Cinnamon sugar cashews

Nuts are de rigueur at any party and shouldn’t be thought of just as holiday fare

When I’m putting together a party I want to make sure that I have a variety in the way things are served; that is, I don’t want everything to be served on a toothpick or a piece of toast. Varying each thing you serve and the way it is served adds interest and fun

One such thing to consider is a bowl of snack sized crackers or nuts that you have taken the time to add your own special touch. When serving such snacks in a communal bowl, be sure to add a spoon or two so that guests can serve themselves and keep the bowl of nibbles from becoming contaminated

These cashews are pleasantly crispy with a warm sweetness

Recipe can be doubled

1 egg white, whisked until very frothy
1 tablespoon water
3 cups salt roasted cashews (substitute almonds, pecans, or walnuts as desired)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 heaping teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine grey sea salt, then to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional, then to taste

Heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper

Add the egg whites and nuts to a large bowl and stir to coat evenly. Add the sugars, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne, if using, and stir to coat evenly

Turn nuts out onto to prepared pan and spread them into an even layer

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until very fragrant (do not roast longer than 30 to 33 minutes or the cashews may burn) Coating may appear quite soupy and wet in the center of the tray even when cashews are ready to be pulled from oven. While it may seem they should bake longer so the coating dries out more, trust and believe that it will firm up dramatically as cashews cool

Remove cashews to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 30 minutes (see Note)

When nuts are cool enough to handle break apart into clusters

Serve Cinnamon sugar cashews in a decorative bowl with a sugar or teaspoon so guests can scoop and serve themselves

Leftovers, if there are any, can be stored in airtight containers and will keep for at least 1 month

Note: Extra crispy and crunchy cashews can be achieved by leaving the nuts on the pan, uncovered, at room temperature overnight

Party app: Shrimp & clam dip

Anyone having an Oscars party on Sunday? Or any party soon … or later? I will be posting a handful of party-worthy hors d’oeuvres that are delicious and easy to make in the next few days in anticipation of Hollywood’s biggest night

When I’m putting together a party I want to make sure that I have something for everyone, including something vegetarian and something that is gluten-free. Now that doesn’t mean you have to break your neck coming up with something new because typically anything you are serving will probably have some kind of vegetable with it and something may already be gluten-free and you didn’t even know it!

Up first, this delicious pantry-concoction straight out of the orange plaid kitchen of my early youth, a throw-it-together appetizer I have tried to ‘improve’ with some fresh ingredients, but it just never worked. In fact, it wasn’t until even very recently that I learned that one of the ingredients (lemon juice) wasn’t even meant to come from fresh lemons (!) The one thing I DID improve was the texture by leaving the cut of the clams and the shrimp just as they are when they come out of the can instead of chopping them any further (stirring will break down the shrimp a bit, but that is part of the signature texture of the dish). I think it is nice to get different size pieces of both when enjoying this

The one thing I will say about the plastic lemon with the reconstituted lemon juice is that it does work in certain applications, like this one. I am not suggesting that you use it everywhere that you need lemon juice

This appetizer does improve with age but it can be thrown together just before service and it will be just as welcome

2 6.5 ounce cans chopped clams (not minced), chilled, drained
2 4 ounce cans medium shrimp, chilled, drained
6 ounces best-quality bottled cocktail sauce, chilled, then to taste
1 4.5 fluid ounce plastic lemon with reconstituted lemon juice, chilled
Nabisco brand Sociables crackers, for serving

Add the clams, with their juices and the drained shrimp to a medium bowl. Add the cocktail sauce and stir gently to combine. Add half of the contents of the lemon and then taste to see if more is needed (the reconstituted juice is the ‘secret ingredient’ to this dish; do not try to substitute freshly squeezed, it just is not strong enough to match the canned fish) Do not be surprised if you use most of it, it is almost impossible to add ‘too much’

Scrape the dip into a pretty bowl and surround on a platter with Sociables (poppy seed crackers)

Serve Shrimp & clamp dip cold with pâté knives for schmearing onto the crackers