Toasting Olives and Nuts

Olives

When raw olives are put in brine in Spain, herbs, spices, or peppers are often added to flavor them. Although the raw fruit absorbs seasoning more readily, flavoring can be added to olives purchased in cans or jars too. Keep a quantity of olives in a glass jar and let them steep in their own brine with hot peppers or garlic (or both), or lemon and orange peel. When buying olives, look for diversity: small black ones, deep green, olive green, or light green ones of different sizes; olives stuffed with anchovy, with pimiento, with lemon peel-there is an infinite gamut of olives.

Toasted Almonds

Toasting your own almonds takes time, but is highly rewarding; the result bear little resemblance to canned or packaged gourmet nuts. Shelled almonds can be toasted in large batches and kept fresh for weeks in tightly closed glass jars. There are three classic ways of toasting almonds (described below) and the three flavors are distinct.

Method: The easiest way to toast almonds is in the shell, to be cracked and opened by the consumers. The almonds are simply placed in a preheated low oven (about 275° F) for 30 to 45 minutes or until toasted through. The pan should be shaken occasionally to ensure even toasting. The only way to determine whether the nuts are done is to crack one open and eat it. They must be tested frequently when almost roasted because they can turn black inside without giving any outward sign of burning.

Second method: Crack the shells and toast the almonds without removing the brown peel that encloses the nut. Roast 30-45 minutes in a 275° F oven. Shake up from time to time during roasting. The almonds are done when the skin slips off easily between the fingers.

Third method: This is the most delicious and also the longest. After the almonds are removed from the hard shell, they are scalded and peeled. To scald, put almonds in boiling water off the fire for ½ minute or until the almond slips out of its skin easily when squeezed between the fingers. Strain almonds, rinse under cold water, and peel at once. Toast as in the proceeding recipe.

Glazed Almonds

To glaze, rub scaled, peeled, and toasted almonds in a little olive oil while the nuts are still warm from the oven; then sprinkle with salt. The salt will form a crust when dry.

Fried Almonds

Scalded (see toasted almonds, third method, above) and peeled, the almonds are fried in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the skillet. The oil should be only moderately hot in order to permit the nuts to cook through without burning outside. Stir frequently while cooking. Drain, salt, and serve.

Toasted or Fried Pine Nuts

Washed, drained, salted, and toasted in a moderate oven or fried in enough moderately hot olive oil to cover the bottom of a skillet, pine nuts make an exclusive tapa, warm or cold.

Toasted Hazelnuts

Like toasted almonds, these can be kept fresh in a tightly closed jar for weeks. Remove shells, but not brown skin. Toast in a 275° F oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the nut tastes roasted and the skin come off easily. Put nuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove skin. Serve salted or not as you prefer.