“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
Yesterday’s post featured Cinnamon Pecans. And a picture of two others treats, Honey Candied Walnuts and Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. That’s them pictured again in the two spoon-sized portions above.
The walnuts, from Alice Waters, are divine on their own but Alice mentions all the potential uses. They pair well with fruit and cheese, either on an appetizer plate or in a salad. These nuts would be a surprise sprinkled on a baked sweet potato or buried deep in a quesadilla filled with pork. While this version uses walnuts, pecans and pistachios are good substitutes. Of course, because honey is key ingredient here, and because honey comes in a zillion flavors, there is the potential for creative variability. Pick your honey. And your walnut, too, for they come with their own range of wonderful flavors.
Chickpeas are the core of hummus, ideally soft, creamy and lightly lemoned. Here is a recipe that goes to the opposite extreme. The chickpeas are roasted until crisp, then rolled in a spicy mixture that will turn you to drink. I suggest something with higher alcohol content than simple water. These treats are hot, and not just moderately hot.
Honey Candied Walnuts
Yield: 2 cups
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups walnuts
In a deep saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water, while stirring. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the walnuts.
Stir, mixing well, for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the nuts steep in the syrup for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour the nuts into a strainer and drain well. Spread the drained nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Properly candied nuts should feel slightly sticky and look light golden and shiny. Remove the nuts from the oven and cool completely before using. The nuts can be stored in an airtight container in the pantry for up to a month.
Source: The Art of Simple Food II by Alice Waters
Crispy Roasted Chickpeas
Yield: serves 4
- One 15-ounce can chickpeas
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels.
In a colander, drain and rinse the chickpeas. Remove as much water as you can, then pour the chickpeas onto the lined baking sheet and place another paper towel on top of them. Roll the chickpeas around between the towels to dry the chickpeas and removes some of their loose, thin skins. Remove the paper towels (from the top and bottom) and add the olive oil, tossing to coat well. Roast the chickpeas for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy.
Meanwhile, combine the salt, cumin, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl. Removed the chickpeas from the oven and immediately sprinkle them with the spice mixture, tossing to distribute the mixture and evenly coat the chickpeas. Let cool before serving. The chickpeas will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Source: Lunch by Gale Gand
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EF-S 60MM Macro Lens, F/2.8, 1/60th second, ISO-3200