Salt and pepper became an iconic duo for many reasons, but the one we're interested in when it comes to these cashews is the flavor. The pepper in this recipe (both cayenne and black pepper) you already know well, but we're not using just any salt here — Asha Gomez's recipe calls for kala namak, or Himalayan black salt, which, in actuality, turns out to be pink. This salt has rich umami flavor and a sulfurous undertone. Asha notes it's quite commonly used on salted nuts in India, so see if you can track it down ahead of time to make this recipe.
Beyond sourcing the special salt, this recipe comes together with items already found in your cupboard. The cayenne brings some sharp heat, so feel free to work with a range to get to the level you like. Black pepper introduces its own particular brand of heat — one that's slightly fruity and works as a nice base for the sharpness of the cayenne.
This is very much a recipe meant for sharing — one to have on hand to offer guests when they drop by and one to fill out your table for your New Year's Eve celebration. Since this recipe freezes so well (you can store the nuts in the freezer for up to six months!) keep an eye out for sales on raw cashews and make a batch of these to stick in the freezer so you always have them on hand.
A South Indian New Year's Eve
We're ringing in the new year with a burst of flavor and color and a menu from Asha Gomez's celebrated cookbook, My Two Souths. Inspired by the parallel flavors of home in Kerala and her home in Atlanta, Asha creates recipes that tell the stories of how these two cultures and traditions of cooking overlap to create the food she shares in her Atlanta-based Indian pâtisserie, Spice To Table.
Black Salt-and-Pepper Roasted Cashews
freshly ground black pepper
Warm the oil in a large skillet over low heat. Add the cayenne, black pepper, black salt, and kosher salt. Cook and stir until the spices are very aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the cashews, turning and coating them well with the spiced oil. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the cashews are blistered and a mottled brown, about 4 minutes.
Black salt: There are three kinds of black salt, each used for different purposes, so be sure you buy the correct type. Black ritual salt, or witch's salt, is not for consumption; it is used most often in incense. Black lava salt is sea salt filtered through charcoal, usually originating in Hawaii or Cyprus, and used primarily as a finishing salt. Indian or Himalayan black salt is a volcanic salt that starts out as pink salt, but it is heated at extremely high temperatures, turning it a deep purple. When heated, residual trace impurities of sulfites and sulfides are left behind, giving this salt a unique flavor similar to hard-boiled egg yolks. It is well worth the effort to track some down for your pantry.
Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Reprinted with permission from My Two Souths: Blending the Flavors of India into a Southern Kitchen © 2016 by Asha Gomez with Martha Hall Foose, Running Press.