I find it hard to resist a bowl of salty roasted nuts. Add lots of seasonings like chili and lime, maple and rosemary, and curry, and they become even more enticing. Here are three of my favorite variations.
I love roasted nuts for many reasons, beyond the fact that they're just plain delicious. Since you can make them up to a week in advance they're perfect for entertaining. They also make a terrific hostess gift or party favor—just scoop them into cello bags and tie with a pretty ribbon. Additionally, roasted nuts are a cinch to prepare and relatively inexpensive. Peanuts, for example, are usually less than $3 a pound.
Chili Lime Peanuts
These chili-lime peanuts are completely addictive and absolutely perfect for munching with a cold beer or, better yet, a margarita. The zingy lime flavor is a cool complement to the spicy chili and cayenne (my recipe calls for 3/4 teaspoon, but feel free to adjust to your taste). I also added a pinch of sugar to balance out the salt and heat.
Maple Rosemary Bourbon Pecans
I read about these pecans on the New York Times Diner's Journal blog several weeks ago. I was intrigued by the preparation method, which involved soaking the pecans in a brine flavored with maple syrup, bourbon, and fresh rosemary. The resulting nuts are incredibly crunchy and infused with a woodsy, herbaceous flavor. The bourbon and maple syrup give them a very subtle, spicy sweetness. The recipe is endlessly adaptable. Swap orange zest or cinnamon for the rosemary, rum for the bourbon, and brown sugar for the maple syrup.
Sometimes cashews can be a bit bland and not quite as crunchy as other nuts—not these cashews. Roasting them twice ensures a toasty crispness. The spicy curry, cumin, and cayenne are complemented perfectly by the caramelized brown sugar and just a hint of butter.
Each of these recipes yields 3 to 4 cups of roasted nuts and can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.