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Kitchen Witch - Nuts in a bind

Inevitably during the holiday season — with all of its twists, turns and stress galore — something goes wrong in the kitchen. Even worse, you've got a pack of carolers showing up in 20 minutes for yuletide socializing with nothing in the way of vittles.

With Martha in the slammer, this is a good opportunity to develop your own entertaining tricks. After all, every cook and/or party host needs a safety valve for the occasional "Oh, shit" culinary moment.

Save your sorry ass with nuts. Any kind of peeled, unsalted nuts will do. The trick is in the seasoning — a simple mixture of cayenne, rosemary and brown sugar does magical things to squirrel fodder. A little melted butter acts as an adhesive for the spicy dust and minimizes the seasoning detritus at the bottom of your snack bowl.

I can't take credit for dreaming up this ingenious snack, which was made famous by the Union Square Cafe in New York. But I do love to share this gem, which can work double duty as a cocktail nibble and as a fabulous holiday gift. Think about whipping up a bunch for the football game as well as for those empty gift tins waiting to be filled.

You can thank me next year after all the carolers have gone. Happy holidays.

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

5 cups (2 1/2 pounds) of assorted peeled, unsalted nuts. Try any combination ?of peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and whole almonds ?

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread nuts on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter.

Thoroughly toss the warm toasted nuts with the spiced butter to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. These can be made in advance; store in an airtight container when thoroughly cooled.



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