My bucket list includes a number of places where I’d like to travel, professional things I’d like to accomplish and then a few harder to classify items: learn to do the splits, have a squash named after me, hug a Muppet, be in a Bollywood movie. That last goal is perhaps what inspired me to join a professional Bollywood-style dance team called Bollywood Groove last fall, and I have been having a blast dancing with them ever since. And despite the fact that that goal sounds ridiculously unattainable, I actually got surprisingly close when Dhoom 3, a Bollywood movie, was being shot in Chicago this Fall and Bollywood Groove was asked–and then, ahem, un-asked–to be dancers in the movie. For the record, we’ve been described as “sizzling” on our own website. It’s their loss.
A few days ago, my friend Ajanta, who founded Bollywood Groove, asked me if I would share a holiday recipe with her newsletter followers. Ajanta also teaches amazing cardio classes through Bollywood Groove (Think Indian Zumba. What?? I KNOW.), so her followers like to celebrate Indian culture, but are often looking for healthier, active ways to do so. I wanted to share something easy and festive with a little Indian flair, so I decided to share my all-time favorite spiced nuts blend. By using lots of flavorful Indian spices, I’ve created a snack that’s crunchy and satisfying and will be an unexpected hit on any holiday hors d’oeuvres spread. If you aren’t hosting, these are a great gift to bring along to a party as well, just package them up in a pretty glass jar. And of course, filled with protein and healthy fats, these Indian Hot and Sour Cashews also double as an excellent post-workout snack should you ever hit up a Bollywood Groove dance class.
Amchur (green mango powder) is a souring agent used frequently in Indian cookery. Most sour spices, like sumac and black limes that I used in the Persian Black Lime and Herb Soup, can be harder to find since they aren’t as popular in American cuisine. Check out Indian markets for amchur or find it online. If you don’t have it on hand, a squeeze of fresh lime juice on the spiced cashews before serving will give that same sour kick. Asafoetida is a pungent seasoning reminiscent of onions and garlic that’s used all over India, but garlic powder is an easy substitute. And the pomegranate seed and cilantro garnish is entirely optional, but I love the festive, holiday look that it gives to this dish.
If you are looking for more ideas for holiday entertaining, I’ll be teaching a cooking class on easy an inexpensive appetizers at the Whole Foods Market in Downtown Evanston on Thursday, December 6, 7pm. Read more and reserve your spot here.
Indian Hot and Sour Cashews
Makes 2 cups
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other light oil)
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon chili flake
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons amchur
large pinch asafoetida or garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grind sea salt
2 cups raw whole cashews
pomegranate seeds and chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 300. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and saute until they start to pop out of the pan. Add chili flake, turmeric, amchur, asafoetida/garlic powder and salt.
3. Turn off the heat and add the cashews to the pan, coating them thoroughly in the spiced oil. Spread evenly on the sheet tray. Bake at 300 for 12 – 15 minutes, stirring twice during cooking time. Cool and garnish with pomegranate seeds and cilantro. Eat and enjoy.