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

Ingredients

  1. 2 egg whites
  2. 2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
  3. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  4. 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt or 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  5. Freshly ground black peppercorns, to taste
  6. 1/4 teaspoon each: ground cumin, fennel, cayenne, paprika, anise seed
  7. 3 cups raw whole cashews
  8. Grated fresh orange or tangerine zest

Instructions

  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.
http://familystylefood.com/2010/02/sicilian-spiced-roasted-cashews/

Popcorn, Plain and Fancy


Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn

A few months ago, I bought some organic bulk popcorn and popped a batch the way it was done in ancient times; in a saucepan on the stove top. I shared the bowl with the kids while we watched a movie, and A noticed right away that there was something different – like – hey, crunch – this is really good!

It was good, a revelation, even. I think I’d become so used to mediocre, oversalted popcorn that I forgot how good it can be. I started making popcorn to serve with cocktails, with some chopped fresh rosemary, sea salt and Parmesan cheese grated over the top. It’s even better with some cold champagne. Yum.

Now I can’t go back to the packaged microwave popcorn habit – it just doesn’t compare in flavor, plus I can skip the extra fat, sodium and artificial ingredients.

The only hard thing is that when the kids have been trained to get their popcorn exactly three and a half minutes after they ask for it, waiting for the stovetop stuff can be excruciating.

I was happy to find a brown bag microwave method in Whole Grains by Lorna Sass. Now the kids and the grown-ups share the popcorn love.

Rosemary Parmesan Popcorn
makes 12 cups

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oil in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add popcorn kernels and cover pan. Cook, shaking pan back and forth occasionally, until popping stops; about 5 minutes. Transfer popcorn to a large serving bowl.

Add the butter, rosemary, pepper and salt to the popcorn and toss gently. Top with cheese and toss once more to blend.

Perfect wine pairing with a crisp, herbal Pinot Gris from Oregon or Argentina; or a chilled sparkling wine like Prosecco.

Microwave Brown Bag Popcorn
thanks to Janelle at Brown Bag Blues for the inspiration

1/4 cup popcorn kernels, organic if possible
2 teaspoons canola or peanut oil
Kosher salt, to taste

Toss the kernels with the oil in a small bowl. Pour into a plain brown paper bag and place on a paper towel on the microwave turntable. Cook on high for exactly 1 1/2 minutes. Or, depending on your microwave, listen carefully and stop the microwave as soon as the popping slows; not more than 2 minutes total.

Carefully open the bag and sprinkle with salt.

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