Ever since some long-ago ancestor cracked open the first shell and ate the meat of a nut, we’ve been happily munching on one of nature’s best foods ever since. Full of protein and good oils, there aren’t too many dishes that nuts don’t make better (hmm … brownies with walnuts, tabbouleh with hazelnuts, toasted almonds in my oatmeal, pignoli cookie, you get my obsession here).
Sweet or savory, nuts go a long way to make our foods tasty as well as nutritious. But because of nuts’ richness in oil, they can easily become stale and rancid. So it’s important to keep nuts as fresh as possible.
If you buy nuts often and use them within a few weeks, just refrigerate them, tightly covered. But if you’re tempted to buy nuts in bulk, go for the ones that are vacuum-packed. Many people now have sealing machines at home, which makes it easy to vacuum pack your own if you buy from the bulk bins. (Word of advice: make sure the store has a good turnover. There’s no saving money if the nuts you buy are already stale.
Don’t have one of those handy dandy machines? Then freeze nuts, double-wrapped in sealable plastic bags or tightly sealed containers. I like to bag nuts in typical recipe amounts, about one cup. Just spread your frozen nuts out on a cookie sheet and pop them in a 350?F oven for about 8–10 minutes to bring out their peak flavor. And, of course, any leftovers nuts are the cook’s nibble.