“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
- 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]
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
We were at DeGustibus, the cooking school at Macy’s, listeing to Rawia Bishara discuss her new book Olives, Lemon, and Za’atar. She went to the core philosophy of cooking, her book, and her immensely satisfying Brooklyn restaurant Tanoreen. “Use what you have. Fresh. Today fresh,” she repeated throughout her demo.
She used harissa in the demo for a Turkish salad. We took her word and followed it. When we had an event for celiac patients and their families, we treated them to harissa and carrots. Earlier in the day, our produce vendor had mentioned he had carrots, lovely spring carrots with perfect tenderness. It was natural to follow Raiwa’s admonition. The carrots were gently poached, then mixed with harissa.
Your version of this will depend on the potency of the chile paste you use. It will be an adventure, unpredictable and exciting. If the results are too hot for you, you can try to dilute with a little more oil or lemon juice. Don’t add the cumin until you’ve done a taste test.
This hot sauce is, well, a hot sauce. It has universal application. In the Middle East, a primary use is with fish or, interestingly, in lentil soups. Or chicken, or on potatoes, or … I said universal and that is true.
With this recipe, you can make the real deal: authentic in ingredients and preparation, as real as the chile peppers that are its genesis.
Yield: 2+ cups
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 cups chile paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground caraway seeds (optional)
- ½ teaspoon ground dill seeds (optional)
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ⅔ cup fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the garlic and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the chile paste, cumin, caraway and dill seeds, if using, and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice and ⅓ to ⅔ cup water, depending on desired consistency, and bring to a boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat, let cool and season with salt. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. The hot sauce will keep, refrigerated, for up to 1 month.
Source: Olives, Lemons, and Za’atar by Rawia Bishara
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/5.6, 1/20th second, ISO-2500