There aren't a ton of excellent restaurants where I live. But there's little traffic, I run into people I've known all my life at the grocery store, and my friends have been my friends nearly all my life, so for what it lacks in dining, it makes up for by simply being the place I want to be.
But good lord, trying to find a decent salad a shade more interesting than a Caesar is a struggle, which is why I've had to really brush up on my at-home salad skills. Nothing has made them more delicious than this quickie two-ingredient salty, herby nut topping.
Sautéed Nuts Will Make Your Salads Sparkle
There are many ways to make a salad great, but my go-to method is to add something crunchy, fatty, and hot. These hot buttered nuts take care of all three of these requirements at once. They also have the added benefit of being quick to make and pretty uncomplicated.
The base of this recipe is two ingredients — butter and nuts — and you know salt is a freebie. From there what you add is all about how you like it. Here's how it's done.
- The nuts: Grab the nuts you want to add to your salad. I've done this with raw almonds, raw walnuts, raw cashews, and unsalted unroasted peanuts. Mostly this is because it's what I usually have on hand, but it's better to start with a raw nut anyway so you're not piling on the toasting and roasting to an already seasoned nut. Chopped nuts are best here because they're easy to eat and, honestly, cheaper.
- The butter: Melt about a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. I opt for a higher temperature because I'm trying to get a sizzle when I add the nuts. Once it's just melted toss in the nuts and stir and swirl. The butter will brown a bit the longer it stays over heat, so keep an eye on things and move the pan from the heat the second you suspect any burning. This process should take you more than two minutes, tops.
- The seasoning: Nuts and butter honestly make for an amazing salad upgrade all on their own, but we're here at the stove within reach of our spice cabinet so it's not that much more work or effort to add a pinch of cumin for smoky nuts, or red pepper flakes for some heat. Sometimes I add a handful of chopped herbs to the skillet as well. You'll be well beyond a two-ingredient recipe at this point, but with a salad topping this delicious, who's counting?
- The salt: For this recipe to really sing, finish with a fat pinch of salt. Pull out the big flaky stuff you save for some real sparkle.
Herbs will make this recipe feel luxurious and depending on which you use, you'll get a different result. For every 1/4 cup of nuts, use about 2 tablespoons of herbs. Scale down to 1 tablespoon if you're going with herbs that have a lot to say, flavor wise. (Rosemary, I'm looking at you.) Here are a few combos to try out.
- Almonds + Red Pepper Flakes + Parsley: This is my go-to mostly because these three ingredients are always hanging around. Add the chopped parsley off the heat so it just barely wilts before adding it to your salads.
- Almonds + Rosemary + Black Pepper: I love this mix on arugula. Make sure to get a really good chop on that rosemary, otherwise it'll feel like you're eating twigs and branches.
- Peanuts + Basil + Cayenne: I love anything that combines heat with basil. This is an easy way to bring that mix to your salad. I mix this up and pour it over a bag of broccoli slaw when I want to eat something with a lot of flavor without having to do much cooking.
- Cashews + Sage: Does this sound weird? This might sound a little weird, but the sage crisps up in the butter, the cashews pick up that earthy flavor, and salads with starchy roasted vegetables like beets or sweet potatoes have never been more delicious. Lemon is all you need to finish.