Thank you so very much for your enthusiastic, generous, funny and heart-warming response to my call to action. I am thrilled and will keep you informed about what is happening and how the book is doing. I hope you will all write to me here, make nutty comments, and have some fun with all of this, as I am.
As I write, Nuts in the Kitchen. The Book, is hot off the press. It is already in the hands of my perfect editor and my equally wonderful publicist, and many journalists as well. All these people have it before I do, and my hands are itching to hold it, touch it, open it up to see what it really says! Of course I researched and wrote it, tenderly tested every recipe until it was perfect, copy-edited it, found art for it…but I find a book is always a new and fresh thing once it’s a book, no matter how much time has gone into its making!
With the publication of the book I can now share a recipe or two. I’ll begin by offering Cocoa Nuts with Fleur de Sel, an inspiration from my dear friend and colleague David Lebovitz (www.davidlebovitz.com)
The delicate flavor of these is hauntingly delicious, so satisfying that you’ll want to have a handful, and maybe another and then you will be satisfied. That’s what makes them such a good appetizer – they “tell you” when you’ve had enough, and leave you with ample appetite to enjoy the meal to follow.
A little note about one of the ingredients in this recipe, in case you’re not sure what fleur de sel is. Literally translated as ” flower of the salt,” fleur de sel is tiny salt crystals that form on the surface of a salt marsh, unlike other sea salt which is basically evaporated sea water. On the salt marshes in Guérande, a town on the south coast of Brittany renowned for its fine sea salt, fleur de sel forms only when the East wind blows, sparkling across the marsh in thin platelets. To harvest it, “paludiers,” or salt rakers, using tools that look like a rake without tines, carefully scrape the fleur de sel from the surface of the water and deposit it in conical mounds on dikes that separate the marshes. The crystals are pink at first, from microscopic algae. The color changes to the bright white we are familiar with in about a half an hour. Fleur de sel has an intense, vivid saltiness and crunch that transforms a dish into something extraordinary. It isn’t a cooking salt but a condiment, to be tossed in with nuts before toasting, or sprinkled atop everything from a bowl of semi-sweet chocolate mousse to a crisp green salad
Here is the recipe, then, for Cocoa Nuts. I’ve adapted it, naturally, to make it my own, but I owe the inspiration to David.
COCOA NUTS WITH FLEUR DE SEL
3 cups raw, very fresh mixed nuts
4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter
5 teaspoons lavender honey
5 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika
Several grinds of black pepper, preferably Tellicherry
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1-1/2 teaspoons Fleur de Sel
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F (180°C).
2. Spread out the nuts on a baking sheet with a rim and bake until they begin to turn golden and smell toasty, about 10 minutes. Remove the nuts from the oven.
3. While the nuts are toasting, heat the butter with the honey and the brown sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan large enough to hold the nuts, over low heat, stirring so that the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cocoa powder, cinnamon, hot paprika, and the pepper and immediately remove from the heat.
4. Add the lightly toasted nuts to the honey mixture, adding the cocoa nibs at this point, if using. Mix them gently but thoroughly, using a rubber spatula, until the nuts are coated with the honey mixture and the cocoa nibs are thoroughly incorporated. Fold in the fleur de sel.
5. Evenly spread out the nuts in one layer on the baking sheet and return them to the oven. Bake until the nuts are golden, smell toasty, and the glaze is mostly dried and adhering to them, stirring once or twice, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool.
6. Once the nuts are cool, either serve immediately or store in an air-tight container. They will keep for about one week.
About 3 cups toasted, glazed nuts