Test Kitchen video tip: Toasting spices and nuts for added flavor (and a recipe)

Toast spices and nuts to add extra flavor to a dish

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, such as rich three-bean and hominy chile (you can find the recipe below).

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.

Cooking is fun — at least it should be! No matter how long you've been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it's a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, ranging from how to hold a chef's knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.

Total time: About 2 hours | Makes 20 to 24 (1-cup) servings

Note: The chili is best made 1 day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry. Achiote paste is available at Latin markets.

3 poblano chiles

3 jalapeno chiles

1 to 2 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded and ground (grind using a coffee grinder, or substitute 1 heaping tablespoon New Mexico chile powder), more as desired

2 tablespoons ground cumin, divided, more as desired

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground oregano, divided, more as desired

1 teaspoon ground coriander, more as desired

1/4 cup oil

3 large onions, diced and divided

1 tablespoon minced garlic


2 teaspoons achiote paste (or ground annato seeds), or as desired

2 (28-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, divided


3 (15-ounce) cans hominy, drained and rinsed

6 cups vegetable broth, divided, more as desired

2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika, or as desired

1 teaspoon celery salt, or as desired

2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained

2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Tabasco, or vinegar-based hot sauce

1. Roast the fresh chiles: Place the poblanos and jalapenos on a rack set over a gas stove-top burner and heated over high heat. Roast until the skin on all sides of each pepper is charred, turning frequently, about 5 minutes. (If you have an electric or ceramic stove top, roast the chiles in the oven using the broiler setting until charred on all sides.) Wrap each pepper in plastic wrap and set aside until the peppers are cool enough to handle, then peel the skin (the skin should stick to the plastic wrap). Rub the plastic wrap against the skin to loosen and remove it; do not rinse the peppers to remove the skin, as rinsing will remove flavor. Stem and seed each pepper, then dice the peppers into one-fourth inch pieces.

2. In a large heavy-bottom pot (preferably earthenware or cast iron) heated over medium-high heat, toast the ground New Mexico chile powder, 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 tablespoon oregano and the coriander until fragrant, stirring constantly, 30 seconds to 1 minute.

3. Stir in the oil along with the diced onions. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the achiote paste (be sure to mash the paste until thoroughly incorporated and there are no lumps). Stir in 1 can diced tomatoes (with liquid), and season with 2 teaspoons salt. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring to scrape any flavorings from the bottom of the pan.

4. Stir in the hominy and 4 cups broth, then stir in the diced poblanos and jalapenos. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered, until the hominy is tender but still slightly chewy, about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally, adding broth if needed (the mixture will thicken as it simmers and the hominy cooks).

5. Stir in the paprika and celery salt, as well as the remaining cumin and oregano. Stir in the remaining diced tomatoes (with liquid) and vegetable broth, as well as the black, pinto and kidney beans. Taste and adjust the seasoning and flavorings as desired. Continue to gently simmer, uncovered, until the beans warm and the flavors marry, about 20 minutes.

6. Remove from heat, and thin if desired with additional broth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, acidity and heat with a little Tabasco, cider vinegar, or both. The chili is best made 1 day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry.

Each of 24 servings: 165 calories; 7 grams protein; 29 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams fiber; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 0 mg. cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 1,470 mg. sodium.

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