Like most folks, I’ve always liked snacking on nuts. I enjoy cooking with nuts too. Nuts are good for you, and can add a lot to certain dishes. Below are a few examples.
Nuts are the edible single-seed kernel of a fruit, surrounded by a hard shell. They are a good source of protein and B vitamins, but some are high in fat. They are used in cooking to provide texture and flavor.
Almonds are the seed of a plum-like fruit. They are available whole, sliced, slivered or ground. They are often used in pastries and candies and are the main ingredient in marzipan, and are one of the most widely used when cooking with nuts.
The cashew nut is actually the seed of a plant related to poison ivy. Because of toxins in the shell, cashews are always sold shelled. They make great additions to cookies and candies.
Coconuts are the seeds from one of the largest of all fruits. The shell is thick and hard and inside is a layer of white, moist flesh. The interior also contains coconut water which is a clear liquid. Coconut milk is prepared from the flesh. A good fresh coconut should feel heavy and you should be able to hear the water inside. Coconuts have a mild aroma and a sweet, nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It is most often used in pastries and candies, and in Indian and Caribbean cuisines.
Macadamias have a sweet, rich flavor and are high in fat. Their shell is very hard and must be removed by a machine. They are used in dishes with white and dark chocolate, fruit, and coconuts.
Peanuts are a great source of protein and fat. They may be eaten raw or roasted and are used in Asian cuisines and peanut butter.
Pecans are most likely the most popular nut in America, especially among those of us who enjoy cooking with nuts. Their flavor is sweet and mapley, and appears often in breads, sweets, and pastries.
Pinenuts are often found in dishes from Spain, Italy and the American Southwest. They only need roasting if being used in a dish that will not receive further cooking. They are very fragrant when roasted and are used in breads, salads and pastries.
When ripe, pistachios shells open naturally at one end. Red pistachios are dyed, not natural. They are sold unshelled or shelled and are used in meat dishes and pastries.
Walnuts are more popular than pecans outside the United States. The Black walnut has a strong flavor while the English walnut has a milder flavor. They are used in baking goods and pressed for oil.
Hazelnuts are often ground and are used in cakes or pastries. When cooking with nuts, their flavor goes well with chocolate and coffee. To remove the hazelnut’s bitter skin, roast in a 275 degree F oven for 15 minutes. While hot, rub the nuts in a dry towel to remove the skin.
Brazil nuts have a buttery flavor and a tender texture. They are eaten roasted, raw, salted, in ice creams, and in bakery and confectionery products.
Chestnuts must be cooked before using. They have a distinct flavor and are found in many sweet dishes and pastries. Because of their high starch content, they are also used in soups and sauces.
Hopefully you are now ready to begin trying a few recipes that involve cooking with nuts. Nuts really add a lot to certain foods, and you should not hesitate to try recipes that include them. I love cooking with nuts!
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