Nina’s Tips and Techniques: Nuts & Seeds

It’s so easy to just grab a big container of nuts – why should I buy in bulk instead?

My personal number-one reason for buying nuts in bulk is freshness. Nuts are highly perishable and go rancid quickly. The ones that are pre-packed sometimes have long expiration dates and could be on the old side. Bulk is always the freshest because the bins get cycled through so frequently. And if you buy small amounts and make sure you eat them all before buying more you never risk opening up your massive container of almonds and finding that they are rancid and then cry as you throw them in the trash. Raw nuts are even more susceptible to rancidity – when I need raw nuts I usually only buy what I need for whatever I’m making.

How should I store my nuts and seeds? Do they need any special treatment?

Nuts, like spices and many other ingredient commodities do not like light or heat. Keep them in cool, dry places like a pantry or a cupboard that is not directly over a stove. Raw nuts and seeds go rancid very quickly so it is best to keep them in the refrigerator. I would not recommend refrigerating roasted nuts because they might go from crunchy to soft. The jury is still out whether or not putting raw nuts in the freezer actually keeps them fresher than just the fridge.

All my recipes say “toast the nuts” or “toast the seeds;” why do they ask you to do this? Does it make a difference? And what is the proper way to roast or toast a nut or seed?

Oh yes it makes a difference – and for one extra pan to wash and 5 extra minutes spent it is so very worth it! When you heat up your nuts and seeds the oils in them also heat and those oils ever so slightly cook the flesh of the nut or seed inside and outside. This enhances the flavor, and usually makes them crunchy. So by toasting your nuts or seeds you add flavor AND texture. I keep it simple when toasting nuts and seeds. I either spread them in a baking tray and put them in 350-375 degree oven for 10 minutes, or I put them in a pan over low heat on my stove top. If you do them on the stove top be sure to stir them regularly – those oils that make them taste so good also burn very quickly! Whether you use the oven or stove top method be sure to transfer your toasted nuts and seeds to a clean, cool plate or tray when they come off the heat – if you leave them sitting in a hot pan or on a hot tray they will continue to cook and probably burn. If you want to enhance the flavor just a little bit more try adding a tablespoon of butter or olive oil to the pan while you roast them and mix it all around. YUM!

Recipe: Chia Pudding with Cinnamon Toasted Almonds and Pecans