Pretty Dishes

Book Club Menu: Sweet Tea and Caramelized Cashews
May 25, 2010, 10:03 pm
Filed under: Recipes

I recently hosted a book club discussion at my house for six guests. The host provides light snacks and beverages, and I of course took it upon myself to create a diverse and flavorful menu of items to serve. I spent at least a week considering various appetizers and small plates that would make for good finger food and would also accommodate a number of food intolerances. I had a great time planning my prep schedule (made even better by a gorgeous weekend of warm sun and a nice breeze passing through the open windows) and spent a good many hours in the kitchen the day before. It was well worth it; my guests were delighted, as was I.

Because I served quite a few items, I will share the recipes here a couple at a time.

I decorated the table with the requisite tulips in a large mason jar.

I found these great inexpensive salad plates by Zak! Designs at my local Fred Meyer.

I’m a recent convert to homemade sweet iced tea, and since the weekend was so gorgeous I knew I wanted to make a pitcher for the gathering. I prefer a tropical white tea blend or Celestial Seasonings’ Red Zinger herbal tea. You could use basically anything, including standard Lipton tea.

Sweet Tea

Bring 4 cups water to a roaring boil. Add 1 cup sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Turn off the heat. Add three to four tea bags of your choice to the pot, stir, and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Remove the tea bags, pour the tea into a pitcher, fill with cold water and ice, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Alternatively, you can follow these directions, which I will try next time: Coat the inside bottom of a medium pitcher with honey. When the water comes to a boil, pour a little into the pitcher to dissolve the honey. Add three or four tea bags into the pitcher and fill it 2/3 full with hot water. Steep for at least 20 minutes. Remove the tea bags, fill the pitcher with ice, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

I wanted to serve nuts without paying a premium price for the pre-seasoned packages (which tend to be too salty anyway), so I bought unsalted raw cashews in bulk and tried out the following recipe. They were delicious, though I found that 20 minutes was about 5 minutes too long in the oven—a number of the cashews tasted almost burnt. The recipe as written is a little on the spicy side, so be prepared for a kick, or adjust the seasoning according to your palate.

Caramelized Cashews with Cayenne

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups (about 10 ounces) unsalted natural cashews
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


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