Here's what you'll do the next time a woman you don't know very well invites you up to Oakland on a Sunday night to meet some of her foodie friends. 1) Say yes, because you want to reward her initiative. 2) Freak out, because you know, without a doubt, that after you leave her house, and despite a fully functional GPS, you'll miss the turn for the highway and circle her neighborhood 16 times, with mounting and inexplicable panic, before some nice lady in a Honda Civic takes pity on you and points out the ramp for 580 eastbound. 3) Make these spiced nuts.
I'm impressed by women like Betsy. Women who are genuinely social beings, who regularly step outside their comfort zones and throw parties for eclectic groups of people who don't necessarily know one another. I don't do this myself. I'm a decent guest, but it's rare you'll find me with my party make-up on in my own house, passing the canapes and sparkling with wit. Two genes, one for party-throwing and another for geolocation, are both notably absent from my DNA. It's my own pitiful preexisting condition.
Fortunately, I make a mean spiced nut.
As though that could possibly make up for it.
Recipe for Party Pistachios
Here's a bare-bones recipe that serves as a flexible canvas for your own creativity. The spicing is light, so you should up those elements (sweetness, saltiness, heat) to fit your own tastes. I've experimented successfully with several kinds of sugars (even coconut sugar), different powdered chile peppers (ancho, chipotle), and funky salts, too. Go crazy, even adding cinnamon, curry powder, or any spices that suit your fancy.
Makes enough to fill two 8-ounce mason jars
2-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Large pinch black pepper
Pinch (large or small) cayenne pepper
8 ounces dry-roasted, unsalted pistachios
2 teaspoons water
Combine spices in a large skillet and set over medium heat. Warm for 3 minutes, shaking the pan and swirling the seasonings frequently. Add the pistachios and water.
Cook for almost 4 minutes longer, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula. At first the spices will stick to the bottom of the skillet, but towards the end the sugar will melt and the spices will loosen and cling to the nuts. Don't walk away or you risk burning the nuts.
Turn out onto a rimmed baking sheet, scraping out any stubborn spices, and leave alone for 10 minutes to cool. The nuts harden and get nice and crunchy upon standing. Once fully cool, pack into airtight glass jars to retain optimal crunch.