Toast Your Nuts
Around the age of 19, I decided it was time to tap the vast resources of my mother’s excellent cooking skills. We had a total of one lesson, which ended when I accidentally yanked the whole top part off a blender and sent scalding hot bean soup flowing across my other hand. “This is stupid,” I sniffed, as I rinsed my blistering skin in the sink and the dog lapped the oozy beans off the floor where they’d settled.
But I haven’t given up on learning the wisdom of the culinary Mothership. She still feeds me tips and tricks that help me simplify—and yummify—life as a twenty-something with (finally!) a kitchen.
Here’s #1 on my list of food hacks your mom should’ve taught you: Always toast your nuts.
It sounds obvious, I know, but all nuts are better toasty. Whether you’re going to put pecans in banana bread, toss walnuts on a salad, or dunk macadamias in dark chocolate, just throw those suckers in a pan for a couple minutes first and the flavor will be oh-so-much richer, more intense, and, in a nutshell (pun intended), better.
If you use a skillet on the stovetop, you don’t need any butter or grease. Just spread the nuts out in a thin layer and, on medium heat, stir them around until they’re golden brown and the air is full of nutty aromas. It should take about 5 minutes. Pay really close attention—one minute too long and they will burn and taste gross, so err (if you must err, you nut novice) on the side of rawness.
If you use the oven, which is a good call if you want to do a big load all at once, preheat to about 375 degrees (though I’ve heard the temperature isn’t critical) and spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and pan. Pop them in for 5 minutes, then inspect for golden-brown-ness. They may need up to 10 minutes; the oven generally takes longer than the stove.
And before everyone raises their hands to ask if you can use the microwave: Yes, you can (half cup = about 4 minutes). Though, in honor of my master chef mom, let’s try it the grownup way first and see what happens.