Thursday, October 4, 2012

Squirreling Away Nuts and Seeds

No matter the time of year, nuts and seeds are staples in our pantry, but in the Autumn they seem particularly appropriate, especially for seasonal dishes.

These are the nuts I usually have on hand:

Almonds - whole, sliced and slivered
Pignoli (pine nuts)
Hazelnuts (Filberts)

I also usually have these seeds:

Pumpkin  (Pepitas)

Speaking of seeds, I can't do without red pepper flakes, usually a mixture of dried cayenne, bell, ancho and miscellaneous peppers, including a lot of seeds. As Roger will tell you, they're added to almost every savory thing I make...

Because nuts and seeds are fattening and expensive, I don't pile them on. I buy them in bulk when possible, and store them in the freezer. For the nut supply in the pantry, I take out a cup or so at a time, roast them at 350 degrees until lightly browned, then squirrel them away in an air tight container. I often add nuts and/or seeds to baked goods, and when inspiration strikes, I also sprinkle them on cereal, soup, salad, pasta, candy, sandwiches, casseroles, etc, to add a little crunch and flavor.

Much as I love nuts and seeds, I do have my limits. There's a big Shagbark Hickory Nut Tree at the top of our driveway, and one year I decided to see what the nut tasted like. Getting through the outer covering and very hard shell took two tools and a lot of effort, and the tiny nut inside might have been a delicious treat for a squirrel, but wasn't worth the effort for me, even though the nut is said to taste good and be very nutritious.

To the dismay of our friend Nadine, instead of harvesting them for our nut department, the ones I collect are given to our many squirrels in the winter, in a futile attempt to distract them from the bird feeder.

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