Going Nuts This Season

Every year at this time, I make a batch of spiced nuts for parties and for unexpected drop-by holiday revelers, and every year, someone asks for the recipe. It never fails. Recently, I did a small catering job, a working lunch for nine, and I added a container of nuts into their order for late afternoon sustenance, as a little extra sumthin'. As it turns out , the nuts were inhaled within minutes, prompting an e-mail request for the recipe.

These nuts are THAT good.

Spiced nuts. (Kim O'Donnel)

While you rave, however, please give credit where it's due, which is Union Square Café in New York, where these nuts have been a daily bar staple for about a zillion years.

I've made other spiced nut combos, and nothing has ever worked quite like this one -- not too sweet, not too salty, and infused with with the magical aromatherapeutic rosemary, which keeps on giving two weeks later.

One more thing: These take a whopping 15 minutes to prepare.

Inevitably, it's the simple things in life that blow us away, no?

Have a delicious weekend!

Union Square Bar Nuts
1 pound unsalted, assorted nuts - pecans, walnuts, cashews, whole almonds, peanuts are all good choices
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (from at least two sprigs)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted (vegan shortening works just as well)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread nuts on a cookie sheet. Toast in the oven until they become light golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar and salt. Melt the butter, in a small saucepan over the stove, or using a dish in a microwave oven.

Place warmed nuts into a large mixing bowl, and pour butter on top; you will hear a crackling noise. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, coat nuts with butter, then add spice mixture, stirring and tossing nuts for even coverage of seasonings.

Serve warm or at room temperature. These can be made in advance; will keep for about two weeks if stored in an airtight container.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 7, 2007; 9:35 AM ET Entertaining , Winter Holidays
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I'll have to try this, it sounds absolutely delicious and looks simple. Thanks Kim! :o)

Posted by: Southern Gal | December 7, 2007 10:27 AM

My mom makes these every year for Thanksgiving and they're delicious! They've become my favorite part of the meal. She uses just blanched almonds.

Posted by: Elyse | December 7, 2007 10:32 AM

I have been making these nuts for a few years now. Lately when I have been making them, the coating will not stay on the nuts. I mix it but the spice mixture just falls to the bottom of the bowl. Does anybody know what could be the cause of this? I want to make these again this year but am hesitant due to this problem.

Posted by: Arlington | December 7, 2007 10:34 AM

For the problem with the spices sticking to the nuts: perhaps using an egg white in addition to/instead of the butter would help

Posted by: Jen | December 7, 2007 1:26 PM

Fabulous! Thank you.

Tip: I didn't have any coarse salt, so I'd recommend half as much regular salt.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 9, 2007 9:49 AM

As a point of reference, especially if you are using a mix of nuts and don't have your own kitchen scale, 1 lb comes out to about 2 1/2 cups. I figured this out on my own then was affirmed when our local paper ran the same recipe this weekend (these MUST be good nuts!) and used the 2 1/2 c. measure in lieu of a pound measure. The local paper credited Union Square and said they took the recipe from a Nigella Lawson book.

Happy nutting!

Posted by: Anonymous | December 10, 2007 10:33 AM

I made a version of this from Real Simple's Nov. 2007 issue this year for Thanksgiving snacking, and they were such a big hit they're going in everyone's stockings for Christmas, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 10, 2007 1:40 PM

Stupid question...but what is "coarse salt"? Would kosher salt work? Thanks in advance!

Posted by: Midwest | December 11, 2007 11:15 AM

Kosher salt is one of many kinds of "coarse" salt -- so yes, use away. "Coarse" is defined by anything that isn't free-flowing like the stuff that comes out the Morton's container.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 11, 2007 11:23 AM

Gotcha. Thanks! I will make these this weekend.

Posted by: Midwest | December 11, 2007 1:52 PM

Thanks for the recipe. The nuts were a huge hit at the family dinner yesterday.

Posted by: Rockville | December 16, 2007 5:11 PM

Thank you thank you thank you!!! I will be doing this over the weekend!

Posted by: -V- | December 20, 2007 12:18 PM

Is the Rosemary really necessary for the final product to taste as terrific as it sounds? Has anyone tried the recipe with and without the Rosemary to compare the differences in taste? Some of my guests don't like Rosemary so I am trying to accomodate them. Perhaps someone knows if another herb or spice would be a good substitute. Thanks!

Posted by: Karen Deneroff, Oakton, VA | December 20, 2007 1:15 PM

This recipe was a lifesaver when I found myself an hour away from a holiday party with nothing to bring! I also made a non-spicy version with almonds only, olive oil instead of butter, and just rosemary and salt.

Posted by: Julia | December 20, 2007 3:26 PM

I have never made it before .... but now this season I would like to make it.
Could u please tell me "What is rosemary,cayenne & coarse salt ?????"
How much FATS r their in it?????

Posted by: Himanshy | December 21, 2007 1:48 AM

Having made the Bar Nuts for over 20 years now, I share your enthusiasm. I also applaud your concern with giving credit where credit is due. But, as much as we all love Union Square Cafe, the recipe did not originate with them. It's been published innumerable times over the last four score years ( as a newspaper food writer,I've published it myself), beginning in the early 1980's. As far as I can tell, the person responsible for making it public was Laurie Colwin, the novelist and food writer who died in 1982. (She was, in fact, so closely associated with "The Nuts," they were served at her memorial serivce.)
On The Nuts--which Colwin called "Rosemary Walnuts," and their variables: have fun! I use pecans and sea salt and go easy on the cayenne. I've even used olive oil instead of butter sometimes (giving them a longer shelf life ). The fresh rosemary, though, is essential, although I grind the leaves to spread the flavor further. When Laurie Colwin first published the recipe, rosemary was a truly exotic ingredient; and finding fresh rosemary in winter almsot impossible. Now that rosemary is available everywhere, all year long, The Nuts are truly a non-seasonal treat. Celebrate!

Posted by: Suzanne Hamln | December 21, 2007 9:11 AM

Suzanne, thanks so much for writing and for filling in the historical gaps. The nuts now have a richer meaning for me knowing that Colwin is part of the story. Don't know if you remember, but you and I met several years ago at that wacky olive oil conference in Italy. All the best to you in the coming year.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | December 21, 2007 9:44 AM

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