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Sweet And Spicy Roasted Hazelnuts With Rosemary

With piney rosemary and a kick of cayenne, these caramelized nuts are a perfect nibble for the holidays. It's one of the starring recipes in Jan Roberts-Dominguez's new cookbook, Oregon Hazelnut Country -- The Food, the Drink, the Spirit (Hazelnut Marketing Board 2010). She pairs the cocktail nuts with fruity Zinfandels, amber ales and hoppy IPA microbrews.

Makes 3 cups

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

3 cups lightly roasted and skinned hazelnuts

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the butter and corn syrup in the center of a rimmed baking sheet and warm in the oven until the butter has melted. Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl, combine the hazelnuts, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and cayenne. Transfer the mixture to the baking pan, stirring the mixture again with a flat-sided spatula to incorporate the butter and syrup. Bake until the sugar melts and caramelizes around the nuts, stirring every 5 minutes with a wide spatula or a pastry scraper, for about 20 minutes total baking time.

While the nuts are roasting, spread a large sheet of waxed or parchment paper on a cutting board. When the nuts and coating have darkened, remove the pan from the oven and immediately scrape them out onto the paper, quickly spreading the nuts out so they don't touch each other for the most part. Allow them to cool and then break them apart as desired into single nuts or clusters.

The pieces should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container, in which they can be kept for several weeks.

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