Thursday, October 27, 2011

Smokey Spiced Cashews

My mom and her friends are taking a mini roadtrip this weekend, driving from Virginia Beach to Charlottesville on Friday, and then to Richmond on Saturday. My mother not-so-subtly suggested I have them over for drinks Saturday night before we all go out to dinner. I think it went something like this-
Her: "We should come to your house for drinks on Saturday night."
Me: "Oh...Ok."

It's not that I don't want to host them here for pre-dinner cocktails; on the contrary, I'm really looking forward to it. But the way my mother phrased it was less of a suggestion and more of a commandment. I think it's making her a little anxious that I've been living in this house for five months and she's yet to see the inside. Up until now she's only gotten a glimpse of the outside when she visited for Mother's Day and my whole family insisted we do a drive-by, which included driving down the alley that's behind our back yard. Of course the home owners (and my landlords) who were still here at the time, out on the back deck, but thankfully they didn't notice the suspicious SUV moving at a glacial pace past their property.

Of course, she may have insisted because I had thoughtlessly forgotten to invite them, even though they're generously including me in their Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch plans. I honestly can't remember how much time had passed between her telling me about the trip and us firming up plans for the weekend, but in case it was my faux pas, I've been busily preparing my house for their visit. This means scrubbing it from top to bottom (quite a feat since I hardly ever clean. Quick tangent: I hate to clean but love, love, love having a clean house. The answer to this would be to hire someone else to clean my house, but Dan doesn't think it's "appropriate" for people in their twenties to have maids. Damn him and his upper-middle class guilt.), and cooking up some yummy hors d'oeuvres for our own personal happy hour. First up- these jazzed up sassy nuts.

Cashews are one of the only kinds of nuts I actually love. Other kinds I can tolerate- peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sometimes pecans, but never walnuts. I really hate walnuts, especially when I unexpectedly find one lurking in the middle of a chocolatey fudgy brownie. Talk about a buzz kill. Roasted salted cashews are perfectly delicious on their own, but when I came across this idea months ago, I bookmarked it thinking it would be perfect for the holidays.

Whether you're hosting a holiday dinner party, invited to a cocktail party, or want to include something savory in your annual cookie baskets, these are it. Easy and quick to make, pack them up in a simple mason jar or pour them into a pretty bowl for pre-Thanksgiving cocktail hour.

And don't worry, these may look like spicy enough to singe your eyebrows off, but they're very mild. Remember they're spiced not spicy.

Smokey Spiced Cashews
Yield: Approx. 4 cups

3/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
20 oz salted whole cashews
1 Tbsp olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine all spices and mix together with a fork or small whisk.
2. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the cashews and reduce heat to low.
3. Drizzle olive oil over nuts and toss to coat. Add spice mixture and toss to coat nuts evenly.
4. Continue to heat nuts just until warm. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Remove from heat and serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Recipe Notes:
  • If you buy unsalted nuts, be sure to add at least 1/2 tsp salt to the spice mixture.
  • Yes, it's important to use smoked paprika instead of regular. It's what gives these nuts their great smokey flavor.
  • You can definitely sub in different nuts- I think peanuts or almonds would be great, or you can do a mixture of different kinds.
  • Be sure to taste as you go. Older spices won't have as much flavor, so you might need to compensate by adding a few more dashes of this or that.
Adapted from Ina Garten via How Sweet it Is


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