L.A. Times Test Kitchen Tips: Toasting spices and nuts for flavor
When you want to add a little extra depth to a recipe, consider toasting the nuts or spices before adding them to a dish. Toasting helps to release the flavor and oils in the spices and nuts, lending depth and wonderfully rich flavor to a dish.
Toast whole spices on the stovetop using a heavy-bottomed saute pan over moderate heat. Toast the spices, stirring them or shaking the pan frequently, so they toast evenly. Watch the pan closely, so the spices don't burn. A few minutes is all it should take to bring out the flavors, you'll know they're ready when you can smell them. (You can toast ground spices, too, though this is best done on a parchment-lined baking sheet in the oven to keep the ground spices from burning.)
Toast nuts on a sheet pan in a 350- to 375-degree oven for several minutes until lightly darkened and fragrant. As with spices, watch that the nuts don't overcook in the oven -- they can go from nicely toasted to tragically burnt quickly.
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-- Noelle Carter
Photo credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times