Some friends and I recently dropped by Elizabeth’s house and as we caught up on who was doing what in the Valley, I nibbled on a bowl of nuts on the counter in her earth-friendly “green” kitchen.
As my second handful of nuts went down, I stopped talking — because something extraordinary was going on in my mouth. Flavors were swirling and I was distracted by the song and dance flitting across my tongue.
You may be wondering who Elizabeth is.
She founded The Scottsdale Culinary Institute in 1989 (and sold it nine years later). I count my lucky stars to have attended the school when it was still under Elizabeth’s watchful eye, with small class sizes and dedicated chef-instructors.
Elizabeth thinks of all SCI graduates as her “kids” even though some of those “kids” weren’t technically kids when they attended her school.
“What did you put in these nuts?” I asked.
“Oh, they’re so easy it’s silly,” she said and waved me off. I begged her to share the flavors because I couldn’t stop eating them.
“Just some brown sugar, red pepper flakes, salt and whatever herbs and spices you feel like,” she said. “And an egg white. That’s it.”
Elizabeth’s herb and spice combination was coriander, fennel and fresh rosemary. I didn’t have fresh rosemary handy, so I substituted the mandarin orange dust I wrote about here.
You can use any herbs or spices you feel like, just keep the brown sugar, red pepper flakes and salt constant.
The amazing thing about these almonds is that there is no added fat. None. Zippo.
So the only fat is what’s in the nuts. One ounce of almonds contains…oh, never mind. It sounds like a really big number for two tablespoons of nuts.
Just know that it’s much, much less than the same amount of macadamia nuts and nut fats are among the healthiest fats. If you must know, go here.
An egg white whisked with the spices is all the binding these nuts need.
The almonds will be all shiny when folded into the spiced egg white.
Spread them in a single layer and roast until the egg white is dry to the touch and the almonds smell toasted.
The nuts lose their shiny coat after roasting. As tempting as the smell may be, wait until they cool to serve them — they taste much better when they have time to cool and crisp up.
Elizabeth says she always has a tin of nuts on the counter, just in case anyone happens to drop by.
Like a car full of former students.
Elizabeth’s Spice Roasted Almonds
Adapted from Elizabeth Leite
Makes 3 cups
3 cups raw almonds
1 egg white
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes*
2 teaspoons crushed fennel seeds (use a mortar and pestle)
2 teaspoons crushed coriander seeds (or ground)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon coarse flake sea salt (or kosher salt)
1. Heat the oven to 300° F. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a lined baking sheet.
2. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven (leave oven on) and cool for 10 minutes.
3. Whisk the egg white until frothy and then whisk in the remaining ingredients (brown sugar through salt).
4. Fold in the cooled nuts and toss until evenly coated.
5. Spread the nuts on the baking sheet and return to oven for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring once halfway through. The nuts are done when the egg white is dry to the touch and the nuts smell toasted.
6. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
*I find that 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes is just enough to give you a noticeable, throat-warming kick. Use less (or more) depending upon your personal heat preference.