These are a delicious snack, hors d'oeuvre, or hostess gift, and are very easy to make. I have tried several different recipes for spiced nuts and, although I've liked most of them, this is my favorite. I didn't like nuts that had black pepper and found that cumin and cayenne pepper were a better combination. These nuts have both a mild sweet and mild spicy flavor, plus that added something provided by the cinnamon. This recipe was less prone to burning than others and can be made in 15 minutes or less. I have used a combination of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts, and also just pecans, my favorite. All work well, so try whatever you like. If you like a little more heat, then just add a bit more of the cumin and cayenne. Using margarine keeps these nuts pareve, but you could certainly use butter instead.
2 cups raw, unsalted nuts, such as walnut halves, pecan halves, whole hazelnuts, and whole almonds
2 tablespoons unsalted pareve margarine (or butter)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
Measure the cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, sugars, and salt into a small bowl and mix together. Have ready the margarine and water. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, preferably the non-stick type.
Heat the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. You'll just be able to sniff the changing aroma of the nuts, but don't overcook. Add the margarine and continuing stirring until it is melted and about another minute, until the nuts just begin to darken. Add the water and sprinkle the spice mixture over nuts. Stir continuously about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed. The nuts can burn quickly, so if you have any doubts, lower the temperature, remove the pan from the heat, or stop cooking.
Pour the nuts onto the foil-lined baking sheet and separate them with a fork. Let them stand until cooled, about 10-15 minutes. When cool, transfer the nuts onto a paper towel and let sit for a few minutes to absorb any excess grease. Store the nuts in an airtight container.
Jamie Stolper is the ShalomBoston.com Food Editor.
Sweet and Spicy Nuts