Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Moroccan Spiced Nuts: A Recipe

As anyone who comes to my house for dinner knows, when it comes to appetizers, I am a huge fan of the cheese plate.  To me, there is nothing more stimulating to my appetite than a couple nice cheeses, a beautiful seasonal fruit or some nice salty olives (only if I can get good ones that do not come from a jar!), and a toasty bowl of spiced nuts.

I've toyed with a number of spiced nut recipes over the years, and I believe I've finally come up with a recipe that I am very happy with, evidenced by the fact that I, my dog, and my uncle Fred could not stop eating them.  These nuts aren't spicy as in "Dear God, these are hot!" They are spicy as in "Mmmm... these flavors make my mouth happy."

I know the spices are rather unusual, but don't freak out by their weirdness.  Give them a try, and you will see what I mean by your mouth being happy.  (I bet you dinner that you wouldn't be able to guess all of them if I didn't tell you!)

Speaking of telling, let's get you a photo and the recipe:

Moroccan spiced nuts recipe

Makes almost 2 cups

Special tools needed: parchment paper

  • 1 1/2 cups mixed nuts, raw or already roasted
  • 1/4 cup unsalted raw pumpkin seeds (sometimes called "pepitas")
  • 2 oz. real maple syrup (for God's sake, do NOT use the fake stuff here! Make that EVER!)
  • 1 Tblsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. hot paprika (I used Hungarian)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • heaping 1/2 tsp. kosher salt


1.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Lay out a large sheet of parchment paper for cooling.

2.  Dump everything in a medium bowl and toss toss toss with a wooden spoon (wooden spoons grab and move saucy things better, in my humble opinion). Make sure all the nuts are coated really well.  If you have to wait for the oven to finish heating up before Step 3, retoss everything before you pour the nuts onto the baking sheet.

3.  Pour the mixture out onto a baking sheet, and spread the nuts out into an even layer.  Pour any goo in the bottom of the bowl on top of the nuts.

4.  Put the pan in the oven for 10 minutes, then take out the pan, shut the oven door, and toss everything with a flat spatula to recoat the nuts.  Spread it into an even layer again, then roast for another 10 minutes.  Toss and spread again.  Roast for a final 5 minutes (unless things are looking pretty toasty. Then stop.).

5.  Scrape the nuts onto the sheet of parchment paper.  Spread them out into a single layer again, and let everything cool to at least warm.  If you are having trouble with the nuts sticking to your spoon or spatula as you move them, wet the spatula, then move the nuts.  Don't worry about the nuts sticking together too much.  After they cool you can break them apart.

6.  Serve your spiced nuts immediately, or cool them completely and store in an airtight container.

That's it! They take about 5 minutes to whip together and 25 minutes to roast (during which you can sit back and wait for that heavenly toasted, nutty aroma to start filling your house).

To serve, pair up with a couple ripe pears ready to slice and some Sartori cheese (you can find some at most any big grocery, and any flavor is OMG). You'll have a cheese plate made in heaven.

Print up the recipe by clicking the image below, and let me know in the comments what you think!

Nuts to you!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Ruby Slipper Cafe — New Orleans, LA — A Restaurant Recommendation

It's a frosty morning here in Mass.  I'm sitting here thinking of the weekend I just spent in New Orleans on the way to my cousin's wedding.  Christmas wreaths and garland hung on every lamp post along Canal Street—and I was wearing flip flops and a short-sleeved shirt.  I have to say, I didn't quite like it.  Part of that holiday-ish feeling comes from wanting to curl up in your house with the people (and animals) you love beside a roaring fire, not the air conditioner.

But when I ignored the Christmas decorations, I felt wonderful as I wandered those old city streets.  I hadn't been back to NOLA since our foodie honeymoon (read about Day One here, then read forward by clicking "Newer Post" at the bottom of each post for a rehash of the whole five days.) Boy, was it good to be back! We found a few more fantastic restaurants in our quick trip, all of which I cannot wait to visit again.

One of the restaurants we stumbled across is a cafe on Magazine Street called The Ruby Slipper Cafe.  It opened its doors post Katrina and has quickly become a local chain because it is so flipping good.  They called themselves "The Ruby Slipper" because the owners found that "there's no place like home."  I love it.  And the home vibe is truly a part of this place.  You don't feel like a customer; you feel like you have  known every employee for years, and they are just welcoming you back home for a bite to eat.

Okay, maybe not a bite to eat.  How about a pile to eat? Huge quantities.  And while we are on the topic of "home," everything is homemade.  From scratch.  Like, really.  If they don't do it themselves, they get small local bakeries, farms, coffee roasters, etc. to do it for them.  You can smell it.  You can taste it.  It is gosh darn DELICIOUS.

Chef Reiton got the Chicken St. Charles, a form of eggs Benedict: crispy fried chicken breasts on top of buttermilk biscuits and topped with poached eggs and Ruby's cream sauce.

Chicken St. Charles at The Ruby Slipper Cafe, New Orleans, LA

I got the Migas, a bed of crispy tortilla strips piled with scrambled eggs, chorizo, tomato, cilantro, onion, and cheese, served aside a spicy sour cream and sliced avocado.

migas at The Ruby Slipper Cafe, New Orleans, LA

A special thank you goes to our server, Ronald.  Wonderful service.  Best smile ever.  Here he is after pouring me yet another cup of the best coffee I have ever had (seriously.  We bought a bag.):

Ronald of the Ruby Slipper Cafe, New Orleans, LA

The AMAZING coffee at The Ruby Slipper Cafe, New Orleans, LA

Crazy good.  I may have a hard time even wanting to try other restaurants for breakfast the next time we visit.  

(As if that would be a bad thing...)

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