Ever since I discovered the rosemary-scented Union Square Bar Nut recipe back in the 1990s, it’s been our family’s signature nibble. Occasionally we’ll buy a container of roasted salted peanuts, pistachios, or Marcona almonds, but when we sit down for a glass of wine or cocktail, there’s likely an accompanying bowl of Union Square Bar Nuts.
I’ve tried changing the recipe, subbing in chili powder, five-spice powder—fresh thyme even. They’re all fine, but we always returned to the original rosemary flavoring.
A few weeks ago, Sharon’s husband, Anthony, and I were in the kitchen together, prepping for Sharon’s 30th birthday party. It was Latin-themed party with a vibrant taco bar and kick-ass chipotle-grapefruit margaritas. Our go-to Mediterranean nuts didn’t exactly clash with this menu, but Anthony and I both acknowledged we could do better.
We got to work. The fat, salt, and sugar in the original recipe weren’t negotiable. For that base flavor that keeps you reaching into the bowl, we needed them all. Plus the butter-sugar combo acts as edible glue, helping the other flavorings adhere to the nuts. For this party we subbed in pimenton (smoked paprika) and cumin for the rosemary and swapped out chipotle powder for the cayenne, which contributes heat and flavor. Finally! A spice mix that rivaled rosemary.
Last week we were out of nuts, and so on my Costco run I picked up the familiar 2 ½ pound container of mixed roasted nuts. A garden full of fresh rosemary, I could have flavored a hundred pounds. Instead, I reached into the pantry for the pimenton, cumin and chipotle powder.
- 2½ pounds mixed premium roasted salted nuts (we buy ours at Costco)
- 4 teaspoons butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 4 teaspoons pimenton (smoked paprika)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons chipotle powder
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts on a 12- by 18- rimmed baking sheet and back until fragrant and very hot, 15 to 17 minutes.
- Meanwhile, microwave butter until melted and warm, stir in sugar, pimenton, cumin chipotle powder, and salt.
- Pour hot nuts into a large bowl and immediately add spice mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula until nuts are evenly and well coated. Return nuts to baking sheet to cool and dry. (Can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 month)