Even More Nuts I’m Nuts About

When it comes to entertaining the first question usually asked about the main course is “is it dairy or meat?” Which ever way I answer, the subsequent discussions and preparations for side dishes and desserts pale beside the thoughts of what “nibbles” I’m going to put out to take the edge off everyone’s hunger while I’m putting the finishing touches on my masterpieces. Typically, I bring out the nuts (no, I am not referring to my family here).

            Yes, I always have the other kinds of snack-etts like fresh veggies, crackers and pretzel  on hand to preceded what ever appetizers I’ve prepared but mostly, I love to put out a variety of sweet and savory nuts to wet the appetite, take the edge of the hunger and prepare the palette for the meal to follow.

Before anyone starts bitching about the bad press that nuts get in regards to calories and fat you should know that there is “healthy” stuff in nuts too. Nuts like almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts are cholesterol free, chock full of nutrients, protein and fiber. They’re a terrific source of vitamins like folic acid, niacin,  and vitamins E and B-6, and minerals like magnesium, copper, zinc, selenium, phosphorous and potassium. A literal gold mine of good stuff.

          While I will concede that most nuts are relatively high in fat, most of the fat is unsaturated and eating nuts may actually help reduce the risk for heart disease.

While raw and roasted nuts are all that I described and more the following recipes do tend to add sugar and spice and everything nice (with a few more calories) j. All the recipes can all be made ahead of time and store for several weeks.

ORANGE CANDIED NUTS

1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup

1/2 cup orange juice (I like it with pulp)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups unbroken halves of nuts

You will need a candy thermometer

Spray a cookie sheet with non stick spray and set it aside. In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, syrup and orange juice and boil to softball stage; 240 degrees. Remove the mixture from the heat and add nuts. Stir them mixture gently until it becomes creamy. Spread the mixture on a greased cookie sheet; separate with fork and let them cool. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

CANDIED PECANS (OR WALNUTS)

People love these nuts, and often ask me for the recipe.

1 egg white

1 Tablespoon cold water

1 pound pecan halves or walnuts (about 4 cups)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated is best

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 250. Grease rimmed baking sheet with butter or margarine (optional). Place nuts in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon nutmeg and salt thoroughly. In a small bowl, beat egg white with water until thick and foamy. Pour egg white mixture over nuts and toss them with your hands until they are thoroughly coated. Add sugar mixture and mix well. Spread nuts on baking sheet and bake for one hour. Turn nuts once after about thirty minutes. Notes: feel free to add another spice, such as cardamom or allspice to kick the flavor up a notch, but keep it simple and remember, you can always add more spice but add too much and you have to throw it out.

SUGAR SPICED PUMPKIN PIE NUTS

1 large egg white
1 teaspoon water
4 cups mixed salted roasted nuts (about 1 1/4 pound)
2/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon dried orange peel

Preheat oven to 250. Whisk together egg white and water in a large bowl until frothy and stir in nuts. In another bowl combine the sugars, orange peel and pumpkin pie spice. Stir the sugar mixture into the nuts, coating well. Spread nuts in a lightly buttered large rimmed cookie sheet and bake in middle of oven until dry, about 50 minutes. Cool and break into bite-size chunks.

FIRE CRACKER NUTS

Adapted from Rozanne GoldA great cocktail snack to have on hand, these will keep for a week before serving.

Yield: Makes about 6 cups

2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder*
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder (preferably chipotle)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 large egg whites
2 cups pecan halves
2 cups walnut halves and pieces
2 cups raw cashews
1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup matchstick-size strips crystallized ginger

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in center of oven; preheat to 225°F. Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir first 7 ingredients in small bowl to blend. Whisk egg whites in large bowl until foamy. Whisk in spice mixture. Add pecan halves, walnut halves and pieces, and raw cashews; toss to coat completely. Sprinkle sugar over and toss to coat.

Divide nut mixture between prepared baking sheets; spread nut mixture in single layer. Bake until nuts are toasted and coating is dry, stirring every 20 minutes, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Sprinkle nuts with salt to taste, if desired. Transfer nuts to large bowl. Mix in crystallized ginger. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

*A blend of ground anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger available in the spice section of most supermarkets.

 

PEPPERED PECANS

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups pecan halves

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 250°. Melt butter in a small skillet; add hot sauce, garlic and salt. Sauté for 1 minute. Toss pecans with butter mixture; spread in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake pecans for about 1 hour or until pecans are crisp, stirring every 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes 3 cups.

