Nuts

Nuts
Cooks and grocers define nuts as anything with edible kernels and hard shells. This includes true nuts like chestnuts and acorns, but also things that botanists would class as seeds, like Brazil nuts, or legumes, like peanuts. Nuts are usually high in fat and protein, and people throughout the world eat them as snacks or incorporate them into both sweet and savory dishes. Many nuts can be eaten raw but roasting them helps intensify their flavor. Nuts are usually harvested in the fall, and it's best to buy unprocessed nuts then. Many unshelled nuts can be kept for up to a year in a cool place, but shelled nuts, especially those that have been cut or roasted, are more prone to rancidity and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.
acorn
acorn
These nuts come from oak trees, and they were once an important food for Native Americans. Before they can be eaten, most acorns need to be treated to remove the bitter tannins in them. To do this, boil whole shelled acorns in water, replacing the water with fresh boiling water whenever it turns light brown. Keep doing this for about two hours, until the water no longer changes color. Alternatively, you can soak the shelled acorns in several changes of water for three or four days. Some Native Americans do this by putting whole or pounded acorns into nylon stockings and hanging them so that they're immersed in the water of a toilet tank (repeat: tank, not bowl). Each time the toilet is flushed, the water in the tank is refreshed. This may discolor the toilet, however. After the nuts have been leached of tannins, roast them in a 350° oven for about an hour. They can then be eaten whole or ground into acorn meal and used to make porridges or breads. Acorns from white oaks aren't nearly as bitter as those from red or black oaks, and can be roasted without first soaking them.
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almond
almond
Almonds have a crunchy texture and a rich, delicate flavor that's especially good in desserts, like candy, ice cream, tortes, and coffee cake. To intensify their flavor, toast them on a baking pan in a 325° degree oven, stirring occasionally, until they're golden (about 15 minutes for whole almonds). You can buy almonds shelled or unshelled, blanched, sliced, slivered, ground, or chopped.
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almonds, blanched
almonds, blanched
Shelled almonds have a slightly bitter brown skin which can be removed by blanching them. To do this, drop shelled almonds into boiling water, remove the pan from the heat source and let it stand for two minutes, then drain the almonds and rub off the skins. Many cooks prefer to skip this step and buy their almonds already blanched.
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beechnut
beechnut
Beechnuts are small, triangular nuts. They're usually roasted.
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bitter almond
bitter almond
Unprocessed bitter almonds have a more intense flavor than ordinary almonds, but they aren't available in the United States since they're mildly toxic if eaten raw. Instead, they're processed and used to make oil of bitter almonds, almond extract, almond liqueurs, and orgeat syrup. This name is often used (incorrectly) for the Chinese almond.
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black walnut
black walnut
These are hard to shell, but tastier than ordinary walnuts. Bakers use them to take their fudge and cookies up a notch.
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Brazil nut
Brazil nut
These nuts come from the Amazonian rainforest, and they're rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acid, and calcium. They're prone to rancidity, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer if you plan to keep them for awhile. It's easier to shell them if you first heat them in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes.
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breadnut seeds
breadnut seeds
These seeds come from breadnuts, which are seeded versions of breadfruit.
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butternut
butternut
This walnut relative is hard to find outside of New England.
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candlenut
candlenut
Candlenuts must be cooked before eating, since they're highly toxic when raw. Ground candlenuts are often used to thicken Malaysian and Indonesian curries. They're so oily that natives string them together and use them as candles. Look for them in Southeast Asian markets.
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cashew
cashew
These rich, sweet nuts have a toxic shell, so they're almost always sold shelled. Toast them briefly in the oven to boost their flavor.
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chestnut
chestnut
These sweet, starchy, low-fat nuts are quite common in southern Europe, where people eat them hot from the roaster, or add them to soups, stuffing, and desserts. They appear fresh in the fall and winter, but you can find them dried, vacuum-packed, or canned throughout the year. Before you can eat them, fresh chestnuts need to be boiled or roasted, and then shelled and peeled. To roast them, cut an X into each shell (to allow steam to escape) and bake them in a 400° oven for about twenty minutes. While they're still warm, peel off both the shell and the furry skin surrounding each nut. Alternatively, boil the chestnuts for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the water with a slotted spoon. Peel off the shells and put the nuts back in the boiling water for another minute, then remove them again and peel off the skins. Select fresh chestnuts that are shiny and heavy for their size. Store them in the refrigerator and use them within a week or so. Don't confuse chestnuts with water chestnuts, which are completely different.
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Chinese almond
Chinese almond
These aren't really almonds at all, but apricot kernels. They taste a lot like bitter almonds, and have a rich, heavenly almond-extract fragrance. They're mildly toxic if eaten raw, so they should always be roasted or blanched before using. Look for plastic bags of them in Chinese markets.
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chufa
chufa
These are popular in Spain and Latin America, where they're used to make horchata. They aren't really nuts, but starchy tubers that taste like chestnuts.
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dried chestnut
dried chestnut
You reconstitute these by boiling them for about an hour. They're available in Italian markets, but you'll usually pay less if you get them in an Asian market.
