If there’s one thing I always keep on hand during the holidays, it’s a stash of roasted nuts, seasoned in a variety of ways. When friends drop by, a bowl of Spicy Maple Walnuts, Malabar Pecans, or Parmesan Almonds makes the perfect snack with cocktails. I also like to pack the nuts into decorative tins or jars and give them as gifts.
Make it a cardinal rule to start these recipes with high-quality nuts. Search out a bulk purveyor, like a natural-foods store, where you can see if the nuts look shriveled, meaning they’re old. Nut oils are especially perishable and can quickly turn rancid, so try to taste before you buy. If you’re not using the nuts within a few days, refrigerate them for up to two weeks or freeze them for up to six months.
The challenge in making seasoned nuts is getting the seasonings to stick. Egg whites do a thorough and even job of this, although the resulting heavy and opaque coating somewhat obscures the look of the nut. Melted butter is the other option; the result is a glossy, oiled nut with a lighter dusting of seasoning. The butter option also gives you the flexibility to either roast or microwave the nuts. The microwave is quicker, but the oven gives you crisper texture and richer, toastier flavor and color. Either way, once you try my recipes, you can vary the flavors and create your own signature savory nut.