Really Good Spiced Nuts — a great holiday treat

IMG_1538There’s nothing quite as tempting and delicious at a cocktail party as a handful of mixed nuts that have been roasted and spiced, though it’s unlikely you’ll be able stop at just one handful. My sister-in-law Beverly, a first-class cook and the embodiment of Southern hospitality, seems to travel with a tin of these nuts — freshly roasted and redolent of spices— wherever she goes. Luckily for us, she brought some with her to our place over Thanksgiving, and we served them with a cheese tray and white wine. They disappeared instantly.

I’ve tried to recreate what I could remember of Bev’s version over the years. I’ve gone heavy on the curry and cumin when I scatter the nuts over sliced duck breast salad served with chopped dates and sherry vinaigrette. Dusted with nutmeg and cinnamon, they’re a great addition to store-bought granola. But the version of Bev’s that I tasted over Thanksgiving made me realize that, with all my tinkering, I’d lost something essential in my own translation of her classic. Her spiced nuts somehow maintained the perfect balance of sweet and salty, crunchiness and heat. Though I know Southern cooks often hold favorite recipes as close to their aprons as family secrets, I asked Bev if she could give this one up and she kindly obliged.  Make a batch for yourself and another one to give away or bring to your next party — these are guaranteed to be a hit.

Thanks, Bev, and happy holidays, everyone!

Bev’s Really Good Spiced Nuts
 
Note: This recipe can be cut in half.
 
6 cups of assorted plain nuts of more or less equal size (not roasted or salted), such as pecans, walnuts, pistachios, macadamias or whole almonds (not slivered or sliced)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons plain vegetable oil, such as Crisco
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dry ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Cooking oil spray
 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Place the nuts in a large mixing bowl. Add the syrup and oil, and toss. Sprinkle on the salt, ginger, coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. Toss until this is thoroughly mixed.
  3. Spay a large baking sheet that has a rim with cooking oil spray. Pour the nuts evenly onto the pan. Bake, removing the pan from the oven to stir the nuts after every 5 minutes, until the nuts are toasted and have absorbed the syrup, about 18 to 22 minutes.
Makes 6 cups.  Store at room temperature in an air-tight container.
 
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11 Responses to Really Good Spiced Nuts — a great holiday treat

  1. Roger Rosenthal says:

    I’ve had these very same spiced nuts and they are additive. I miss the accompanying poem, but finding a good poem on spiced nuts might be a stretch.

    • Liza says:

      Yes, sadly, there seems to be a dearth of printable poetry devoted to spiced mixed nuts. Here’s your opening to literary immortality!

    • Lois Dorman says:

      Roger-
      Just for you
      read stanza II…

      FERMENTATION
      I.
      A Los Angeles evening and the sun slashes the sky
      to orange and pink ribbons.
      Just a few blocks from the weeds
      and chain link fences of Dogtown,
      there’s a Venice Beach street
      where palm trees lean into perfume
      and money jangles like hammered bangles
      on knife-thin wrists.

      II.
      This moment’s hot restaurant steams
      the boulevard with bodies.
      Two new lovers sit at a front table,
      all fingers and lips, feeding on flatbreads,
      spiced nuts and olives jammed with pimento.
      They swirl the wine in their glasses,
      smooth spinning tops,
      and sip the purple burn.

      III.
      Outside, a passerby hands a bottle of water
      to a beggar slumped against
      the restaurant’s glass wall.
      He turns the liquid charity over his head,
      a private toast to the city, a million shattering beads.
      And concrete drinks it all in: slap or shuffle
      of shoes, laughter, mad dogs barking
      in the distance.
      ~~Lizi Gilad

  2. Meg Agnew says:

    I’m inspired! But I usually am by all your postings, Liza. Happy Holidays to all!
    xo- Meg and Merlin

  3. annette shear says:

    I have had such a wonderful time reading your blog this year..thank you!

    wishing you and Bill and your whole family and all your friends a very Happy Christmas and a very merry and healthy New Year!

    Annette

  4. I join with the others in thanking you for your lovely blog, Liza, and in wishing you and Bill a happy holiday time and a grand new year. I’ve just made the nuts (thank you to both Liza and Bev) and am sending a container with each of our kids to their in-law families tomorrow AM.

    • Liza says:

      Thanks, Geneva! I’m so pleased you tried to recipe. I made a batch myself on Friday, also intending to give them away, but when I checked the tin this morning I saw that it was down to a single layer of nuts. I can’t seem to get a straight answer out of certain husbands, but I’m pretty sure I know what happened to them.

  5. Patricia Aakre says:

    This is just to say
    we have eaten
    the spiced nuts
    that you gave to us

    one Christmas
    and now we
    make ourselves.
    Thank you

    Liza and Beverly.
    Christmas now smells
    of coriander
    and ginger.

    With apologies to WCW

    • Liza says:

      I’ve a feeling WCW would be tickled pink, Patty. I think some examples of this classic recipe might be coming your way soon.

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