.
Before cooking with nuts, toast them in a hot frying pan or in the oven on a sheet pan. You should be able to tell they are done by seeing the light brown color and smelling the toasty aroma. Most of all, it will enhance and deepen the nuts’ flavor.
After your nuts have cooled down, chop them up into the pieces you wish to utilize them as. A cutting board and knife should work here, or if your food processing skills are up for it, you could give that a try. Just be careful not to overprocess them.
When dealing with a recipe, do not be afraid to exchange one nut for another. We all have our favorite, and no one is going to jail if you do. Just be aware of anyone who has an allergy and plan accordingly.
Nuts have many uses in the Epicurean world. They can be tossed into salads, used as garnishes in soups or vegetables, and made into crusts for seafood or meats. Many baked goods, such as breads and desserts, can be elevated with the addition of nuts.
For the more advanced cook—and if you are reading this article, you are, in fact, an advanced cook—try making a spiced nut mixture. There are plenty of simple recipes out there for you to follow. Pickled nuts could also be a great addition to your repertoire, and both recipes will bring a little flair to your table.
So, next time you are thinking about cooking with nuts, do not limit it to asking your significant other to help in the kitchen. Take a moment to plan and knock it out of the park with these guidelines!