- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 7, 2004

Entertaining is not only about being a host. It’s also about being a guest. With the holiday season here, many of us will find ourselves in the latter role.

Hostess gifts are not obligatory, but most people, when asked to another’s home, like to arrive with some token of appreciation. Whether I’m invited to a small, intimate dinner or a cocktail party for 100, I know the hosts have spent time and effort in the planning. A present is for my gratitude.

What to give is the question. Wines and spirits are typical choices. I adore flowers, but cut ones must be put into vases by a host who might need to be passing hors d’oeuvres instead. Potted plants are a better solution. Soaps, tea towels and all manner of gift-shop items are other possibilities.

When I am the host, I confess that nothing pleases me more than a homemade gift of food. In the past, friends have bestowed on us glistening jams and jellies, decadently rich candies, homemade cookies and cakes, and, on one occasion, a delicious home-brewed liqueur.

This year I’ll do the same and offer gifts from my kitchen.

I’m going to prepare some delectable spiced pecans. My good friend Ann Ryan-Small introduced me to them several holiday seasons back when she arrived at our house with these sweet and salty nuts. One bite, and I was addicted and later phoned to request the recipe.

I have made many versions of nuts dipped in unbeaten egg whites and dusted with sugar and spices, but these are prepared differently.

Toasted pecans are folded into a mixture of beaten egg whites flavored with sugar, salt and vanilla.

When stored in an airtight container, the pecans, which are equally good offered with drinks or dessert, will keep well for several weeks.

Ann’s Swedish pecans

1 pound (4 cups) pecan halves

3 large egg whites

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. (If your oven is narrow, arrange a second rack a few inches above the center rack.) Spread a sheet of aluminum foil about 2 feet long on a work surface.

Spread half of pecans on each of two heavy, standard-size (approximately 10-by-15-inch) rimmed cookie sheets, and place in oven on center shelf (two shelves if your oven is narrow) until browned and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove and cool pecans slightly on baking sheets. Retain oven temperature.

With an electric mixer on high speed, beat egg whites in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, fold in sugar, salt and vanilla. Then stir in toasted nuts. Pour half of the melted butter onto each of the rimmed baking sheets and swirl so that all surfaces of pans are well-coated. Divide the pecan mixture evenly and spread in a single layer in the pans.

Place baking sheets on center shelf (on two shelves if your oven is narrow). Bake pecans, stirring with a wooden spoon every 6 minutes, until golden and crisp and egg whites have become a light brown color and have mostly deflated and baked onto the nuts.

The total cooking time should be 18 to 20 minutes. If baking on two racks, reverse sheets top to bottom after 12 minutes. Watch carefully so that nuts do not burn. When done, spread pecans in an even layer on the foil. Using two forks, carefully separate the nuts. Cool nuts until coating is crisp, 30 minutes or longer.


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