Suzi's Blog

Brian’s Chili Nuts

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“What are you blogging today?” my wife Suzen asked me.

I don’t get asked every day and when I am asked, it comes in two forms. There is the “I’m curious what you are going to please people with today” voice that I love. And, then, of course, there is the “One more cocktail or cheesy dip or frosted brownie and I’m going to scream at you, again” voice that I fear.

I fear it because of guilt. I know. This blog is not balanced. I’m sorry. I’m working on it. I’m in multiple 12-step programs. Thing is, Step 7 in Program A does not match Step 7 in Program B.

Or as my sponsors say, I am out of step.

And, I am about to blog some cheesy things in the coming days so, to preempt her angst, I’m going to post something modestly healthy: chili nuts with options.

In moderation, as with all things, nuts are fine. Unsalted nuts are better. So, for party appetizers instead of cheese and crackers, or a cheesy dip for the crudité, or queso something for the chips — I am making myself drool her, seriously — instead of all that why not offer some chili nuts that are satisfying, healthy and pair with anything from beer to sangria.

This recipe comes with options for you: the nuts, the spices, the liquid used to first bond nuts and spice. I’ve seen oven temperatures range from 250° to 325° with baking times from 45 down to 15 minutes. What should you do? Pick a temperature and monitor your nuts along the way. If you can smell them baking, you’re done.

Actually, my recipe below uses more liquid than other recipes, so I would suspect that a longer baking time is wise.


Brian’s Chili Nuts

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups unsalted nuts: peanuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, even chickpeas [mixed if you desire]
  • 3 tablespoons liquid: lime juice or olive oil, depending on your flavor preference [I love lime]
  • 1 tablespoon salt [omit if your nuts are salted, but add if the nuts are not salted; it’s for flavor]
  • 4 tablespoons total of dry spices: chili powder, ground pepper, garlic powder, ground cumin, celery salt, cayenne pepper, ground cinnamon, ground allspice [and anything that makes your tongue tingle]

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 250°. Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, add the nuts and then the liquid. Mix with your hands to ensure the nut surface is coated evenly. If necessary, because of all the cracks and crevices in the nuts, add additional liquid.

Wash and dry your hands. Make the spice mixture. Work down in quantity in the order of spices shown above. For example, use more chili powder than allspice. Remember that a little cumin goes a long way. Celery salt has a wonderful flavor, if you like it. The best way to proceed here is to work your way along, stopping to taste test until you have the balance and the heat you like.

Sprinkle half, just half, of your spice mixture over the nuts. Mix by hand. If necessary add more spice but remember you are looking to impart flavor, not coat the nuts in sheet of molecules that will sparkle on your tongue. Less is more.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared sheet, put in the heated oven, and bake for around 30 minutes. Be alert for smells telling you the nuts are done. Every 15 minutes, stir the nuts so they do not stick and do taste test along the way.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/28 for 1/100th second at ISO‑2000

 

Caper Butter

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It’s a Friday in July. The odds are that today or tomorrow or Sunday, you’ll buy summer corn, sweetening with each week of additional sun. And then you’ll grill or boil or broil or microwave those ears for one or more weekend meals.

Salt and butter will be consumed with that corn. Here’s a way to get both butter and salty flavor, combined, with a tangy benefit: make Caper Butter to spread on your corn. Capers are the pickled berries of a bush that grows wild around the perimeter of the Mediterranean, actually down into the Sahara and as far East as Iran. Capers are a staple, employed extensively and quite differently in the different Mediterranean cuisines.

Capers can, actually, be used wonderfully on their own. In many Mediterranean dishes though, you’ll often find capers used alongside chopped fresh oregano or other herbs, spices of all kinds, onion aplenty, citrus juices of all varieties, pepper and chiles of all shapes and sizes. When making this butter, then, you really have unlimited options. I’ve indicated a good, basic combination that Suzen and I have used, one that that will make your corn even more sumptuous.

Feel free to chop up your favorite additional flavors and add into the butter mixture.


Caper Butter for Your Weekend Corn

Yield: ½ cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick [½ cup] butter, softened
  • 2-4 tablespoons capers, depending on your pucker factor
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, optional
  • Pinch of freshly chopped oregano, optional

Preparation:

In a metal bowl, add all the ingredients and gradually mix with a wooden spoon.

When thoroughly mixed, roll the butter into a log wrapped with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm. Use within a week.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6for 1/60th second at ISO‑1250