Saturday, January 21, 2012

Recipe: Spiced Nuts

In 2001, Jon and I took a 11 year anniversary vacation to an all inclusive resort on the island of Antigua.  The weather was beautiful but the vacation was a disaster.  
The "all inclusive" resort translated into booze included in the price for your stay.  Activities were not included nor were they maintained or run by the resort of anyone reputable.   
As non drinkers, we were not excited at the prospect of drinking ourselves into oblivion. Although, I must admit, but the end of our stay, I considered it.
The sandy beaches that were pictured on the brochure and commercials were actually not private, but packed with people.  Beggars and peddlers harassed tourists constantly.  We couldn't spend 90 seconds on the beach, either walking or sunbathing without being accosted to purchase some jewelry, cigarettes, get my hair braided, purchase sea shells, go on a boat, etc.
The staff at the resort were hostile and resentful of the clients who came to the resort.  
The place was filthy, complete with birds flying and eating in and out of the buffet.  The staff did nothing to discourage our fine feathered friends from feasting. So, instead of eating from the buffet, we waited in lines where we watched "cooks" assemble our food.
The second day into the vacation from hell, we contacted our travel agent and looked at leaving the island and recouping our losses and heading elsewhere for the remainder of the week.  Not, only was our travel agent unhelpful, but told me that she we were her first complaint about the resort.  She made it clear that our money was non refundable and she was going to make no effort to help us.  We stayed on the island and attempted to make the best of it. We ate very little - only things that we thought were "safe".
It was also the last time we ever dealt with that travel agent.  
(We learned many valuable lessons, but most of all next time we would leave a poor quality resort immediately, refund or not.)
On the bright side, on the flight home, the stewardess brought us some warm spiced nuts. Jon and I devoured them as if we we hadn't eaten in a week.  (OK, so it was pretty close to that.)
But, ever since then, I equate warm spiced nuts with elegance. And they are so easy to make!

Spiced nuts are easy to make and easy to tailor to your tastes.  I used almonds, but you can use any kind that you like.  The almonds are mild when spiced and really are just a carrier for the spices and herbs used.
I find that salting the nuts after they are cooled is the best way to season them just right.
Spiced nuts are different than candied nuts as they don't have a sweet candy shell on them.  Spiced nuts are good to eat as a snack or mixed in with salads.  I think that chopped spiced nuts would be delicious on a sundae too!

 Vary the spices according to your own tastes, adding or omitting them as you see fit. While these nuts contain chili peppers they are NOT spicy hot.  They are simply spiced, like a spice cake. Here is a basic recipe.

2 cups almonds, whole
1/4 tsp of any or all of the following spices - cinnamon, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, chipotle, nutmeg, garlic powder, pepper, rosemary
2 T butter
3 T brown sugar
1 T water
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt (optional)
Line a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.
In a large frying pan, melt butter.  Add nuts and sautee until nuts are toasted.  Sprinkle with spices and herbs. Stir around.  Sprinkle with sugar.  Add water and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook 1 - 2 minutes until melted and bubbly, stirring until nuts are coated.
Pour onto parchment paper lined pan and spread out.  Let cool somewhat (if you can). Taste and sprinkle with salt as desired. Enjoy.

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