January 14, 2015

Rosemary Spiced Nuts - Photo by Judith Hausman (UrbanFarmOnline.com)

Do you ever find yourself reaching for a salty snack, but cringe that eating the bag of potato chips in the cabinet will cause you to renege on your new year’s resolutions? Nuts are a healthy alternative to the greasy, overly salted snacks found in grocery store aisles, and this recipe, which includes a bit of sweet, salt and spice, is completely addictive.

While I like the combination of ingredients used in this recipe, there’s room for creativity. Customize the nuts to your own palate and incorporate the herbs you saved and dried from your garden this summer. Other flavorings to try include dried thyme or sage, grated lemon or orange rind, or ground cinnamon.

It’s often cheaper to make the nut mix yourself than to buy “mixed nuts.” Use whatever you prefer: Walnuts, cashews, almonds and hazelnuts are all delicious. I like to start with unsalted ones so I can add the amount of salt I like, but roasted or raw nuts don’t seem to make a difference in the recipe. If you add sunflower or pumpkin seeds add them near the end of the pan-roast, as they can burn more easily. Dried fruit, such as cherries, currants, date pieces or yellow raisins, make a natural pairing with the nuts, as well. Add any dried fruits after you turn off the heat to keep them from becoming hard or dried out.

I often serve the nuts along side a bowl of black olives that I’ve dressed up with hot-pepper flakes, orange and lemon peel, and a sprinkle of oregano and thyme. With these two speedy nibbles, you’ll have a fast, savory cocktail hour ready in a jiffy. The nuts even make a much-appreciated hostess gift.

Yield: about 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 T. butter
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt (Omit if using salted nuts.)
  • 1/2 tsp. hot chili powder or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 cups unsalted nuts and seeds, roasted or raw
  • 1 tsp. rosemary leaves

Preparation

Melt the butter in a sauté pan and mix in the sugar and salt. Add cumin, chili powder and nuts, and toss to coat. Cook over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring the nuts continuously to coat them evenly and prevent burning. Let cool briefly, and mix in the rosemary leaves. Cool completely before serving.

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