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Kitchen Chats – All About Nuts!

Did you know that most “nuts” aren’t nuts at all? Peanuts are legumes, pine nuts are the seeds of pines, and almonds, pecans, cashews, and walnuts are the seeds of fruits classified as drupes.

Nuts and seeds have become more and more of an ingredient than just a snack or a garnish.  They are a great source of protein and they add so much flavor, texture and lots of nutrients to many dishes.

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Buying Nuts

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Tips on buying nuts
– Buy unsalted nuts because they are a lot more versatile.
– Raw nuts, not roasted.
– Try to avoid the bulk section as the nuts have a higher exposure to oxygen and might go bad quicker **
– Your best bet for finding fresh nuts is to buy those that have been sealed in a bag. This will ensure their freshness.
– Nuts in the shell are fresher than their shelled cousins but convenience is important too.

** oxygen is the number one enemy to any nut’s shelf-life. Nuts sitting in bulk bins are constantly being exposed to oxygen, compromising their freshness and speeding up the rancidity process..

Storing Nuts

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– Nuts should be stored in the fridge or freezer as opposed to the pantry.
– Nuts contain a high amount of unsaturated fat, a delicate type of oil, which makes them highly prone to going rancid.
– If you’re going to use your nuts in the near future, it’s fine to keep them in a cool, dry place like your pantry. Just make sure they’re stored in an airtight container and plan to use within a couple of weeks.

Remember that the shelf life of nuts depends on three key factors:
1. Storage
2. Whether the package is opened or unopened.
3. And whether they are shelled or unshelled.

If properly stored, nuts can keep close to a year in their shells and for several months unshelled stored in the fridge or the freezer.

Toasting Nuts

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We like to toast nuts in the oven for even cooking.
First turn on the oven to 350 degrees
1. Spread the nuts in an even layer on a baking sheet.
2. Baking will depend on the type and size of nuts: General rule of thumb; lighter, more tender nuts like pecans, pistachios, and walnuts will take 6-8 minutes. Denser nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, and macadamias will take more like 8-10 minutes. Your nose is your best tool when roasting nuts. Good toasted nuts should be fragrant and toasty in smell, not burnt. Once you smell your nuts, check on them.
3. Turn the nuts often so they don’t burn. Make sure you give your baking tray a quick shake half way through the roasting process.
4. Immediately remove the nuts from the hot pan after you’re done roasting as they will continue to cook on the hot surface.
5. Nuts will crisp as they cool.
6. Toast one type of nut in one tray at a time. As nuts come in different sizes and have different oil content
7. If you are seasoning your nuts, it’s best to season before roasting. The heat will bring out their oils and make the seasoning adhere to the nut.

Fancy Nuts with Ghee:
For something more indulgent and even more flavorful, cook the nuts on the stove in ghee or butter.
Melt 2 Tbsp. of Ghee or butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat, then add 1 cup roughly chopped raw nuts and a generous sprinkle of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 7 minutes depending on the size and kind of your nuts, until nuts are golden in color. Drain the ghee or butter and transfer the nuts to a paper towel. let them cool. They will crisp up as they cool.

To remove the skins on nuts:
If you want to remove the skin on the nuts like almonds:
Add boiling water to a bowl full of raw nuts
Let them soak until the skin is loosened.
For hazelnuts: It’s best to toast them first, then with a clean kitchen towel rub the nuts and the skin will fall off easily.

Grinding nuts:
Nut meal, Nut flour  vs. Nut Butter
To make all of the above all you need is nuts and a good processor.

Nut meal: Pulse your nuts in a food processor until they are finely ground. If the nuts start clumping stop and scrape your bowl. If you pulse too far you will turn your nuts into nut butter.

Nut flour: is finer than nut meal.

Pro Tip: For finer flour or meal you can always sift your ingredients.

Nut butter:
Roasted nuts will add a richer taste but you can also make nut butter from raw nuts. Let your nuts run in the food processor until they are as smooth as you want them. To thin the nut butter mixture, add a bit of flavorless oil or water. You can add many flavorings to your butter. A sprinkle of cinnamon, cardamom or ginger would be delicious.

Uses of nuts:
Nuts are delicious, used in both sweet and savory applications. Uses of nuts include but are not limited to:
-Desserts
-Garnishes
-Snacks
-Dips
-Stuffing
-Nut butter
-Nut flours

Ziyad recipes:

  1. Sweet and savory spiced roasted nuts
  2. Grilled chicken with red pepper almond dip
  3. Sesame brittle

 

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