I drove through the Cascade foothills today and was delighted that the leaves are beginning their yearly show. It’s not the full show yet. That will take another week or two. But the few trees that are turning now are the most glorious shades of crimson, burgundy, orange and gold. Surreal! I also passed several large pumpkin fields and corn mazes. I rolled down the car window to hear the hordes of squealing, laughing kids in the fields. I even thought I smelled apple cider, but it’s still too early for fresh pressed, unpasteurized cider.
At the market, the pumpkin and winter squash displays are magnificent. Dozens of varieties of local apples are flooding in, along with pears, sweet onions, chile peppers, and fresh crop hazelnuts and walnuts. Usually all of this fall bounty and merriment makes me run to the kitchen to create a few new soul warming soups. But this year, for some unfathomable reason, I am wild about salads. Maybe it’s because the days are still mostly sunny and warm. I’m still wearing my cropped yoga pants and Jam’s World Hawaiian shirts for goodness sake. Along with flip flops almost everywhere.
But of course the carefree attire will go to the back of the closet any day now, and I’ll put a coat in the car, just in case. In the meanwhile, however, I’m creating a couple of new salads each week. Did you see the two salads I posted earlier, Indian Summer Tomato, Orange & Sweet Onion Salad or Spanish Broccoli & Prawn Salad? And now I am ready to post Caramelized Pear Salad with Gorgonzola, Candied Spiced Walnuts & Spicy Orange Vinaigrette. But to make it, you will need my favorite candied walnut recipe. This recipe is a bit unusual in that it calls for blanching the nuts before coating them with sugar. I think you will love the results.
If, like me, you feel you must have these nuts on hand at all time, make a double batch, cool thoroughly, put into freezer bags and freeze. Even frozen, they never last very long in the OtherWorldly Kitchen.
Candied Spiced Walnuts or Pecans
Blanching the walnuts or pecans before coating with sugar and spices helps to keep them light and crisp after baking. In addition, because the nuts are hot and wet, the sugar clings to them nicely. I’ve tried several other methods, but this is my all-time favorite.
½ cup powdered sugar, sifted
½-1 teaspoon chipotle, ancho, or cayenne powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 heaping cup walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together sugar, chile powder, and salt.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add walnuts and blanch for 3 minutes. Or add pecans and blanch for 15 seconds only.
- Drain the nuts thoroughly and immediately roll in sugar mixture until thoroughly coated. The sugar will melt slightly.
- Transfer nuts to a baking sheet that has been coated with vegetable spray, and bake until they are a deep golden brown, turning halfway through baking, about 15 minutes. Watch closely because the sugar burns easily.