Unfussy Fare

Spiced Nuts


Nuts. That’s what I was thinking about last night as I lay with my son in his darkened room, waiting for sleep to overtake him. Specifically, spiced nuts, and how I’d never made them, and what was I waiting for? The mind-chatter went something like this: “What was that recipe I came across recently? Nuts from some restaurant in New York. Times Square nuts? Union Station nuts? There was rosemary involved, I remember that much. Google. I need Google. But first I need to be still for a few more minutes. Just be still. Breathe. He’s falling asleep. He’s close.”

I lie down with our five-year-old every night. It’s sometimes a challenge. Stillness doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s very dark in his room. We squeeze into his twin bed. Above us the ceiling sports glow-in-the-dark star stickers and seven plastic planets dangling from thumbtacks and fishing line. (Some planets have fallen. Jupiter glows under the bed. Mars is downstairs somewhere. Pluto holds fast, though I’m told it’s been downgraded from planetary status.)

We listen to Gregorian chants. (Strange, I know. But it’s been his bedtime music pick since he was old enough to say “monks.”) The music is unearthly and hypnotic. My squirmy, chatty boy grows quiet, and increasingly still. My ceaseless mind-chatter also slows, and sometimes even stops. In time we breathe in gentle unison, holding hands, my cheek to his forehead. I lie still for a while after he drifts off.  I have the sensation of floating in timeless darkness, buoyed by my child’s warmth, and the swell and ebb of the monks’ sublime harmonies. It’s pure. And fleeting.

If I were a yogi, or even just a calmer person, I imagine I would abide in that perfect moment for a good long while each night. But my mind is an unruly jungle, and it doesn’t take long for the tendrils of a thousand distractions to start tugging at my attention. (The dinner dishes aren’t finished. The dog needs a walk. I brought some work home. I should write a blog post. A glass of wine and a TV show would be nice, etc.) And so it went last night. Within minutes of my nightly moment of profound peace, my monkey-mind and I popped up and googled “spiced nuts with rosemary.”

The recipe comes from the Union Square Café in New York. I found them too salty for my money, so the recipe below reflects my personal preference for less salt and more heat. The fragrance of the rosemary makes these a standout. That, and the whole hot/sweet/salt/fat thing, which can’t be beat. Oh, and the unfussiness factor is high, which is another plus. You can make these in under fifteen minutes, start to finish. I recommend making them for parties or gifts, unless you want to consume five thousand calories all by yourself. Go ahead and print off copies of the recipe, because everyone will want it.



1 pound unsalted nuts (I used hazelnuts, pecans, and almonds.)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake for 8-10 minutes, until nuts are starting to brown.

Mix warm nuts with all the other ingredients and stir.

13 Responses to “Spiced Nuts”

  1. Pamela Perry says:

    Sounds devine.

    And as much as I hate to write this, “have you tasted Lisa’s nuts?” There, done. Now I’ve forever destroyed your beautiful and eloquent politically correct blog. However, back to the question. Lisa gave me her spiced nut recipe years ago and I’ve made them countless times and have always been pleased. Now another to add to my collection.

  2. You have so touchingly described a bedtime routine with your 5 year old that is similar to the one with my 4 year old. It is hard to maintain this routine when you are being pulled in so many other directions…somedays I do think NUTS! Must I really do this…but I always find an inner peace when I do

  3. Gillian says:

    Pamela: I HAVE tasted Lisa’s nuts, and in fact I think they’re even better than these nuts. But I don’t have the recipe. So perhaps I should remedy that.

    Wizzy: Thanks for the solidarity. I would’ve rolled my eyes at this bedtime routine in my armchair-parenting days, thinking it awfully indulgent. But that was before…

  4. Melynda says:

    These are on my list, thanks. I have rosemary in the backyard, and I am on the lookout for recipes.

  5. Gillian says:

    Hi Melynda: We have rosemary in the yard, too. So nice to be able to grab a sprig any time, all year round. I like to tuck some sprigs under the skin on the breast and legs of a chicken before roasting it with lemon and garlic in the cavity. Lots of salt and pepper. Yum. I love rosemary. Also, white bean dip: Saute garlic in olive oil. Add white beans and warm through. Mash with fresh rosemary and a squeeze of lemon.

  6. Pamela Perry says:

    Speaking of legs, have you ever attempted duck confit?

  7. Well put Pamela about the armchair comment…I told my son that big boys of 5 don’t need to be tucked in so as to prepare him BUT I’m the one who is not ready!!!!

  8. Lisa Belt says:

    Hmm. Guess I better dig out some kind of nut recipe. When did I make spiced nuts?
    Lately I climb in bed with one son and Cliff climbs in with the other one. The truly sad thing is that we’re climbing into 3/4 length Ikea twin beds. Half an hour cramped up like that and I need help climbing out again.
    Now I really want some spiced nuts.

  9. Gillian says:

    Hi Pamela: Nope. I’ve never cooked duck. But I was just admiring a recipe in Mix magazine for duck breasts with an orange/bourbon sauce. Looks good.

    And Lisa: Yeah, you made nuts. They were very tasty, but I don’t remember any more than that. You’ll have to ask Pamela. It was before you folded your tall self into a toddler bed. The nuts are just the tip of the iceberg of the things you’ve forgotten…

  10. Heidi says:

    I made this as an appetizer for tomorrow’s pre-Turkey snacking. Never had nuts like this before. I think the rosemary is a tad overwhelming when the nuts are hot, but after you let them cool it’s more manageable. It gives the nuts a subtle after taste. Kind of like a bumper sticker on a car that you just can’t quite make out until you get close enough. Pretty well rounded, nothing peeked out above the rest. Thanks!

  11. Gillian says:

    Hi Heidi: You know, I had the same experience with the salt. It tasted really overwhelming until the nuts cooled, and then it didn’t seem so salty. Funny. Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Pamela Perry says:

    Lisa, I just made a batch of your nuts for Thanksgiving and everyone fell over themselves to gobble them up. They went surprisingly well with the before-dinner Negronis.

    Gil, I’ll make yours for Christmas. Can’t wait and I may not!

  13. Ruth says:

    I just made these last night (recipe linked from a different source) and totally agree about the “too salty”. Tonight I rinsed the nuts off in hot water and re-did the oven-toasting to dry them out. I added some pimenton de la vera but otherwise nothing. The saltiness lingers still, but at least they are palatable now. I think I would have liked them better if I had put in 1/10 of the salt in the first place. I’m still searching for a better spiced nuts recipe.

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