Shaped like a kidney bean and tan in color, cashews are native to Brazil (though they are also grown in India and the West Indies). High in fat, they have a buttery texture and an almost sweet flavor.
3 oz. pieces - about 1/2 cup
You can substitute other nuts if you have no cashews. If the cashews are salted, lightly salted peanuts make a good substitution. If unsalted, macadamias and hazelnuts, with their rich, buttery flavor, may be a better option.
Look for plump, unbroken nutmeats. Avoid those that are discolored or shriveled. Airtight containers preserve freshness and flavor, but they make it impossible to taste the nuts until you leave the store. Because the shell of the cashew nut is toxic, you will not find cashews in their shell. When you are able to taste, choose nuts that are sweet and crunchy. Rancid nuts have a bitter, unpleasantly oily taste.
A rancid nut can ruin an otherwise perfectly prepared dish, so always taste several nuts from the batch before you use them. A light roasting in a moderate oven until fragrant and lightly golden will accentuate the flavor of most nuts.
Shelled nuts, unless they're vacuum-packed in cans, should be wrapped tightly and stored in the fridge or freezer.