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In the Kitchen With Ricky: A memorable snack – cinnamon roasted nuts are sweet, salty and crunchy

By Ricky Webster For The Spokesman-Review

If you’ve ever been to New York City and found yourself walking around Times Square, there is a plethora of sights, sounds and smells. Most of the smells aren’t worth talking about, or frankly ever wanting to experience again, but there’s one that stands out in a good way.

Every day, vendors representing the company Nuts 4 Nuts crowd the streets with their shiny silver carts and copper kettles and roast batches upon batches of candied nuts. The sugar-scented air wafts down alleyways and will catch you at the most random of times. From that moment, the urge to grab a little waxed bag of these warm delights is real.

I lived in NYC years ago, and I had my fair share of these sweet, salty and crunchy snacks, especially on a student budget. I never thought about re-creating them until just a few weeks ago while watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and thinking about walking around the city and all that I missed – and these nuts were certainly on that list.

The recipe I’ve come up with isn’t quite what you’ll find on the streets of New York, but they are very close and certainly curb the craving and take me back to a time when I lived there. With the addition of cinnamon, they are a perfect fit for this time of year.

But if you want something a little more traditional, leave out the cinnamon and add in 2 tablespoons of honey. Cook as directed below; however, they may take a couple of extra minutes due to the additional moisture from the honey.

Feel free to use whatever nuts you like or what you have on hand. They are traditionally made using peanuts, almonds and cashews, but today I’m using pecans. They also work fantastically with hazelnuts.

It is best to use raw nuts that have not been previously roasted or toasted, as you will cook them for a while atop a stove, and they will end up fully cooking. I suggest making an extra batch and bagging or jarring them and giving them to someone special. They make a wonderful gift.

Cinnamon Roasted Nuts

2 cups raw nuts

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¾ cup water

In a large skillet set over medium heat, combine all the ingredients.

Stir every 30 seconds or so until the mixture thickens and becomes bubbly.

Once the syrup is steaming and boiling, continue to stir, making sure to make your way evenly around the pan and keeping the nuts in motion.

When the mixture begins to crumble, which could take 10-plus minutes, scrape up the sugar bits from bottom.

Remove the nuts from the heat when they are no longer shiny and lay them out on a parchment-lined sheet pan until cooled.

The nuts will keep in an airtight container for 3 weeks.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Local award-winning chef and Rind and Wheat owner Ricky Webster can be reached at ricky@rindandwheat.com. Follow Webster on Instagram @rickycaker.