I found an interesting bowl as a holiday present for my brother and sister-in-law, and filled it with several different snacks:Candied pecans
The candied pecans
from below. (I ended up making 3 [double] batches, because I slightly burnt the first one, and needed an extra gift. I lost my nerve and undercooked the next two batches. This can be partially remedied by putting them in a low oven for quite a long time. They'll get un-sticky, but they'll never get crisp.)Chocolate peanut brittle
This turned out quite different from what I intended, though I wasn't unhappy with it. It was supposed to be a thin layer of brittle with cocoa nibs floating in it and peanuts sticking up through it. But it's been too long since I've made peanut brittle and I didn't remember that the candy cools and seizes up after you add the room-temperature ingredients, so if you want it to pour
you have to get it fully hot again. Also, I'd never done anything with cocoa nibs before, and I didn't know that they'll at least partially melt. Also, I used so many cocoa nibs that they were never going to be individually visible anyway. The result looked like a disaster—such large chunks that you'd surely damage your teeth trying to eat it. But the cocoa nibs acted like shortening in biscuits, making the brittle much less hard. (The brittle was nearly black from the nibs, which was not unattractive.) The result wasn't bad at all. I don't offer this as a recipe so much as an idea—using cocoa nibs in nut brittle, either just as an ingredient, or to "tenderize" it (not quite sure what to call it—the result is still entirely crisp/crunchy/brittle, just less hard).Candied orange peel & candied ginger
I cheated on the candied ginger and bought it from Trader Joe's, then sliced it (knife dipped in hot water—you'll need to set the ginger aside to dry afterwards) to be about the same size as the orange peel. It'd been years since I made candied citrus peel too, so I forgot that it has to age for at least a couple weeks before you eat it, or you'll get a pretty objectionable and long-lasting bitter aftertaste.
3 (organic, or at least unwaxed) oranges
2 c sugar
3 Tbs light corn syrup
3/4 c water
Cut the oranges into quarters and cut out most of the flesh (you don't have to be too obsessive at this point). Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain, cover with fresh cold water, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender (about 15 minutes). Drain and dump into cold water. Remove the softer remaining innards with a spoon. Cut into 1/4" or so strips (and to a length that's similar to the ginger).
Combine 1 cup of the sugar with the corn syrup and the water in a heavy pan. Stir over low heat until dissolved, then either a) brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in hot water, or b) cover the pan and simmer a few minutes so condensing water will wash down the pan sides (this option is a bit less reliable) (you're doing this to make sure there are no stray sugar crystals that might make the whole thing crystalize as it becomes supersaturated). Add the orange peel and cook over low heat, carefully stirring occasionally, until most of the syrup is absorbed. Cover and let stand overnight. Bring to a simmer again.
On several layers of paper towels, spread the remaining cup of sugar. With a slotted spoon (if there's still syrup remaining), remove the peel and roll in the sugar. Transfer to a sheet of wax or parchment paper and let dry for several hours, turning occasionally.
Either put this (mixed with about 2/3 the amount of candied ginger) in single layers separated by wax or parchment paper, or toss both with about 1-1/2 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot. Store in an airtight container. Set aside for at least 2 weeks to mellow.
(Taken with minimal alteration from 1997 Joy of Cooking
.)Thai curried sliced almonds
2-3 tsp Thai curry paste (I used red, Thai Kitchen*)
3/4 tsp salt
4-1/2 tsp oil
2 c sliced almonds
Lightly cook the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan. Put the almonds in a bowl and pour the spice mixture over; stir to combine. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, at 275° for 30 minutes. (If you start out with toasted sliced almonds, you can cut the time to about 15 minutes; if you use whole almonds bake at 300°.)
The higher amount of curry paste is probably too spicy for snacking, but I meant them to go on salad, fish, etc. Even 2 tsp may be too spicy for eating out of hand.
*Thai Kitchen is quite strong, which you really need for this recipe; a mild one will require so much that it'll do odd things to the texture. I've since used green to good effect as well.)Curried pecans
2-1/2 Tbs olive oil
1-1/2 Tbs curry powder (Anyone have a recommended one that's reasonably easy to find? Mine is Frontier Herbs, which is okay.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chipotle powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1-1/2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
2 c pecans
Heat the first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan and cook gently for a couple minutes. Take off heat and add the Worcestershire. Pour over the pecans and stir to combine.
Line a cookie sheet with several layers of paper towels or brown paper. Spread the pecans on the paper, and bake at 275° for 10 minutes. Transfer to fresh paper and bake another 10 minutes. Raise heat to 300°, transfer to fresh paper, and bake 4 minutes; stir and bake for 3 more minutes. Let cool.
I'm sure you could use half a pureed canned chipotle instead of the powdered, or cayenne plus more smoked paprika.