Since Peter Merriman opened his eponymous restaurant on the Big Island in 1988, he’s been known as one of the most important and influential chefs in Hawaii. Merriman is a staunch supporter of local, sustainable agriculture and his restaurants only use macadamia nuts from small Hawaiian farms. He urges all consumers to do the same: Many of the “Hawaiian” macadamia nuts you encounter commercially are in fact Australian nuts that are processed in Hawaii.
Most of us are familiar with macadamia-crusted fish, but there are so many other delicious things to make with Macadamia nuts. Here, three of chef Merriman’s best ideas:
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1. Smooth out your tiki drink. If you’ve had a Mai Tai, you’ve tasted orgeat. This nutty syrup is traditionally made with almonds, but Merriman suggests substituting macadamia nuts for a smoother flavor. Orgeat is super-easy to make—here’s a primer.
2. Upgrade any salad. Merriman says to add a drop of oil to a sauté pan over medium heat, then toss whole macadamia nuts with a dash of chili powder and garlic salt and warm for about a minute. These spicy, buttery nuts are a perfect complement to a salad that also includes sliced fruit, whose sweetness is a great complement to the nuts.
3. Bake. Macadamias add amazing flavor to baked goods, but Merriman cautions that all nuts are not interchangeable in recipes. He suggests using macadamia nuts in recipes that call for hazelnuts, cashews or peanuts rather ones that use almonds or walnuts. The reason is that the former have fat content similar to macadamia nuts, while the latter have a hint of bitterness and lower fat content.
One rule that applies to all these uses: Even if you’re just snacking on macadamia nuts, reheat them briefly before using. This removes any hint of staleness while brightening up the nut flavor. You can do this by popping your nuts on a cookie sheet in an oven set at 350 degrees for a minute, or by tossing briefly in a sauté pan.