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Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007 09:14 am

Nuts in a bind

Take 20 minutes to whip up a quickie holiday treat

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Inevitably during the holiday season with all of its twists, turns, and stress galore — something goes wrong in the kitchen. Even worse, you’ve got a pack of carolers showing up in 20 minutes for Yuletide socializing with nothing in the way of vittles. This is a good opportunity to develop your own entertaining tricks. After all, every cook or party host needs a safety valve for the occasional “Omigod” culinary moment. Save your butt with nuts. Any kind of peeled, unsalted nuts will do. The trick is in the seasoning — a simple mixture of cayenne, rosemary, and brown sugar does magical things to squirrel fodder. A little melted butter acts as an adhesive for the spicy dust and minimizes the seasoning detritus at the bottom of your snack bowl. I can’t take credit for dreaming up this ingenious snack, which was made famous by the Union Square Cafe in New York, but I do love to share this gem, which can work double duty as a cocktail nibble and as a fabulous holiday gift. Think about whipping up a bunch for the football game and one for those empty gift tins waiting to be filled. You can thank me next year after all the carolers have gone. Happy holidays.
Culinary questions? Contact Kim O’Donnel at kim.odonnel@creativeloafing.com
Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts 

5 cups (2 1/2 pounds) of assorted      peeled, unsalted nuts (try any      combination of peanuts, cashews,      Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts,      pecans and whole almonds) 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh      rosemary 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 2 teaspoons dark-brown sugar 2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nuts with the spiced butter to coat them. Serve warm or at room temperature. These can be made in advance; store in an airtight container when thoroughly cooled.
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