Wednesday, May 15, 2013
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a habitual snacker, but I’m terrified of being hungry—it makes me cranky and weak and shaky and indecisive. So I always feel better when I’ve got something to nibble on just in case, and nothing staves off my hunger pangs more than a handful of nuts. Having snacks on hand became especially important when I started my new job. Spending all day trying to learn the ropes is exhausting and overwhelming to begin with, but the company was extra busy and short-staffed when I came on board, so I was working incredibly hard right off the bat. I made sure that I was always supplied with a little container of nuts to feed my brain in the midmorning and late afternoon, but I burned through my small repertoire of roasted-nut recipes fairly quickly and decided to start in on my backlog of bookmarked new versions. This one, from Ina Garten via Eggs on Sunday, is a bit on the sweeter side than what I usually aim for, but boy howdy, is it delicious. A has declared it the all-time best, and I’m not inclined to argue.
Garten is also the creator of my special-occasion (specifically, Christmastime) nut recipe, Rosemary Roasted Cashews, and this shares some of the same ingredients and mix of sweet-spicy-salty-savory elements but takes everything up several notches. Here we have rosemary again, but also orange juice and zest, maple syrup, and a generous dose of smoky chipotle chili. The result is well-balanced and irresistible. And even though I had to laugh at the odd quantities of the different nuts called for in the recipe (basically, lots of cashews, a medium amount of walnuts and pecans, and just a few almonds, all adding up, inexplicably, to 31 ounces—for pete’s sake, why not two pounds, Ina?), I did follow it precisely for experimentation’s sake and loved the variety of the mixture. I used the bulk section at Whole Foods to get the exact amounts called for, but if it’s easier for you to buy prepackaged nuts, there’s no reason you couldn’t use, say, half cashews and half pecans and round up the quantities to an even number of pounds.
The first time I made this, I halved it because it seemed like a lot and nuts are expensive, y’all. I baked the nuts for exactly the time specified (I wasn’t thinking; I should have reduced it) and came within a hair’s breadth of burning them. They were still tasty, but decidedly on the dark—er, caramelized—side. The second time, I made the full recipe, but foolishly followed the instructions to the letter and plopped them all on a single baking sheet, even though there wasn’t room to spread them out in a single layer. Consequently, they took forever to cook. I baked them for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe said to, and they were still a little sticky when I took them out. I convinced myself they’d firm up when they cooled, but they remained a little chewy even then. Again, still tasty, but I feel as though I’ve yet to execute the recipe perfectly. I did correct the directions below to use two baking sheets if you’re making the full batch. Which you really should, because if they’re so delicious when I’ve messed them up, imagine how good they’ll be when I finally get them right!
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews (14 ounces)
2 cups whole walnut halves (7 ounces)
2 cups whole pecan halves (7 ounces)
½ cup whole almonds (3 ounces)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of half an orange
2 teaspoons ground chipotle powder
4 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
2-3 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the nuts, oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, orange juice and zest, and chipotle powder. Toss to coat the nuts evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of rosemary and 1 to 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, and toss again.
3. Divide the nuts between the two baking sheets and spread them out in a single layer. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring about halfway through, until glazed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with another teaspoon or so of salt and the remaining 2 tablespoons of minced rosemary.
4. Stir well and set the nuts aside on their baking sheets to cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking together too much as they cool. Store in an airtight container.
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; will keep in a sealed container at room temperature for at least a week, or can be frozen indefinitely.