I was flipping through Ina’s latest cookbook, How Easy Is That?, in search of a snack enticing enough for my (basically) un-health conscious family, but healthy enough to meet my standards for our annual winter family get together / food fest. Every winter for the past ten years or so, my family and I pack up the car and take a trip to see my aunt, uncle, and cousins in New England for a weekend of catching up, cooking old family favorites, overindulging, and drinking good wine. They in turn make the trip down to Jersey every August for a similar event hosted at my parent’s house. Food is the main feature of both weekends, but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realize that the food is providing much more than caloric sustenance to this crew. It’s the experience of breaking bread, sharing wine, and the increasingly loud dinner table banter that becomes something much bigger than the food: a deeply bonding experience. Going back to the caveman days, food has always brought people together and the meal is a celebrated time of thanksgiving. In modern times, the concept of the nuclear family sitting down, conversing, and eating supper together is less and less the norm. I’m thankful that this notion hasn’t died in my family and that my husband and I sit down together every night for a meal, regardless of our schedules. I hope that reading this blog and the recipes I share with you inspire you to dig a little deeper, take fewer shortcuts, and cook. But more than that, I hope this blog inspires you to share a meal with someone you love, whether it’s family or a friend. I guarantee that you’ll cover more ground and feel much closer afterwards than you would by exchanging a text message or e-mail.
Anyhow, here is the sweet and savory little treat I whipped up for our cocktail hour before dinner. I think it would be a wonderful accompaniment to a cheese plate and would pair well with a glass of red wine or beer. Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends!
3 cups whole roasted unsalted cashews
2 cups whole walnut halves
2 cups whole pecan halves
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp. ground chipotle powder
4 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves, divided
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush generously with vegetable oil. Combine everything except the rosemary and salt in a large bowl. Toss well until coated evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and 2 teaspoons of sea salt and toss again. Transfer the mixture to the baking sheet and spread evenly in one layer. Roast for 25 minutes, stirring twice with a large spatula. Nuts should be golden brown and glazed. Remove them from the oven and add remaining rosemary and 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Toss again and set aside. Periodically stir them around to prevent sticking as they cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.