Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

I don’t know about you, but I’m about done with winter – for some reason this one seems endlessly gray, cold and dreary. But change is in sight, I think; this week I noticed that the days are a bit longer, with the daylight fading into darkness just a few minutes later than last week.

I found myself looking through my stack of cookbooks looking for some inspiration, and lingered over one with a beautiful image of a sun-soaked bowl of golden cherries on the cover: a collection of recipes from Gangivecchio, a restaurant in Sicily that dates back to Roman times. I’m not sure what the weather is like in Sicily at this time of year, but somehow I feel warm imagining myself walking around the winding streets of Palermo, shopping the outdoor markets.

Lidia Bastianach, the Italian chef and cooking teacher, describes in her book Lidia’s Italy how the North African summer sun gives food produced there here an intensity not found anywhere else in Italy

“…the tomatoes are sweeter, the oil is more deeply flavored, the fennel has more licorice, capers are nuttier, and the anchovies and sea urchins taste more of the sea”.

Sounds good to me. In the spirit of hot summers to come, I roasted a batch of cashews and seasoned them with some of the intense tastes of Sicily: fennel, cumin, anise, hot pepper and orange.

Sicilian-Spiced Roasted Cashews

Yield: 3 cups


  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, fennel, cayenne, paprika, anise seed
  • 3 cups raw whole cashews
  • Grated fresh orange or tangerine zest


  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Whisk together all ingredients except the cashews and zest until combined. Toss in the cashews and stir them around until they're evenly coated.
  3. Spread the cashews on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake 20 -25 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant. Cool on a rack - they will crisp up after about 10 minutes. Grate orange zest over the cashews while still warm.

Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas

Gathering the Garbanzos

Last week, I noticed a food-blogging phenomenon that I don’t have a name for. It’s probably been described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book about social trends, The Tipping Point, but I can’t recall what term he has for it. It’s that thing where one day, it seems you see the same recipe, idea, color or low-rise jean style right in front of you, everywhere you look.

Since I can’t enlighten you further, I’ll name this particular incidence the Convergence of Chickpeas:

1. Alanna at A Veggie Venture writes about an easy garbanzo supper.
2. Lydia at The Perfect Pantry displays an essential pantry staple.
3. Lisa at Champaign Taste made a beautiful Italian-style soup.
4. Molly at Orangette describes a loving lunch gift.

Because chickpeas are one of my personal “soul” foods, I have a special place for them in my foodie heart.

I love that you can buy them in a can, drain and eat as they are or embellish them in any number of tasty exotic ways. Also, that they can inspire a whole meal, and the simpler the better. I love boldly spiced dishes like this quick cashew chicken.

It’s another convergence of sorts – Bangkok meets Bangalore.

Cashew Chicken with Roasted Spiced Chickpeas
for 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashews, chopped
3 cups cooked rice

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the chickpeas on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of the oil, salt, curry powder, cumin and cayenne. Roast for 25 minutes.

Heat a non-stick wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until smoking. Toss in the chicken and cook, stirring, until surfaces are seared, but interior is still pink. Stir in the shallots and cook until softened, 1-2 minutes.

Add the sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce to the chicken and stir. Cook a few more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Stir in the chickpeas, spinach and cashews. Serve in bowls with hot cooked rice.

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