Nuts are seeds with hard shells that are reproductive units for a variety of trees. They are high in protein, carbohydrates and oil and provide many nutritional benefits. Nuts are processed in the shell, or are shelled and sold whole, sliced, slivered and chopped. Nuts are also refined into oils, ground into flour, or processed into butters.
Nuts add texture and flavor accents to a variety of sweet and savory dishes. They are used as garnishes for cakes, cookie,
Toasting nuts will bring out their flavors and textures. Toast dry or toss with salt and neutral oil, spread out on a sheet pan, and place in a medium oven to crisp the texture. Nuts can also be sautéed to crisp and brown them but this process can lead to uneven browning. Nuts can be pureed and used to thicked soups, sauces and stews.
Because of their fat content nuts are perishable items susceptible to spoilage. Nuts that turn rancid have a distinct off odor and taste and should be discarded. Chopped or ground nuts spoil faster than whole or in-the-shell nuts. Store nuts in an airtight container. Refrigeration or freezing will extend their shelf life but can result in them taking on a mealy texture. Toast nuts will crisp them up and return their texture.
One month at room temperature
Six months under refrigeration
One year in the freezer
Hypersensitivity to certain foods can lead to severe physical reactions. People with food allergies may be sensitive to more than one type of nut. Raw nuts may cause a more severe reaction than refined oils. The severity of reaction varies from person to person and repeated exposure can increase sensitization. The United States Food and Drug Administration require that packaged foods containing tree nuts and peanuts to list the specific ingredients on the label. In foodservice operations it is always a good policy to inform the staff of common food allergens that are in menu items and to make customers aware of any foods containing potential allergens.
Although some methods use the sautéing method for browning nuts, the best method for even browning is the roasting method. Toss with oil and salt lightly before roasting. Sugar can be added or other types of sweeteners including honey or maple syrup. Spices such as chili peppers, cinnamon, and garam masala, or fresh herbs including thyme or rosemary can be added for extra flavor. Use a neutral flavored oil like canola, soy, and peanut, or for added dimension use more flavorful oils including olive or coconut. Roast at a low temperature and be sure to set a timer.