Twelve years ago I found myself living back in Florida in a small apartment complex located behind a delicious Italian restaurant called Ivarone’s. The fantastic smells coming from that place along with a quick jaunt from La Pelota for a mug of steamy Cuban coffee brings back some good comforting food memories. I happened to find myself home sick one day, curled up on the couch, and flipping through channels. The BBC channel popped up and I came upon Nigella Bites. That was back in the days when Food Network was just starting out and Rachel Ray was IT. I remember Nigella having this ultra-cool vibe; cooking seemed so easy for her. Nigella Bites was based in London and filmed in her apartment. I was a major rebel back in those days and loved the fact that she was an atheist, wore fur, and never went to a culinary school. A New York Times commentator once wrote of her, “Lawson’s sexy roundness mixed with her speed-demon technique makes cooking dinner with Nigella look like a prelude to an orgy.” I wouldn’t take it that far, but then again I’m not a man.
However, she did make you feel like you could come over to her house at anytime and enjoy a great meal that took her little effort and little time to make. It was that show back in 2000 that Nigella made two recipes that are still staples that I make twelve years later. One is her chicken/sage/onion recipe. So incredibly easy.. put all the ingredients in a Ziplock bag, marinate over night and dump into a pan to bake the next day. Onion, chicken, sage, lemon, sausage…heaven on a cold winter’s night.
The second recipe that I make is her Spiced Nuts. Whenever I have put these out for a party, I can honestly say they are always, always eaten up. Two weeks ago a friend asked if she could take some home with her before she left. People make a point not to share their own personal stash of these nuts. Over the years I have used a variety of nuts, but always seem to enjoy the mixture of almonds, peanuts, and cashews. You want to look for the unsalted, skin-less nuts, no mater what ones you end up using. One major lesson that I have learned is to not walk away from the nuts when they are toasting in the oven….because once you smell then, they are usually burnt by then.
Nigella’s Spiced Nuts
2 1/4 cup skinless, unsalted nuts
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tbs. rosemary; finally minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tbs. melted butter.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Place nuts on a cookie sheet. Toast until slightly brown, approximately 10 minutes.
3. Toss nut with melted butter and spice mixture.
4. Let cool. Be sure to hide a small bowl for yourself to enjoy later.