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Nuts are the perfect party guest

Spice up a party with an appetizer that goes with everything.

Greg Morago

You couldn't ask for more perfect party guests. They're charming, welcoming and sociable. They know how to break the ice and mix easily with fellow partiers. They love a good drink but won't ever be wearing the lampshade. And after the party's over, you can't wait to have them back.

Who are these bons vivants? Nuts.

Vadouvan Spiced Cashews

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin on mandoline

1 shallot, sliced on mandoline

1 cup raw cashews

1 Tbsp. Vadouvan Spice (recipe below)

1/2 tsp. salt

Vadouvan Spice

1 tsp. fenugreek seed

1 Tbsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. brown mustard seeds

1 tsp. ground cardamom

1 Tbsp. fresh curry leaves (or 1 tsp. dried curry leaves)

3/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Place oil in a frying pan heated to 325 degrees (medium-high heat) and fry garlic and shallots until crispy. Drain on paper towel.

In a dry pan, toast fenugreek, cumin and mustard seeds. Let cool. Combine with all other spices in a spice grinder and grind. Return pan with oil to medium-high heat. Add cashews and cook them, stirring constantly, until golden brown color appears.

Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Place nuts in a bowl, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon Vadouvan spice, toss. Add fried garlic and shallots to bowl along with salt and toss. Serve warm.

— Chef David Grossman of Branch Water Tavern restaurant, Houston

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

1/4 lb. each peeled peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and unpeeled almonds or 1¼ lb. unsalted assorted nuts

2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

2 tsp. dark brown sugar

2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine nuts in a large bowl and toss to mix well. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in oven, stirring once or twice, until light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

In the same bowl, stir together rosemary, brown sugar, salt, cayenne and melted butter. Add warm nuts and toss to coat thoroughly. Serve warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

— 'Mix Shake Stir: Recipes from Danny Meyer's Acclaimed New York City Restaurants'

Cumin-Cayenne Cashews, Pine Nuts and Pistachios

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cups mixed raw cashews, pine nuts and shelled pistachio nuts

2 tsp. cumin seeds

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Place a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. When it is very hot, add nuts. They should sizzle when they hit the oil. Cook, stirring constantly, until they just turn reddish brown, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add cumin seeds and cook until they turn brown, about 30 seconds. Remove nuts from the skillet with a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel to drain, sprinkle evenly with the salt, cayenne and black pepper, and set aside to cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

— From 'Party Nuts' by Sally Sampson

Rum-Glazed Spiced Pecans

Spice Mix

2 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground allspice

Rum Glaze

2 Tbsp. dark rum

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 tsp. unsalted butter

2 cups lightly toasted pecan halves

Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Place spices in a small bowl and mix to combine. Place glaze ingredients except nuts in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add pecans to saucepan and cook until well coated and pan is almost dry, about 1 minute. Spoon spice mix over nuts until well coated. Transfer pecans to prepared sheet, separate with hands or a fork and let sit until completely dried, at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

— From 'Party Nuts!' by Sally Sampson