Friday, March 09, 2012


I’m so proud of these—maybe even prouder than I am of my newfound egg-poaching ability, because I made up this recipe myself! I’d spotted and bookmarked a lemon-pepper cashew recipe ages ago, and ever since then, the lovely concept had been taking root in my imagination and appetite. I love lemon, I love pepper, and I love cashews, and I know I love at least two of them at the same time—in fact, Trader Joe’s used to carry black pepper cashews that I adored. But when I finally decided it was time to make them, I took a closer look at the recipe and found that it was laden with sugar: a whopping ¼ cup of the stuff for just 1 cup of cashews! I’m sure it was delicious, but as I’ve discussed before, I like to save sweetness for dessert, not snacktime, and I’m only in the market for sweet/spicy/savory roasted-nut recipes, which are surprisingly hard to come by. I launched a Web search for other lemon pepper cashew recipes, but most of the ones I found were just the same recipe all over again, except for a small minority that employed storebought lemon pepper seasoning instead, which: no. I live in Southern California and I’m going to use fresh lemons, damnit.

What I wanted was something exactly like the chili lime peanut recipe I’d recently fallen for, but with cashews instead of peanuts, lemon zest and juice instead of lime, and black pepper instead of chili powder. So…why didn’t I just adapt it myself? It sounds simple, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you’ll know that I don’t exactly work off-recipe very well. I might add another garlic clove here and substitute feta for goat cheese there, but it’s rare that I build anything from the ground up. Still, since I was desperate for lemon pepper cashews and couldn’t find any recipe that would do, I took matters into my own hands, figured out the proportions, and got to work. The entire time, I was convinced that it wouldn’t succeed, so imagine my shock when I tasted my first cashew and it was wonderful—intensely lemony, spicily peppery, addictively crunchy, with just the right undertones of salt and sugar. Be forewarned: these are quite bold and zesty. (The lemon flavor is maybe even stronger than the pepper; I used the zest of two lemons because I was juicing another lemon anyway for another recipe, but feel free to cut back to just one lemon if you aren’t a fanatic.) But they were also a hit with all those who tried them (my highly scientific sampling group of three: me, A, and A’s friend), and A declared them even better than the original chili lime version. These are going to be a frequent snack at our house, I know.

Now I feel I should round out the citrus-nut trifecta by adapting this recipe one more time to use oranges. Orange curry almonds? Orange cinnamon pecans? Hmm….

Freshly grated zest of 1–2 lemons
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 teaspoons freshly, coarsely ground black pepper
1 pound unsalted cashews

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2. Whisk lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, sugar, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add cashews and stir until evenly coated.

3. Scrape nuts onto a large, rimmed baking sheet (line with parchment if desired, for ease in cleanup). Bake until nuts are fragrant, dry, and beginning to darken, about 30 minutes.

Serves: About 16
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Excellent; will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least a week

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