Monday, May 21, 2007

Nuts About…Nuts

I am deep into the planning and preparation stages of a formal cocktail party that we are hosting for some friends who are soon to be wed. I decided to do it the old-fashioned way, with invitations (RSVP requested), full bar with specialty cocktails, and served hors d’oeuvres. But I wanted some sort of nibble for the tables, so I turned to one of my favorite things: Nuts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans. Spiced, sweet, savory. It’s been a challenge, and I even burned one batch, but I am fairly happy with the results, and with my tinkering around with some recipes. I made a batch each night, so as to stress myself out too much.

I started with a test batch of the rosemary-garlic almonds, added some more salt and ended up with a nice toasty nut. Not too much garlic, as I don’t want the guests shunning one another – but enough to jazz up the flavor. I pulled the rosemary from my garden – and sure am glad I have 3 rosemary plants in various stages, as I do use a fair amount of this herb.

Attempting the sweet-hot pecans, I found them a bit tempermental this time around. I had made them during the holidays and enjoyed them on our Christmas salad, and to just pop in my mouth. The sweetness of the sugar and kick of the cayenne go well together with an egg white binder, making them nice and crunchy. But something went wrong, and part of the batch was burned. I had to patiently separate the burned pieces from the good, as we cannot serve sub-par nuts to our guests, can we?

The third batch was the ginger-glazed almonds. This is the recipe I futzed with, to accommodate the ingredients I had and to satisfy my love of ginger, not to mention making them taste and look a bit different from the rest. I chopped up candied ginger rounds finely in the cooking process and then after all was said and done, cut more up in larger chunks and threw them in with the nuts. This gives the nuts a sweet power punch when you chew both ginger chunk and nut together.

The last recipe is a Teriyaki-glazed walnut. I don’t think I got this one quite right. It’s not awful, but not up to my standards, and I think I will withhold them on party day. I will serve ‘em to family, but not to people I do not know. Gotta keep up the rep, you know…. I am not providing this recipe, as it is not something I would make again.

Rosemary Almonds

1 T butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 ½ c unsalted raw almonds
salt to taste
2 t Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add the garlic and rosemary and stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Add the almonds and season generously with salt (about twice what you think you need). Stir for about 1 minute, until nuts are well coated. Add the Worcestershire, shake pan vigorously, then stir the almonds until glossy (about 1 minute). Pour nuts onto a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake until they’re toasted and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Sweet-Hot Spiced Pecans

1/3 c sugar
3/4 t cayenne
1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground coriander
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/8 t ground allspice
1 large egg white
2 t vegetable oil
2 cu pecan halvaes

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a bowl, mix together first 6 ingredients. Whisk iin egg white and oil, then stir in the pecans. Spread in a single layer in an oiled nonstick 10x15” pan, Bake fore 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then loosen nuts with a wide spatula.

Ginger Glazed Almonds
2 T unsalted butter
3 T packed brown sugar
2 T water
2 T finely chopped candied ginger
1 1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t ground ginger
1/4 t cayenne
2 cups raw whole almonds with skins
¼ cup rough chopped candied ginger

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over moderate heat. Add remaining ingredients except almonds. Cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in almonds, coating thoroughly. Spread almonds in a lightly oiled shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until inside of nuts are golden (cut open to check). This will take about 25 minutes. Once the almonds have cooled, toss with rough chopped ginger and serve.

1 comment:

Ivonne said...

Ah, spiced nuts! Always a pleasure.

Great to see you post again!