Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Spicy Rosemary Roasted Nuts with Nigella Seeds

It's no secret that I love nuts. *Tree* nuts, that is. Rude.

It was notably in my third year of medical school when nuts became a staple in my diet. I was getting more and more into weight lifting and needed healthy, unprocessed sources of protein to snack on during my clinical rotations. It was actually my peppy hairdresser at the time who recommended I make homemade trail mix from my favorite nuts and seeds. She was in her forties, but appeared younger than stated age with a tall, thin build, chic fashion, and very long blonde extensions...clearly an authority on healthy snacking. She was actually onto something...

Nuts are rich in fiber and protein, which helps satisfy cravings, suppress appetite, and aid in digestion. They're also <3 heart healthy <3 and an essential component of the Mediterranean diet. Nuts contain the same "good" omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish. In studies such as PREDIMED, including nuts as part of a healthy diet may combat obesity and lower total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), and triglycerides. In the Adventist Health Study, consuming 5 servings of nuts per week was associated with a 48 percent risk reduction of having a heart attack!  Even the American Heart Association recommends to "go nuts!" But moderation is key. Nuts and other sources of good fats are definitely your friend (but a friend you can only tolerate in small doses). That's because all fats, including omega-3's, are high in calories. Remember that a serving size of nuts is 1.5 ounces (about a small handful).

I still follow my hairdressers advice and often carry nuts in my white coat pocket. I usually mix raw, unsalted pistachios, cashews, almonds, and pumpkins seeds, but sometimes indulge and roast the nuts to add new flavors. Variety is the spice of life, eh? I'm a sucker for honey and rosemary on anything, so I dream about this Ottolenghi recipe that roasts nuts in a mixture of cayenne pepper, nigella seeds, honey, and rosemary. It's simple to make, but the flavors are complex, exciting, and absolutely brilliant.

You may ask, "what da haale is a nigella seed?" At least I did. I assumed it was something exotic, so I (impulsively) overnighted it from amazon (a convenience I indulge far too often). Nigella seeds come from Nigella sativa, widely grown in India and used to make naan, Indian flatbread. These seeds are available in many grocery stores, but are often labeled by the misnomer, black caraway or black cumin. This is especially confusing because those also describe another seed from the plant, Bunium bulbocastanum. Regardless of its label, be sure you're buying seeds that are small, black, and sort of teardrop shaped.

Before I move on to the recipe, I wanted to share that my salmon chriameh recipe was featured on Food Porn Daily! Also, my career profile was published on Love and The Sky, a great life+career blog targeting young adults learning and practicing medicine.

Tips/Tricks to Make the Perfect Roasted Nuts:
  • Buy raw, unsalted nuts, if possible. This gives you full control over the salt level and flavors.
  • Double (or triple) the recipe. It will go quick. 
  • The recipe uses precise, weighed measurements, but will taste great if approximated. I encourage you to use other nuts/flavors to add your own twist.
  • If you combine the nuts and honey by hand (like I did), do the mixing before adding the smaller seeds. Then add the seeds and mix together with a spoon and not your hands. This will cut out the 15 minute step of picking hundreds of tiny nigella seeds off your hands, adding them one by one back into the nut mix. 
  • I used Manuka honey...soo reasonably priced. Use any high quality honey.

Spicy Rosemary Roasted Nuts Ingredients:
  • 100 grams cashews
  • 100 grams macadamia nuts
  • 120 grams pecans
  • 60 grams whole almonds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 80 grams pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of nigella seeds (also called black caraway, black cumin, or kalonji seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 2 large sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
Serves about six people as a snack

Spicy Rosemary Roasted Nuts Recipe:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the nuts on a baking sheet and coat evenly with honey and oil (mix with your hands or a kitchen utensil). Add the seeds, rosemary, and salt. Toss together till combined (don't use your hands) and spread evenly over baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes, mixing occasionally, until nuts turn golden to dark brown in color.

Remove from the heat. Add the cayenne and black pepper. Season to taste. Let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent the nuts from sticking to the pan. Enjoy!


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