One of the ways we add heft, flavor, and satisfaction to our food is with fat. Yes, fat. Don’t run away! We know fat has a bad reputation with some, since it’s calorie dense and should, naturally, be enjoyed in moderation. But chefs know that any meal will be more enjoyable and satisfying with a reasonable amount of oil or butter or gooey cheese, and we’re on a mission to show you how to use fat in your cooking with a deft hand. We already posted about the best oils to use in cooking, how to cook with butter, and how to cook with cheese. Now, we’re talking nuts.
Walnuts, macadamias, hazelnuts, almonds, and pecans can do a lot more than wind up in a baggie of trail mix or a bowl of warm mixed nuts. They add crunch, body, and moistness to all kinds of food, like salads, spreads, and stews. Here’s how to make the most of your nut collection, from raw pine nuts to peanut butter.
**Your Guide to Cooking with Nuts**
If you’re stocking up, you’ll find that raw nuts are the most flexible choice for outfitting your nut pantry. Store your nuts in the fridge–the cold air will keep the oils in the nuts fresher for longer. One of our favorite uses for raw nuts, especially pine nuts and walnuts, is to chop them finely, combine with oil, herbs, garlic, and cheese, and turn the nuts into the base of a royally delicious pesto. Or, of course, you can also read on to find out how to toast the raw nuts for extra crunch and serious umami flavor…
Think about how a delicious crouton makes any salad it tops better than ever. Now, forget the squares of bread and replace them with healthful, filling, toasted nuts, which are as fragrant, rich and crunchy as any bread you’ll find. We adore candied almonds on our Roasted Carrot Saladand fawn over the toasted hazelnuts on our Chicken Caesaror Bibb Lettuce salads. The formula here is unbelievably easy: just spread your nuts on a baking sheet or throw them into a dry frying pan. Then, roast or toast just until fragrant, usually around 5 to 10 minutes. With hazelnuts, you’ll then want to rub off the skins; any other nut will be ready to eat.
Sure, there are uses for nut butters like almond butter and cashew butter, but when we’re talking about nut butters in cooking, we’re focused on peanut butter. So, you may be thinking, peanut butter is for peanut butter sandwiches. Not so fast. The gooey, rich spread has several uses in savory cooking too. When combined with soy sauce and aromatics, it makes a great peanut dipping sauce for satay and summer rolls. Even cooler, stir the peanut butter into a West African stew filled with eggplant, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. If in doubt, stir a tablespoon or two into any stir-fry sauce.