Paige’s Hot Peppered Candied Walnuts

Although I think of my pal Paige as a brilliant dessert maker, she is more versatile than that. Here she shines with a great cocktail snack, savory and hot and sweet all at the same time.

Makes 2 cups.

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups raw walnut halves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Place ¾ cup of the sugar in a medium, heavy-bottomed skillet and cook over high heat, stirring, until it turns a light caramel color, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted. Add the nuts and stir to coat evenly with the mixture.

3. Transfer the nuts to the prepared sheet and arrange in a single layer. Place in the oven and bake, tossing every 5 minutes, until the nuts are toasted, about 15 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and pour the hot nuts into a medium-size bowl. Add the salt, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and very quickly toss the nuts (like flipping pancakes) again and again to coat them evenly.

5. Immediately transfer the nuts to another baking sheet lined with parchment paper and separate the individual nuts with a fork. Allow to cool completely before serving.

If you’re sipping: Nibble with a dry martini and a James Bond movie in you DVD or VCR for an elegant, fun night.

From Party Nuts! 50 Recipes for Spicy, Sweet, Savory, and Simply Sensational Nuts That Will Be the Hit of Any Gathering (The Harvard Common Press, 2002)