Nutty Gifts: Sweet, Spicy or Savory
Party nuts are always a hit. Whether salty or sweet, spicy or mild, they are always rich and a bit decadent, but still virtuous because, after all, nuts are good for us. Bag up a gift of any one of these simply sensational nuts.
Warm and sweet, cardamom is a member of the ginger family. It is most often tasted in Scandinavian, Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, and smelled in perfumes. Although it is somewhat stronger in seed form, I am a big fan of it ground. Its flavor is definitely prevalent and yet not overpowering in these slightly sticky, slightly peppery, slightly sweet almonds.
2 tablespoons Sucanat (organic sugar)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 ½ to 2 teaspoons ground cardamom, to taste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ cup honey
2 cups raw whole almonds, blanched or skin on
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the sugar, salt, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger in a small bowl; mix well, and set aside.
3. Place the honey in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the almonds and cook, stirring all the while, until most of the honey has been absorbed by the almonds and any remaining honey is a deep amber color, for 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Remove the almonds from the heat, add a small amount of the sugar mixture to the almonds, and toss. Add the remaining sugar mixture, a little bit at a time, and toss with the almonds until all the mixture has been used.
5. Transfer the almonds to the prepared sheet and arrange in a single layer; separate the almonds with a fork or your hands. Set aside and cool before serving.
Makes 2 cups
Slow-roasted Southern Buttered Pecans
A simple, traditional, age-old recipe, these nuts are best served with semi-soft cheeses, such as Hubbardston blue goat cheese or Saint-Nectaire, and crisp pears or apples, like Macouns, my favorite.
4 cups raw pecan halves
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into piece
Kosher salt to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 250F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the pecans on the prepared sheet and arrange in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, stirring every 15 minutes, until they turn a deep brown color, about 1 hour.
3. Remove from the oven, immediately loosen the nuts with a metal spatula, add the butter, and stir until the nuts are well coated. Sprinkle evenly with salt and serve immediately or set aside to cool.
Makes 4 cups
And I do mean killer. These are not for shy and retiring types. I’m not even that crazy about peanuts, but I couldn’t stop eating these. They are perfect for a big party, accompanied by chips, salsa and chicken wings.
4 cups lightly toasted shelled peanuts
1 tablespoon chile oil (if you want them really hot) or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place the peanuts and oil in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the remaining ingredients and toss again to coat evenly.
3. Transfer the nuts to the prepared sheet, place in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven, immediately loosen the nuts with a metal spatula, and set aside to cool before serving.
Makes 4 Cups
Adapted from Party Nuts by Sally Sampson (The Harvard Common Press 2002).