Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tips on toasting salad toppers

June 11, 2008

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Q:I want to toast nuts to put on top of my salads. How can I do it?

A: Nuts (and seeds) can be toasted in the oven, stovetop or microwave. Toast walnuts BEFORE chopping them into smaller pieces. Almonds may be toasted whole, sliced or slivered. Rather than toast just a handful of nuts or seeds for one meal, make extra for later use. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within one to two weeks for best quality.

Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts/seeds in a single layer in an ungreased shallow pan or rimmed baking sheet such as a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. (Do not use a baking sheet without sides. You may have nuts or seeds all over the oven if you accidentally tip the sheet when removing it from the oven.)

Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until they are golden brown. They will continue to brown slightly after they're removed from the oven. (It's better to under-toast than over-toast.) Stir once or twice or shake the pan during toasting to aid in even browning. Remove from pan to cool.

Stove-top: With this method, the parts of the nuts or seeds touching the skillet may become darkest, unlike the oven method where the nuts/seeds become more of an overall golden color. Heat nuts or seeds in a dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes or until they're golden brown and they give off a rich, toasty fragrance.

Watch closely when using this method as it's easy to burn them. Stir or toss nuts or seeds frequently for even toasting. Remove from pan to cool.

Microwave: This method works well for amounts ranging from a tablespoon to 1/2 cup. Spread from a tablespoon to 1/2 cup nuts or seeds evenly in a single layer in a flat, microwave-safe dish, such as a 9-inch, microwave-safe pie plate. Add a small amount of soft butter or margarine or add a small amount of oil to the nuts/seeds.

Use about 1/2 teaspoon fat per 1/2 cup of nuts/seeds (use proportionally less for smaller amounts of nuts/seeds). Stir the nuts/seeds to thinly coat with the fat. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir and microwave for another minute. Check to see how the toasting is proceeding. Add more microwave cooking time one minute at a time because nuts and seeds can burn quickly. Stir after each addition of time.

Here are some other ideas to make your salad greens POP with flavor. While some of these salad additions are higher in fat and sugar than others, just small amounts (about 1 tablespoon) can give extra flavor without too many calories. Also, many provide a nutrition boost!

¢ Sliced marinated artichoke hearts or pickled beets

¢ Fresh Parmesan cheese - try using a vegetable peeler to shave about a tablespoon per serving from a block of cheese or sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan. According to the American Dairy Association (www.ilovecheese.com), larger blocks of cheese tend to keep longer than shredded cheese.)

¢ Homemade whole wheat croutons - Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If using olive oil, lightly brush top side of bread with olive oil. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes and spread in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. If using a cooking spray, cut bread into 1/2-inch cubes and spread in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Spray bread cubes lightly with an olive oil-flavored or garlic-flavored cooking spray. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 minutes or until browned and crisp. Enjoy! (These taste best if eaten the same day they're made.)

¢ Dried fruit - cherries, cranberries, blueberries or raisins.

¢ Fresh chopped herbs - basil, chives, dill, parsley. Start with about a teaspoon of herbs per person and adjust according to taste preference.

¢ Fresh fruit: apples, pears, peaches, strawberries, oranges - keep cut fruits, such as apples, pears, and peaches, from turning brown by coating them with an acidic juice such as lemon, orange or pineapple juice. Or use a commercial anti-darkening preparation with fruits, such as Ever-Fresh or Fruit-Fresh, and follow the manufacturer's directions.

¢ Pitted olives. Black or green - experiment with different types for different flavors, such as kalamata. The easiest method to pit olives is to use a cherry pitter.

¢ Thinly sliced red onions or radishes.

¢ Drained and rinsed canned beans, such as black beans, black soybeans, or Garbanzo beans.

¢ Sliced hard cooked egg.

¢ Fresh or thawed frozen corn or peas.

- Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.

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