How and Why To Build a Giant Nut Stash
If you want to cook seamlessly on weeknights and have something to eat when there appears to be nothing, here’s my advice: make like a squirrel and fill your larder with nuts (and seeds). I reach for almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pepitas, pine nuts, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, or walnuts in about half of my cooking endeavors. Whether I want to make pesto, add crunch to a salad, or snack before my bike ride, I’m thrilled to rediscover my growing and miscellaneous buffet, and though I’m usually more minimalist about equipment and ingredients that belong in a small kitchen, right now I actually own all of the nuts listed in the second sentence of this paragraph, and I don’t begrudge them the space. Here’s how and why to build you a giant nut stash of your own.
Building the Stash
Buy nuts always. I use almost every supermarket trip as an excuse to add to the stash. I try to remember which types I’m running low on, and even if I don’t need new peanuts for a dinner tonight or tomorrow, I’ll grab a bag of roasted/unsalted because I know that on future fried-rice nights I’m definitely going to garnish with handfuls. Nuts stay good for ages when kept in the fridge, and by spreading out your purchases, you won’t end up with one single astronomical grocery bill.
Be price sensitive. Many nuts are expensive. Pine nuts from Italy can fun $15 for less than a cup! (The ones from China are cheaper but don’t have a great reputation.) Keep an eye out for bulk bin deals and sales, and also use your powers of observation to start to note which nuts are affordable enough to be part of the daily menu and which are better left as treats. Walnuts and almonds can always sub in for pricy pine nuts. Then, when you see good-quality nuts at good prices, snatch them right then and there. Raw nuts may be cheaper than roasted and salted ones, which is a good way to get a deal, as you can always roast them up yourself.
Store neatly–in the fridge. As you accumulate your nuts, find an organizational approach to keeping them neat. Depending on where you shop, you’ll find nuts come in an assortment of containers and bags, and tossing those willy nilly can cause the fridge to appear the province of an insane person. To cage the insanity, I store almost all nuts in a larger plastic box on one side of the fridge. If a container some nut comes in is unwieldy, I’ll transfer that to a new jar. If I luck into a massive amount of macadamias, I’ll stow extras in the freezer. The oils in nuts can go rancid within a few months, which is why I choose fridge and freezer storage.
Using the Stash
Save your smoothies. Raw cashews turn into cashew milk at the the flick of a blender switch, a fact that’s saved me many mornings when the coconut, almond, and/or dairy milk cartons have run dry. It’s useful to soak the cashews overnight, but you can get around this by using hot water in the blender with the cashews and blending until the liquid is smooth before proceeding with the rest of your smoothie routine. (Cookie and Kate has a more detailed rundown.)
Make sauces. In addition to green sauces and pestos, ground nuts can turn into very creamy and unusual toppings for rice noodles or sugar snap peas. If you have a food processor, you can grind nuts into flour, nut butters, or tahini. Muhammara should be in your repertoire for this summer’s picnics.
Beef up anemic leftovers. Sometimes, the quantity of dinner that remains for the next day’s lunch is sadly underestimated. Instead of abandoning the few delicious bites that remain, I’ll bolster the three-quarters portion into a whole meal by adding a generous handful of complementary nuts. I fry almond slivers to top tiny portions of tagine, chop peanuts for stir-fries, and add toasted hazelnuts to buttery pastas.
Bake. Carrot cake, banana bread, and chocolate chip cookies are all sweets that benefit from the richness and sweetness of your favorite nuts. Chocolate bark with any nuts and any dried fruit makes the most divine last-minute dessert or gift.
Check out some more nut-happy recipes. Old Bay Peanuts, Roasted Chipotle Pecans, Chicken Curry with Raisins & Peanuts, Ghorayebah, Green Tea Chocolate Bark with Walnuts, Soba with Walnut-Miso Sauce, Granola Nuts,