Question: Help. How do you treat macadamia nuts before you can crack them open? We have this beautiful tree and lots of nuts.
Answer: Tom Cooper of Rancho Nuez Nursery was kind enough to furnish the following information compiled by the California Macadamia Society:
Macadamia nuts should be allowed to drop from the tree naturally. Gather the nuts at least once a week and remove the husks with the aid of a large pair of pliers. Spread the husked nuts on drying trays with screen bottoms and store in a dry place out of the sunlight for two to three weeks.
After this initial period the nuts should be placed in a shallow pan and roasted at 100 to 115 degrees (the warm setting on an electric oven) for about 12 hours, stirring occasionally. This can also be done in a food dehydrator by placing the nuts on shelves, then setting the temperature dial at 110 degrees and the timer to 12 hours. It isn't necessary to stir the nuts when using a dehydrator.
Nuts dried according to the above methods should store well in a dry, cool place and are ready to be cracked and eaten. Placing the nuts in a heavy plastic bag will prevent them from absorbing moisture, or crack the nuts and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator or freezer.
Q: I have a recipe for a poundcake that calls for one pound of superfine sugar. I've searched everywhere for this sugar, but can't seem to find it. Is it something you make from regular granulated sugar?
A: According to Bob Masie at C & H Sugar, there are really only two different types of granulated sugar--the regular table sugar and a finer sugar that may be called superfine, extra-fine, ultra-fine or bar sugar. These finer varieties should be available in one-pound boxes at local supermarkets, but it's also possible to place standard granulated sugar in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process it as fine as desired. We often use this method in The Times' Test Kitchen.
Q: I have a fresh curry plant in my garden and don't know how to use it. I tried cooking the leaves and seeds, but they're very bitter. Can you give me any suggestions?
A: Betty Taylor of Taylor's Herb Gardens in Vista, Calif., tells us the leaves can be used either fresh or dried as a seasoning for food, and the yellow flowers, because they retain their color when dried, make an attractive addition to flower arrangements.
Q: How long and at what temperature should sunflower seeds be roasted?
A: Roast the seeds in a shallow pan at 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, says Deanna DeLong in her book "How to Dry Foods" (HP: 1979). Also included in the book is this recipe for Tangy Sunflower Seeds:
TANGY SUNFLOWER SEEDS
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
Dash cayenne pepper
2 cups raw shelled sunflower seeds
Mix oil, soy sauce, paprika, celery salt and cayenne in medium bowl. Add sunflower seeds and stir until evenly coated. Spread mixture in shallow baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain on paper towels. Makes 2 cups.
In response to the Oct. 16 You Asked About . . . column on mizithra cheese, J. Koclanakis of Stanton writes: "I happen to use mizithra cheese, which is exactly the same as used at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Newport Beach and Fullerton. This can be purchased in a Greek store called S & J Importing Co., Pacific Coast Highway & Pacific Avenue, Long Beach."
Address questions on food preparation to You Asked About . . ., Food Section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053. Personal replies cannot be given.