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gingko nut
gingko nut
These nuts date back some 150 million years, and are believe to be a powerful aphrodisiac. Asian cooks like to use them in desserts and stir-fries. They're available in Asian markets either fresh (in the fall), canned, or dried. To prepare fresh nuts, crack open their shells and then pour boiling water over the nutmeats. Let them soak for about ten minutes until their skins are loose. Peel off the skins, then put the nutmeats in a pot full of boiling water, let it simmer for about thirty minutes, then drain. Canned nuts have already been shelled, skinned and boiled, but they're mealier than fresh nuts. Rinse them before using.
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hazelnut
hazelnut
Hazelnuts have a crunchy texture and an appealing flavor that goes especially well with chocolate. Unshelled nuts show up in the produce department of larger supermarkets in the fall and winter. Shelled nuts are available year-round near the baking supplies. Before you use them, toast shelled hazelnuts in a 325° oven for ten to fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally. As soon a you take them from the oven, rub the nuts vigorously with a towel to remove their bitter brown skins.
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hickory nut
hickory nut
These are delicious, but they aren't grown commercially because the shells are so hard. Pecans are a very close relative.
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kola nut
kola nut
These bitter nuts are loaded with caffeine, and Africans like to chew on them throughout the day. One downside is that they turn your teeth orange.
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macadamia nut
macadamia nut
These rich and creamy nuts hail from Hawaii and Australia, where they're eaten as snacks, or incorporated into cookies or other desserts. They're hard to crack open and tricky to roast, so they're almost always sold shelled and roasted in vacuum-pack containers. After you open these containers, you should store any uneaten nuts in the freezer or refrigerator, since they're high in fat and therefore prone to rancidity. If you want to roast your own macadamia nuts, put them in 275° oven for about 15 minutes.
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nuts
nuts
Cooks and grocers define nuts as anything with edible kernels and hard shells. This includes true nuts like chestnuts and acorns, but also things that botanists would class as seeds, like Brazil nuts, or legumes, like peanuts. Nuts are usually high in fat and protein, and people throughout the world eat them as snacks or incorporate them into both sweet and savory dishes. Many nuts can be eaten raw but roasting them helps intensify their flavor. Nuts are usually harvested in the fall, and it's best to buy unprocessed nuts then. Many unshelled nuts can be kept for up to a year in a cool place, but shelled nuts, especially those that have been cut or roasted, are more prone to rancidity and should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer in an airtight container.
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paradise nut
paradise nut
Paradise nuts are in a large (10") capped pot-like fruit contains nutritious nuts.
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peanut
peanut
These aren't really nuts, but legumes that grow underground. They're cheaper than most nuts, and are often eaten out of hand or incorporated into candies, stir-fries, or trail mixes. You can buy them shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, raw or roasted. To roast, place shelled peanuts on a cookie sheet in a 350° oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. Since many people are allergic to peanuts, it's important to alert guests if you're serving something that's made with peanuts or peanut products.
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pecan
pecan
This North American nut is like a walnut, only sweeter and milder. It's used widely in the South to make pralines, pecan pie, ice cream, and nut breads. They're high in fat, so it's best to store shelled pecans in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent them from turning rancid. To roast, put shelled pecans on a baking pan and in bake them in a 325° oven, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly golden, about ten minutes.
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pine nut
pine nut
These expensive and delicate seeds are harvested from pine trees in different parts of the world. Italians like to grind them into pesto or sprinkle them on pasta dishes. There are two main varieties: the triangular Chinese pine nuts sold in Asian markets, and the slender Italian pine nuts, which are more expensive and subtly flavored. All pine nuts are high in fat, so store them in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them from getting rancid. Before you use them, toast pine nuts in a 325° oven, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly golden, about five minutes.
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pistachio nut
pistachio nut
These green Middle Eastern nuts are encased in tan shells, which are sometimes dyed red. They're crunchy and delicately sweet, so they're great in everything from ice cream to pilafs. When the nuts are mature enough to eat, the shells split open enough that they can be pulled off easily with your fingers. Unopened shells contain immature kernels and should be discarded. Pistachios are available shelled or unshelled, salted or unsalted, roasted or raw. To roast, put shelled pistachios on a baking pan and in bake them in a 325° oven, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly golden, about ten minutes.
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sliced almonds
sliced almonds
You can buy almonds already sliced, or do it yourself using a food processor fitted with a slicing disk. It's best to toast the sliced almonds before using them. Just spread them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350° oven until they're light brown, about five to ten minutes.
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slivered almond
slivered almond
You can buy slivered almonds in the baking supplies section of most supermarkets. To sliver a blanched almond yourself, use a paring knife to cut it lengthwise into several small sticks.
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walnut
walnut
Walnuts are rich and flavorful, and cooks like to use them in everything from fudge to salads. Markets usually carry English walnuts = royal walnuts = Persian walnuts. Less common are black walnuts, which are much more flavorful but harder to shell. To roast, put shelled walnuts on a baking pan and in bake them in a 325° oven, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly golden, about ten minutes. After you remove the nuts from the oven, rub them vigorously with a towel so as to remove as much of their bitter skins as possible. Fresh walnuts are available year-round, but they're best in the fall. Since they're high in fat and therefore prone to rancidity, it's best to store them in the refrigerator or freezer.
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water caltrop
water caltrop
This black nut bears an unmistakable resemblance to a bull's head. Each one is about two inches across, and has a very hard shell. After you shell water caltrops, you'll need to steam or boil them before you can eat them as they contain harmful toxins in their raw state. Or you can skip eating them altogether, and just use them to make jewelry.
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