Eric grew up in New England, and he is very loyal to its professional sports teams. In this household, we are dedicated fans of the Patriots, the Celtics, and the Red Sox. We even named our dog Fenway, after the home of the Red Sox. I realize that this might be taking things a bit too far, but naming a dog Fenway is much better than naming him Green Monster, although some days I feel that Green Monster would have been more fitting (he is still going through a very destructive 70-pound puppy phase.)
I was actually not a fan of any of these teams before marriage, but as many of you know, when you say your vows to a sports fanatic, you are also promising to give up the remote almost every Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Because Eric is usually watching back-to-back games as I putter around in the kitchen, a mere 10 feet away, I too have become a pretty knowledgeable sports fan. For example, just last weekend, I introduced the phrase "flea-flicker" into my vocabulary, although I don't understand why the NFL chose such a wimpy sounding name for a play when football is supposed to be all about tough guys.
It's nice to have Eric nearby as a captive audience to sample my latest kitchen creations, which I like to work on during the weekend. During the week, it's pretty much just me and the dogs, who are not exactly the most discerning critics. I also like to make recipes that he can bring in to work and keep in his office, since he often "forgets" to eat lunch, a concept that I still don't understand. Nut mixes are great for this purpose, as they'll keep for a few weeks, and they are very filling, with a good amount of protein. This is a blend that I put together yesterday, a mixture of sweet maple syrup, savory fresh herbs, spicy cayenne, and salt. The contrast in flavors, along with the addictive nature of nuts in general, make it a challenge to nibble on just a few. In addition to being a great snack to set out for entertaining, this would make a nice holiday gift, using tins or decorative bags as a container. Here are a few extra tips for making this easy, addictive appetizer:
- The nuts should be stored at room temperature, in an air-tight container. The mix will keep for up to two weeks, if they last that long!
- Feel free to use any combination of nuts to suit your taste. You can use only one type of nut, if preferred, or you could add others, such as peanuts or hazelnuts, to the mixture.
- You can also use different types of herbs, such as finely chopped sage or savory. If you only have dried herbs, substitute 2 teaspoons dried herbs for the 2 tablespoons fresh.
- Mix dried cranberries or cherries in with the cooled, baked nuts to add some tart flavor, festive color, and a chewy texture.
- Be sure to keep an eye on the nuts as they bake. Different ovens bake at various paces, and there is no way to disguise the bitter flavor of burned nuts.
Savory Maple-Glazed Mixed Nuts
Makes 6 cups
1 ½ cups pecan halves
1 ½ cups cashews
1 ½ cups almonds
1 ½ cups walnuts
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and coarse ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. In a large bowl, toss the nuts with the maple syrup, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until the nuts are browned. Remove the nuts from the oven; toss frequently until cooled.