There are a lot of ways to make sweet nuts. Some of them leave the nuts coated with sugar crystals, like the recipe I just mentioned and pictured left. Some are sticky and buttery. Others are light, crunchy, and just slightly sweet. Any of them can be eaten "out of hand" or sprinkled on salads, ice cream, desserts, or even meat dishes, and as snacks go, there's much to be said for eating nuts instead of candy or greasy chips.
Some years back, I found this recipe for "honeyed" walnuts in my favorite Chinese cookbook, Susanna Foo's Chinese Cuisine. They fall into the third category of sweet nuts. They're not the least bit sticky, so they're great for eating with your fingers. Something about the cooking process seems to take some of the weight out of them, somehow; they seem lighter than regular walnuts. And, bonus: walnuts are good for you. Just read this ode to walnuts from The World's Healthiest Foods:
When it comes to their health benefits, walnuts definitely are not a hard nut to crack. This delicious nut is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, a special type of protective fat the body cannot manufacture. Walnuts' concentration of omega-3s (a quarter-cup provides 90.8% of the daily value for these essential fats) has many potential health benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection, to the promotion of better cognitive function, to anti-inflammatory benefits helpful in asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis. In addition, walnuts contain an antioxidant compound called ellagic acid that supports the immune system and appears to have several anticancer properties.These walnuts in particular don't end up with quite as much sugar on them as the other kinds. And now I'm thinking ... light and crunchy ... good for eating with your fingers ... wouldn't this be a nice gift to make for Christmas, piled into a tidy little plastic bag and then plopped into a sheer organza gift bag like this? Hmmm....
So, anyway, here's a recipe that makes 2 cups of the nuts, from Chinese Cuisine. Of course you can cut the recipe in half if you just want to try them. Don't be put off by the length of the recipe; it's really quite simple!
"Honeyed" Walnuts (Sugared Walnuts)
1 lb shelled walnut halves
1½ c sugar
~ 1½ c water
2 Tbsp corn oil
- Wash the walnuts in lots of running water. Soak them for 10 to 15 minutes in water to cover; drain well.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the nuts and cook for 10 minutes, or until the water turns dark and the nuts are beige-white in color. Drain and rinse under cool water until the water runs clear; drain.
- Bring the sugar and the 1½ c water to a boil in a medium pot over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the walnuts, reduce the heat to low, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Simmer the nuts in the syrup for about 15 minutes, stirring often, until they are well coated with the syrup. Add ¼ cup hot water if the syrup becomes too sticky. Turn off the heat and let the nuts cool in the syrup for another 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (I usually do this step at 300).
- Strain off the excess syrup and toss the nuts with the oil. Spread the nuts on a large nonstick baking sheet.
- Bake the nuts for 30 to 35 minutes (of course, at 300 it takes longer), stirring occasionally, or until they are crisp and dry. If they are not yet crisp, bake them a little longer.
This is my entry for Sweetnick's "ARF 5-a-day Tuesday." Stop by tomorrow night to see what other anti-oxidant-rich foods are showing up in folks' recipes!