Nuts for the Holidays!

 

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Recently friends dropped by for a quick visit on a Saturday evening, and in the name of keeping it simple I decided to serve two different spiced nuts. I’ll be making these again for the Christmas Open House we’re hosting soon (expect to see lots of posts about what’s on the menu for that!).

If you’re looking for a savoury, simple and dare I say sensational nibble to set out at a gathering (or for yourself on a evening curled up in an armchair with a good book), look no more! And besides, nuts are a healthy snack, which is how I rationalize eating so many of them.

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I’ve been making the Spiced Party Nuts for many years at Christmas, usually along with the sugared nuts that are absolutely required by my children at the holidays (yes, be patient, the recipe for those is coming!). Their spicy heat is a nice change from the focus on sweet things at the holidays.

I’ve made the Rosemary Cashews in the past, but without cashews (meaning, using different nuts). This time I decided to splurge on cashews. Having now tried this recipe with these buttery rich nuts, it will be hard to go back, but hey, I think I’ve reached a stage in life where I deserve cashews! They turned out very, very good and due to their richness a few go a long way (even for me).

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Spiced Party Nuts

This recipe is from The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. I’ve given this book to both my daughters and also to some friends, and we all love it! I’m presenting the recipe directly from the book, with the method adapted somewhat to my words.

Pre-heat oven to 325º

  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt (note: I use garlic powder)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups shelled whole almonds or pecan halves
  • 1 tbsp coarse (kosher) salt (optional)
  • garlic salt (optional)

Mix all the spices in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over low heat. Add the spice mixture and stir well. Simmer to mellow the flavours for 3 or 4 minutes. Put the nuts in a mixing bowl, add the spice mixture and stir well. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Remove from the oven and use a spatula to toss the nuts with the spice and oil mixture on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with coarse salt to taste. Let cool completely and store in airtight containers.

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Rosemary Cashews

This recipe is from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris (with the method somewhat adapted) and she says it’s inspired by the bar nuts served at the Union Square Café In New York City. I’ve also made these in the past, using mixed nuts and Nigella Lawson’s recipe in Nigella Bites, also adapted from the same establishment. Clearly, if I’m ever in New York I need to go to the Union Square Café to try the original version for myself! I do like these with mixed nuts, but using cashews only takes the dish to a new level of extravagance.

I made just a fraction of the recipe, but I’m presenting the quantities from Ina’s recipe. Because my friend can’t eat sugar I left it out, but added cinnamon for its sweet quality. I don’t have a specific quantity to offer; just add a bit at a time and taste until you get it right! (And hey, that’s a great excuse to eat some of these nuts before your guests arrive.)

Pre-heat oven to 350º

  • 1 lb roasted unsalted cashews
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Spread the cashews on a baking tray and roast in the oven until just warm, about 5 minutes. Using a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne pepper, sugar, half of the salt and butter. Add the warm cashews and toss thoroughly. Taste and add more salt to taste. Serve warm (although I can attest they are good cold too!)

To quote Nigella Lawson, “… once you eat these, you will never want to stop.” I can confirm that.

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22 comments

  1. These both sound amazing! Even factoring in the high cost of some nuts, it’s so economical to make a fancy nut assortment like this compared to buying the same thing. Sounds like it will be a great party! 🙂

  2. I am so glad you posted these. I’ve been considering toasting some nuts as part of this year’s gift baskets and was going to google some recipes. I would much rather follow recipes from someone that I know and trust, lest I end up with rotten nuts. Thanks, Mar. These recipes sound perfect!

    • Rotten nuts in a gift basket would be an unhappy surprise indeed! Glad these recipes appeal to you. I also have a sugared nuts recipe that I made every year; hope to get it up here soon. Have fun putting your gift baskets together – what a nice idea!

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