Sweet Balsamic Candied Walnuts

When I am at my mom’s house down the shore, my cooking inspiration doesn’t come from outdoor farmers markets or fresh seafood shops. It’s more like this, “Bec, you have to make something with walnuts because I’ve had this bag of walnuts and I need to clear out room so that’s your job”. So basically, I cook to be an obedient child.

Walnuts are terrific for you – I actually talked about them when I posted this salmon last week. They’re full of omega 3 fatty acids (the best of the “good for you” fats). They have fiber, protein, and important vitamins and minerals as well. They also happen to be my least favorite nut. LOVE peanuts, ADORE almonds – could eat a whole bag of salted pistachios in one sitting. I think walnuts are a bit gritty and sometimes bitter. Why am I slamming the main ingredient in my new recipe? Turns out, when you coat the walnuts with a sticky, sweet, kicky, salty substance, they taste delicious! Bring on the fatty acids, you won’t hear me complaining!

If you want to seem fancy, serve nuts as an appetizer when you have guests over. The reason they’re great is because you can eat them and still easily hold your wine. Was that not what you were thinking? I will state the more obvious reasons – they aren’t messy, they don’t require utensils, you can’t get them stuck in your teeth, they don’t make your breath smell badly, and they won’t fill you up and ruin your dinner! These walnuts hit your tongue and taste sweet, then you get the umami flavor. After umami, you get a slight kick from the cayenne. In case you haven’t heard about umami, let me inform you. It is a savory salty flavor that researchers have distinguished as one of our basic tastes. Think soy sauce – it’s salty but there is something else there too. That’s umami! Even if you can’t imagine the flavor, it’s fun to say the word. Umami. It’s also fun to write the word, apparently, as it appears five times in this paragraph.

If you are reading this but don’t like to cook (which, honestly, would be strange, since this is a cooking blog), then at least take the nut suggestion! You can buy candied nuts (sesame almonds from Trader Joes are RIDIC) for an easy, classy appetizer, and serve them with sliced cheeses and fruit (strawberries, grapes, and apples all work well). You can also top salads with them! Long story short, make these nuts because it won’t take you long AT ALL and they are VERY VERY umami-delicious.

Sweet Balsamic Candied Walnuts

Makes 3 cups

1 c. sugar

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

3 c. walnuts

pinch sea salt

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with foil and spray lightly with nonstick spray.

2.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix sugar, vinegar and salt. Stir occasionally until sugar melts completely.

3. Turn off heat and add cayenne; stir to combine.

4. Add walnuts and stir to coat.

5. Spread mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring at the five minute mark.

6. Let cool completely on pan and store in the refrigerator if not serving immediately. Bring to room temperature before serving (set out, covered, for at least 30 minutes). You will have to break them apart into chunks as they will be stuck together, no matter how many times you stir them while they bake.

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