As someone who’s been kicked out of countless grocery stores, camera in hand, I especially enjoyed the contraband video that Carl Willat, a San Francisco-based animation director, recorded with his humble Treo. Although the chain has stopped carrying some of my favorite products — oh sweet, spicy ginger gelato, where did you go?! — I still stop by their SoMa store before any major baking session. Nuts and dried fruit for me, unpasteurized orange juice and onion rye bread for my husband.

Walking down that dry goods aisle, I always go overboard. Later, there will be bags and bags of walnuts, pecans or cashews left lying around the kitchen. Spicing them up and distributing them among friends is the best way to deal with that problem. While you can keep them around your house for snacking, they’re so addictive that I recommend dividing them up into many small caches, like a squirrel, to extend their goodness as long as possible.


Makes: About 2 cups

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
Pinch cinnamon
1 pound shelled walnuts, pecans, almonds or cashews

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or brush it lightly with oil. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, sugar and spices. Add the nuts and toss until evenly coated. Transfer to a baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Take care not to overcook; the nuts will continue to crisp as they cool.

Nuts for Trader Joe’s 16 February,2009Thy Tran


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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