Caramelized Spiced Nuts

Makes 4 to 6
Time: 15 minutes

A crisp sugar shell and bit of spice make these not too sweet and not too spicy, and they're only slightly more involved than the roasted nuts in the preceding recipe. Serve a bowl of them with cocktails or other appetizers; they will go quickly, so have backup ready. Add seeds to the mix as well; sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds all add flavor and texture.

2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (about 1 pound) mixed unsalted shelled nuts

1. Heat the oven to 450°F. Grease a baking sheet with the oil. Put a wide pot or deep skillet over high heat and add 2 cups water and the sugar. Bring to a boil and stir in the spices, salt, and nuts. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced to a syrup, 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Turn the heat to low and remove the nuts with a slotted spoon, letting the excess syrup drain off a bit and then spreading the nuts on the baking sheet (be sure to turn off the burner when you've finished).

3. Roast the nuts for 10 minutes, tossing once or twice with a spatula. Remove from the oven and let cool (the sugar coating will be very hot, so resist sampling for a few minutes!); the sugar coating will harden as the nuts cool. Serve or store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 or 3 days.