I must be very delicious, because my dissertation is currently eating me alive. The good news is that it’s not so bad in the belly of this beast. The only trouble with all of this dissertating is that it has kept me from telling you about this year’s Chanukah party, and a certain lemon-scented newcomer to the dessert table. Give me a week to plow through some deadlines, and I’ll be back with all of the details. Until then, how about a handful of nuts to tide you over?
It’s probably for the best. I’m guessing that the last thing you need this weekend is another cookie recipe to add to your list. Will you pelt me with shortbread if I suggest that we forget about the cookie tin for today? I hope not. Let’s forget about the cookie tin for today. I’d like to shift our attention to the jar, instead. Or maybe to a pretty white dish, the kind that more or less lives on your table this time of year, filled with the overflow from your latest batch of toffee, or chocolate, or the spiced almonds we’re about to discuss. It’s the bowl that’s filled in the previous sentence, by the way, not the year, but I’m typing too quickly this morning to worry about questionably placed modifiers. Anyway, a year filled with chocolate and nuts doesn’t sound half bad.
I have a lot of nice things to say about these almonds. Here’s the biggie: They’re more nut than candy, more spiced than sugared. They’re sweet, yes, but there’s no thick crust of sugar to distract you from the fact that there’s a nut under there. I appreciate that. Sweet is nice, but I’m much more interested in the cinnamon, citrus, coriander, and cloves on board.
Packed in mason jars, they make a lovely gift. But you hardly need me to tell you that this time of year.
Off to the library. See you next week.
Adapted from First Impressions, 175 Memorable Appetizers and First Courses by Betty Rosbottom
Amy made these nuts for Thanksgiving this year, and when I asked her for the recipe, she directed me to this book from her collection. The title of the book and the curlicue writing on the cover made me snicker at first, but then I popped another couple of Amy’s almonds. That shut me right up. The book is by a woman named Betty Rosbottom. Betty Rosbottom! Now that is the name of someone I’d like to tell me how to cook. And how to garden, and sew and, judging from the photograph on the inside flap of the book cover, how to do the early-nineties hairspray thing and somehow pull it off. I want my name to be Betty Rosbottom. Ms. Robottom, according to the author blurb, “divides her time between Columbus and Amherst, Massachusetts.” Being a part-time Ohioan and a part-time Massachussett (-ette? Massachusite? Massachusian?) myself, I like that, too.
I struggled with what to call this recipe. These almonds didn’t exactly scream “Morocco!” to me, despite having been inspired by “Moroccan cuisine, known for its enticing combinations of both sweet and savory flavors.” I think of them more as “Sweet and Savory Spiced Almonds,” or “Spiced Almonds with Citrus,” but these options are so clumsy that I decided to stick with the original name.
¼ c. sugar (I might try even a little less next time)
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsps cinnamon
1 egg white
1 ½ tsps grated orange zest
2 c. (about 8 ounces) whole, unblanched almonds
Cooking spray or vegetable oil for the pan.
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil, and spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil.
Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl, and stir. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the spices to the egg, and whisk again. Stir in the orange zest, then the almonds, and mix until the nuts are well-coated.
Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking pan and spread them into a single layer. Bake for 40 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, give the baking pan a shake, and push the nuts around with a heat-safe spatula. Remove the nuts from the oven, and let them cool to room temperature on the baking pan.
The nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.