—This post is part of my Canadian Thanksgiving series—
When planning my menu, I looked at many ideas for appetizer soups involving pumpkin or other winter squash, but when I looked at all of the other dishes I had planned, they just seemed like too much food. Plus, carrying bowls of hot soup around a big table with a bunch of kids seemed like a bad idea! Instead, I decided a light spinach salad would be a good way to start the meal. I am a big fan of salads with some kind of cheese, fruit, and nut. Salads are so often served with goat or blue cheese, neither of which I like. However, I’ve recently discovered Ricotta Salata, a salty, hard, crumbly cheese (not unlike feta) that creates a similar effect to more traditional salad cheeses but I much prefer. As for fruit, normally dried cranberries are my go-to in salads, but with cranberry sauce coming later in the meal, I replaced that idea with sliced apples. And apples go really nicely with walnuts – thus my salad was created. Of course, I couldn’t just throw plain old walnuts on top – this was my first big holiday, after all, and I wanted a little extra something. Like candied walnuts!
I started my recipe search and learned that making candied nuts is not so simple – most of the recipes either involved making a sticky sugar mixture requiring a candy thermometer or very careful monitoring, or else were deep fried. Both of those methods were entirely too complicated and messy for me, not to mention unhealthy – who needs deep fried sugared nuts?? I finally found one on Epicurious that seemed really simple, and it turned out great. The sugar mixture just needed to come to a boil, but was watered down so it didn’t get too sticky or risk burning, and the nuts were baked instead of fried. The resulting walnuts were just a tad sweet with great flavor from the roasting process, and added the perfect special touch to my salad.
In the chaos of getting dinner on the table for Thanksgiving, many of my dishes didn’t quite get photographed. But since then I’ve made these walnuts again and added them to a mixed green salad, this time with my dried cranberries! So the photo is from round 2, when they were equally delicious 🙂
adapted from Epicurious
2-3 cups walnuts (or mixed nuts – see original recipe for ideas)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with foil and spray lightly with oil.
Place walnuts in a mixing bowl.
Bring sugar, water, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour over nuts and stir until nuts are well coated. Transfer nuts with a slotted spoon to baking pan (discarding syrup), sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and roast in 1 layer in middle of oven, stirring and redistributing nuts occasionally, until golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
Carefully remove foil with walnuts on it from baking pan and put on a rack to cool completely. Break apart any nuts that are stuck together (they will get more sticky as they cool).
Do ahead: store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.