July 2, 2014

Dear friends:

Spiced nuts are enjoying a renaissance. Warm nuts tossed with butter and fresh herbs debuted several years ago as an upscale bar snack. Now they’re so popular that restaurants are serving them as an appetizer, heaped on a plate.

Spiced nuts have been around for years, of course. In their previous incarnation they were candied with a touch of heat and often used as a salad garnish. The common denominator of the new spiced nuts is rosemary. Everyone who cooks and lives to write about it on the Internet has a recipe, it seems.

Martha Stewart adds garlic and onions; Marcus Samuelsson (Red Rooster in New York City) adds African spices, mint leaves and dried sour cherries; the Food Network’s Ina Garten uses maple syrup and chipotle powder.

The inspiration is the warm, buttery, rosemary-herbed mixed nuts served for several years as a bar snack at Manhattan’s Union Square Café. “Once you eat these you will never want to stop,” writes Nigella Lawson in on her website, www.nigella.com.

Lawson’s recipe calls for Maldon sea salt, an English import with triangular-shaped crystals that taste less salty than table salt. Any other flake-type sea salt may be used instead. If using regular coarse-grained sea salt, use slightly less. Use one-half the amount if substituting table salt or fine sea salt.

UNION SQUARE CAFÉ’S BAR NUTS

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  • 2 1/2 cups (10 oz. by weight) assorted unsalted nuts, including peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
  • 2 tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. Maldon or other sea salt
  • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine, and spread on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350-degree oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.

THE MAILBAG

From Jean Barron:
Just wanted to let you know that Uncle Gizzy’s Horseradish Sauce is back at the flea markets this summer. I saw it at Four Seasons in Youngstown on Sunday and at Hartville on Monday. So just in case the reader that was looking for it last fall didn’t get it before it headed to Florida for the winter, she can get it now.

Dear Jean: Thank you from all the Uncle Gizzy’s fans.

From Kelvin Rogers:
Hi Jane- I was wondering how much of the chorizo sausage is supposed to be in the Frijoles Charros recipe you just posted. Thanks!

Dear Kelvin: Unfortunately, the recipe was garbled in transmission. The chorizo wasn’t the only ingredient that contained a mistake in the amount. I hope nobody used one-half pound jalapenos, as the recipe stated. Here’s a re-run of the entire recipe, with (hopefully) correct ingredient amounts. Sorry for the confusion.

FRIJOLES CHARROS

  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans
  • 11 cups water
  • 2 jalapenos, stems removed
  • 1/2 lb. cooked chorizo Mexican sausage, crumbled
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • For serving: Grated longhorn cheese (mild Cheddar), fresh tomato-onion salsa

Rinse beans under cold running water and discard damaged beans and small stones. Transfer to a large round slow cooker and cover by 3 inches with cold water. Let soak for 6 hours or overnight; drain. Or cover with cold water in a large saucepan, bring to a boil on the stove, boil for 2 minutes and let stand 1 hour, covered. Drain.

To the drained beans in the slow cooker, add the 11 cups water, jalapenos, chorizo, bacon, garlic and onion. Cover and cook on high setting for 3 1/2 to 5 hours. The beans must be covered with liquid at all times to cook properly. When done, they will be tender and hold their shape, rather than fall apart.

Towards the end of the cooking time, season with the salt and remove the chilies. Add the oregano, cumin and cilantro leaves. Let the beans simmer 1 hour more, uncovered, which will thicken them nicely.

Serve the beans in soup bowls, topped with grated cheese and salsa, if desired.   Makes 6 servings.

From “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.

From P.S. Simons:
This sandwich (the Flank Steak Picnic Sandwich) sounds awesome and I can’t wait to try it.  It sounds like a version of muffaletta  and just as tasty.  You say artichoke hearts – I can’t imagine that marinated wouldn’t be okay versus not marinated.  Any reason I can’t use marinated?

Dear P.J.: Although Mo didn’t specify, I have always used marinated artichoke hearts. Enjoy.

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