My two favorite crunchy salad toppings are homemade croutons and candied walnuts. Making candied nuts is fairly simple. As Jaime pointed out, candied peanuts can be made with just two ingredients and used for just about everything. When it comes to salads I like to use maple syrup to coat walnuts. (When I say maple syrup I mean real, all natural maple syrup. Do not use any of the fake syrups found on supermarket shelves for this or it will not turn out well!) The natural sugar in maple syrup imparts a slightly maple taste to the walnuts which provides a delicious contrast to the sharp cheeses and sweet fruits I often toss with my lettuce and dressing. These also make great gifts when tied up in a clear plastic bag with a pretty ribbon. Sometimes I include them in holiday gifts baskets or take them to people as house gifts.
How to Make Maple Syrup Candied Walnuts
2 Tablespoons good quality maple syrup (ONLY use natural maple syrup)
1 c. walnuts
1. In a pan over medium heat at the walnuts and toss with the maple syrup. Turn the heat up to medium-high and stir until the maple syrup begins to evaporate and the walnuts get slightly white and coated in sugar. Remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.