Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mixed nuts

On Sunday morning, I had a momentary panic that the seven menu items I had already decided on and begun preparing would not after all be enough food to adequately stuff the 40 or so Vintage Home Society members expected at SP’s that evening. This was brought on by observing the double batch of Cheddar-Pecan Shortbread I had just finished packing, rattling around loosely in the bottom of a medium-sized plastic storage box, looking thoroughly insufficient. Don’t caterers always have everything in enormous quantities? What was I doing showing up with one of the menu items packed in a lunchbox-sized container that wasn’t even full? Could I make my amateur status any more apparent?

I frantically took stock of my supplies, equipment, and recipe collection to see what I could rustle up that would supplement the paltry shortbread rations in the “nibbles” section of the menu, and maintain its autumn theme, all without throwing me completely off schedule (or kilter).

Once again the slow cooker saved the day. Aided and abetted by a bunch of nuts.

Oh, and by the way--there was more than enough food. Probably would have been even without the nuts. But over-catering is a security blanket, especially for a novice.

Sweet and spicy roasted mixed nuts
Adapted from Nigella Bites
Toasting nuts in the slow cooker is much easier than in the oven—no real need to worry about burning, which can happen very quickly in the oven or on the stovetop.

2 lbs/1 kg assorted unsalted nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts because that’s what I had in the pantry)
4 tsp/20 ml maple syrup
2 Tbsp/30 g browned butter
2 4 in/8 cm sprigs of fresh rosemary
½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp/10 g kosher salt

Preheat the slow cooker to its highest setting. When hot, add the nuts and allow to cook with the lid somewhat ajar (to let any moisture escape) until they begin to smell toasted. Stir regularly while this is happening; it could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the age and quality of your slow cooker—not to mention your nuts.

When nuts begin to smell toasted, lower the heat. In a small bowl, stir together the maple syrup, butter, and cayenne, and mix to your satisfaction. Chop the rosemary very finely and add.

Pour mixture over nuts in slow cooker and stir to coat each thoroughly. Sprinkle salt over and stir again. Shut slow cooker off and leave roasted nuts in, uncovered, to cool.

Makes about 2 lbs/1 kg of nuts. Supremely nibblable.

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