My husband and I have known each other 18 years, and most of those Decembers we have spent the holiday week with his parents. The extended family collects for a secular Christmas celebration, and both my mother-in-law and her cousin bake spectacular traditional Hungarian pastries.
I have realized over the years that I will never be Hungarian - I don't have enough of a sweet tooth. The pastries are beautiful, but what I look forward to every year are my mother-in-law's spicy almonds. They're caramelized in sugar and then tossed with cumin, cayenne and salt. This year I took the bag marked "very spicy" and hoarded it. Seriously, I hid it in my purse for several days so no one else would find them. And what a surprise!, now they're mostly gone. Good thing almonds are so healthy. (I'll just ignore the fact that they're encased in pure sugar, thank you very much.)
My mother-in-law's spicy almonds
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
- 1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar, divided
- 2 cups raw almonds
Put the almonds and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Shake the pan and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon as the sugar melts and the nuts toast. Pay attention, because the sugar will go from caramelized to burned extremely quickly. When the sugar is a dark amber color, quickly pour the almond mixture onto the foil, then sprinkle over the rest of the spice mixture. Pick up the ends of the foil to distribute the spices over the nuts.
Working quickly, separate the nuts on the foil, then let them cool. They will harden as they cool down. Store in an airtight container. Share with your friends and family, if you can bear it.