07 February 2010

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

In the past couple of years I've gotten into giving out homemade treats for Christmas. I suppose this is what happens as we get older and anything I can buy for my friends or family they can buy for themselves! And if they can't buy it for themselves, I sure can't either! I'm always hesitant to give sweets because my parents' house is always overloaded with cookies and chocolate at Christmas. It's especially bad because my dad is a letter carrier and receives these kinds of gifts from his customers. I know that some people really like sweets though and that my parents' house is a unique situation so I am considering doing cookies next year--at least for those who I know have sweet tooths!

This year, though, I gave out Sweet and Spicy Nuts and am considering making it a tradition. I adapted it from Giada de Laurentiis' recipe for Toasted Cecchi, Almonds, and Pistachios. While I'm intrigued by her use of cecchis (or chickpeas) I'm also skeptical so I didn't go that route. I also couldn't find shelled pistachios (and didn't want to shell several pounds of it). I used almonds, cashews, and peanuts. Honestly the peanuts were for filler because nuts are expensive!

I doubled the amounts of cayenne, rosemary, thyme, and salt. I worked in 2-3 cup batches, mixing into each batch:
1 T olive oil
1 T sugar
2 T chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 T chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 t salt (I used table salt)
1 t cayenne

Unlike in de Laurentiis version, I added the seasoning before baking. I also toasted all the nuts separately, stirring 2-3 times during baking. Here are the temperatures and times:
  • almonds: 12 minutes at 350 degrees
  • cashews: 13 minutes at 300 degrees
  • peanuts: 65 minutes at 225 degrees
The peanuts were the most difficult; I think the high fat content leads them to burn easily. It was so frustrating because they burn very quickly too--one minute they're raw and the next they're burnt! That's why I ended up doing them at such a low temperature even though they took so long. Cashews were much easier than peanuts and almonds much easier than cashews. I think almonds were especially easy, not just because of their low fat content, but also because they taste good raw too! The bottom line: check the nuts often when toasting and work in small batches until you get the temperature and time settings right for your oven.