Spiced Nuts with Turbinado Sugar

April 18, 2010


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One of my favorite things about visiting home is my mother’s zest for cocktail hour. When she’s not working, she’s waiting for five o’clock. Until recently, my father, sister and I joined her, dutiful but sometimes disinterested, sipping wine and waiting for the sun to set over the water. Don’t get me wrong…I love to drink. But there are many other things I prefer to do when I visit my parents. If you ask me, early evening is best spent on a bicycle, or walking through the forest by the Housatonic River. Not according to my mother. For her, sunsets—and the two, even three hours prior—are best spent enjoying fermented grapes. My husband feels the same, only he prefers the taste of juniper berries.


My mother and Christopher share a lot of things, none the least of which is incredible ambition and a love of hard work, which, I believe, is at the heart of their thirst. Predictably, when we were all together at Easter, my mother and husband could be seen ambling down the hill to the dock, glasses in hand. They sat together, talking, staring at the water, reading books, and enjoying one of the most civilized habits I can think of.

Nothing makes me happier than observing their ritual from the front porch. I watch them in the distance, two little figures with sandy hair flapping in the wind. I like to show up at seven or so, to give them some time on their own. That said, I can’t resist having my presence felt somewhat, and this past visit, I did it through a bowl of spicy nuts.  Frankly, it felt like defying the laws of nature: I was there for the nightly ritual while simultaneously pedaling away into the sunset.


At four o’clock, I searched through the cabinets and found several bags of wonderful nuts: pepitos, walnuts, pecans, cashews and almonds. I melted some butter, poured it into a ramekin with spices then spread the mix over nuts and roasted them, with just a pinch of sugar and salt. Savory, spicy, and subtly sweet, they were just right with a gin and tonic. Or so I’m told—I had them with champagne, which, may I say, is a damn good way to end a bike ride.

Spiced Nuts with Turbinado Sugar

1 lb mixed nuts
2 T butter
2 T pulverized spices: I like coriander, curry, cumin, fennel seeds
1 t turbinado sugar
pinch of kosher salt

Preheat oven to 300.
Melt butter in a small saucepan.
Mix spices in a small bowl.
Pour melted butter into spice mix and stir to blend.
Pour nuts onto a baking sheet and coat with butter mix, stirring to distribute. Sprinkle with salt and sugar.
Bake until crisp and hot, about 30 minutes, tossing several times.

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