I’ve been a nut lover from a very early age. I love all kinds of nuts prepared in every possible fashion: nestled in dark chocolate, sprinkled on salads, mixed in cookie batter, tossed in Asian dishes, and just plain to nibble on. One of my favorite creations is a recipe called Spicy Mixed Nuts in my book Quick Vegetarian Pleasures in which the flavors of cumin and chili powder stand out to create a totally addictive snack. They are a perfect holiday gift and always a big hit.
I have another favorite nut recipe that I know you’ll love. It is for Spicy Candied Pecans that are ideal in a salad. When salty feta or pungent blue cheese is included in the salad, they contrast with the sweetness of the nuts and make an outrageously good combination. They also make a fabulous gift, and they can be prepared a few weeks in advance and refrigerated.
Spicy Candied Pecans
(for 8 salads)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 cups pecan halves (6 ounces)
A few dashes cayenne pepper
Put the sugar in one small bowl and the maple syrup in another small bowl and keep near the stove. Place a large plate on a nearby counter.
In a large heavy skillet toss the pecans over medium heat until fragrant and toasted. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn at all. Sprinkle on the sugar and pour on the maple syrup. Quickly toss well to thoroughly coat the nuts. Sprinkle on the cayenne and salt and cook 2 minutes, tossing the whole time.
Scrape the nuts onto the plate and let cool thoroughly before storing them in a jar or container. You can add more cayenne at this point if you want them spicier.