For last weekend's potluck, I wanted to make a new nut mix that would go well with beer or white wine. Instead of the usual savory seasonings I lean toward when making roasted nuts, I wanted bright, spicy, summery flavor. I thought about using citrus zest, and decided to coat peanuts with finely grated lime peel and cayenne pepper. For balance, I added a generous amount of salt and sugar.
When I took the pan out of the oven, the lime peel had browned so much that it wasn't really recognizable. Luckily, I had some extra limes on hand, so I added more fresh zest and juice, which brought the citrus flavor right to where I imagined it. A little extra seasoning and they were perfect—although maybe a little unusual.
When I put the peanuts out at the party, people started eating handfuls with a slightly puzzled look on their faces. "What's on these?" everyone asked. My friend Martha, who is always unfailingly honest, said, "At first I thought these were really strange, but now I can't stop eating them." If I decide to go into the nut mix business and market these, I will be sure to put that slogan on the package. Thanks, Martha. Other skeptics were quickly won over: in twenty minutes or so, two pounds of nuts disappeared.
And even though they did go down easy with a beer, like I had in mind, these nuts would be just as good with some white or rose wine, or lemonade, or anything really.
Although you see lime zest in the seasoning mix above, I recommend reserving the zest until the end, as in the recipe below. (Makes 1 lb. of nuts)
1 lb. of unroasted, unsalted, shelled peanuts
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1 Tbsp. salt, or to taste
2 tsp. chile powder or cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp. olive oil
two limes, zested, one reserved for juice
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt, and chile powder. Spread the nuts out on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Pour the seasonings over the nuts and mix until they are evenly coated. Roast the nuts for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are golden and aromatic, but not brown. Remove from the oven and add the lime zest, tossing to coat. When the nuts have cooled a bit, taste one and adjust the seasonings if necessary. (I like extra salt and chile.) Just before serving, squeeze one of the limes over the nuts and toss to coat. Serve immediately.