Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Delicious Holiday Treat: Spiced Nuts

Let me start out by saying that I take absolutely NO credit for this recipe. It comes from one of my favorite authors, Deborah Harkness. Deborah is not only a great author, but a kind and generous person who interacts with her readers and shares her many inspirations, like music and food and art and so much more. Check her out HERE . She's also a woman after my own heart as she loves to cook and is a wine blogger! If you haven't read her All Souls Trilogy you are missing a real treat -- it's like Harry Potter for grown ups with a scholarly dose of history thrown into the mix.

So, here's what I've been making -- Spiced Nuts or "Em's Vampire Nuts" as they are referenced in the books. This is the 3rd year I've made them, and they are delicious. They make a great gift, aren't too labor intensive and have the distinction of having several good ways to serve them. You can, of course, eat them on their own as a snack, but I LOVE them on top of a salad. Get a fancy blend of lettuce that includes arugula (or rocket as they call it across the pond). Top it with some goat cheese, and either pomegranate seeds or craisins, drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette and place a few of these nuts, pride of place, right on top. I bet they'd be great on top of a shortbread cookie as well, like pecan sandies for grownups.  Heaven! Fancy without being fussy, special without being pretentious! Give this a try, you'll thank me (and Deborah Harkness)!

Spiced Nuts

1 lb halved nuts ( I like walnuts or pecans or a mixture of the two, You can also use almonds but don't use cashews -- they burn too quickly.)
2 1/2 vegetable or canola oil (don't use olive oil)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cardamon
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg

In a medium saucepan, boil 3 inches of water and add the nuts. Blanch them for 1 minute and drain well. When they are drained, put them while still hot into a bowl with the vanilla and oil. Sprinkle with the sugar. Stir well to coat the nuts and then let them sit for 10 minutes. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees while you are waiting. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a large baking sheet with a rim. Bake the nuts for about 30 minutes, stirring and turning them every 7 - 10 minutes. Watch them carefully -- they can go from brown to burned quickly! In between stirring, mix the salt, cardamon, cinnamon and nutmeg together in a cup. When the nuts  are finished baking, put them into a big bowl and sprinkle with the spices. Stir, stir and stir them until all the spices are evenly distributed. Cool them in a single layer on some parchment or waxed paper. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in a cool dry place (not the refrigerator). Enjoy!

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