BARBECUED PECANS

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

2 dashes hot sauce

4 cups pecan halves

Preparation:

Melt butter in large saucepan or skillet. Add Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and hot sauce. Add pecan halves, stirring to coat well. Spoon into a lightly greased glass or nonstick baking dish; spread out in an even layer. Toast at 400° about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn out on paper towels and sprinkle with salt

DR. PEPPER PECANS

1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup Dr. Pepper (yes the soft drink)
1 cup pecan halves

Melt butter in small saucepan and add Dr. Pepper. Bring to the simmering point, and then add pecans and simmer for 15 minutes or until Dr. Pepper evaporates, stirring frequently. Pour pecans over cookie sheet and bake at 275 degrees F for 40 minutes or until crisp, turning at least every 10 minutes while baking.

BUTTER RUM CASHEWS

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup rum
2 cups cashews, whole and unsalted
4 tablespoons butter

Generously oil a baking sheet and set aside. Bring the sugar and rum to boil in a saucepan. Cook for 3 minutes, until candy thermometer reads 234. Remove from heat and add the cashews, stirring constantly to coat with syrup. The sugar will become white and grainy after about 30 seconds. Return saucepan to heat and re-melt sugar, adding a few drops of water if needed. Watch carefully – do not burn. When the syrup has turned a rich caramel color, about 2 minutes, and the nuts sound hollow at the tap of a spoon, remove from heat and stir in butter. Transfer mixture to prepared baking sheet, spreading out in one layer, separating any pieces that are stuck together. Cool completely. Store airtight for 2 weeks.

Makes 2 cups

HONEY CHIPOTLE GLAZED NUTS

2 dried chipotle chilies
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
3 cups assorted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pine, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, walnuts)

Spread shelled nuts (except macadamias) in a single layer on a baking pan. Bake in a 350 oven, stirring often, until golden. Allow 5 to 7 minutes for pine nuts; 8 to 10 minutes for pecans, pistachios, and walnuts; about 15 minutes for almonds and hazelnuts. Macadamias need lower heat because they scorch very easily; roast them at 300 for about 20 minutes. Watch nuts carefully since they brown quickly. For more toasted flavor, bake nuts to a darker color.

Remove and discard chili stems. Whirl chilies, with seeds, in a blender or food processor until finely ground.

In a bowl, mix ground chilies, honey, sugar, oil, salt and cayenne. Add nuts and stir until coated with seasonings. Pour nuts onto oiled 15 x 10-inch pan; shake into 1 layer. Bake in a 300 degree F oven, stirring often, until golden brown (under skins, if not blanched) and honey mixture hardens, 25 to 30 minutes. If necessary, push nuts apart; cool in pan. Serve, or store up to 3 days. Makes 3 cups.

ITALIAN SEASONED NUTS

4 cups nuts (any kind)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 envelope Good Seasons mild Italian salad dressing mix

In a skillet saute the nuts in the butter for 2 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce. Remove pan from heat and then stir in the powdered salad dressing mix. Mix to coat. Place a piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet and then spread the nuts in single layer to cool. Makes 4 cups

CRACKED BLACK PEPPER SUGAR ALMONDS

2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup raw almonds

Heat oven to 350. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly butter the foil. In a bowl combine the pepper and garlic salt and stir to mix.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and, when melted, add the sugar and stir in 2 teaspoons water. Simmer the mixture until the sugar melts. Add the nuts and continue to cook until the sugar bubbles, becomes thick and syrupy and coats the nuts, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the pepper mixture over the top of the nuts and quickly toss to coat. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Put the pan in the oven and roast until the nuts are golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Remove the foil with the nuts and place on a wire rack to cool. When the nuts are cool enough to handle, break them apart and serve. Store in an airtight container. Makes 1 cup.

GARLIC AND PEPPER ALMONDS

These peppery toasted almonds can be prepared up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
3 cups whole blanched almonds
Coarse sea salt

In a large skillet over moderate heat, heat olive oil and butter. When butter foams, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the pepper flakes and stir an additional 15 seconds. Add almonds and stir continuously until nuts are well coated and lightly toasted. Add salt to taste. Drain nuts on paper towels and let cool. Serve at room temperature. Makes 3 cups or 12 servings.

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