I know it may be hard, but I’d like you to try not to hate me. I’d like you to look at yourself in the mirror, and say, “Self, relax. Not everyone can have a father who grows Kaffir limes in his living room.”
It’s true. Last year, I got my dad a Kaffir lime tree for Christmas, and he put it in the sunniest part of the house, nestled next to his “Meyers” lemon (I can’t convince him to drop the S). Unlike the rotating assortment of other trees that, unlike any cat that’s ever prowled the same beige carpet, all seem to have nine lives, this Kaffir didn’t go through much of an adjustment period—it produced fruit the first year. A couple weeks ago, at Thanksgiving, my dad proudly handed over a bundle of fruit.
Kaffir limes, which are often used in Southeast Asian cooking, along with their fragrant leaves, look like tiny bumpy limes. (I’d show you a good picture, but it didn’t occur to me to take one until I’d used them all.) They’d be sensational in pie, if you happen to have a payroll that includes professional squeezers. I can report that they add great mystery to a spiced matzo ball soup, too.
But when I smelled one of the last three yesterday, walking by on my way to the oranges, and scratching it with my nail, like you do, I thought of one thing: Trader Joe’s. Specifically, I thought of the woman I saw the other day in my local Trader Joe’s nuts aisle. She was on her hands and knees, ass waving, up to her shoulder in the bottom shelf, digging for something. She was not an employee.
Trader Joe’s carries these spicy Thai lime and chili cashews, flavored with Kaffir lime leaves, that bring people to their knees. (I guess I thought this was only figurative, but it’s not. See above. They were even featured in Saveur.) They’re addictive in an unhealthy way, which means, of course, that I had to make them as soon as I realized I could.
I started with the recipe for Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts I got the other night at Ashley’s holiday baking class. (If you don’t know Ashley, or her gorgeous blog, Not Without Salt, head over. But be prepared to get hungry.) I tinkered, and stirred, and roasted, spicing a variety of nuts with cayenne, Kaffir lime zest, and curry—and now I’m eating handful after handful.
Based on a recipe for Sweet and Savory Spiced Nuts by Ashley Rodriguez, author of the food blog Not Without Salt, these nuts are the kind of thing you make for other people but accidentally finish off before anyone else even sees them. Double the batch, if you can.
Makes 1 pound mixed nuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (to taste) cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
Grated zest of 3 Kaffir limes
1 egg white
1 pound raw, mixed nuts
Sea salt, to finish
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat, and set aside.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter, honey, and sugar together over medium heat. Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, curry, cumin, cayenne, garlic, and lime zest, and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the nuts, and stir to coat. Add the butter and spice mixture, and stir until evenly coated. Transfer the nuts to the prepared baking sheet, spreading them in an even single layer.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally, or until glazed and shiny and deeply colored. (Ashley says to watch closely after 12 minutes.) Remove from the oven and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Stir again, then let cool completely on the pan. Store in an airtight container.