I first came across a display of these at New Seasons, and I was attracted to their smart packaging – little plastic tubs with handsome labels sporting wonderfully bold graphics. (Each nut has a different hued label making it easy to differentiate). On the run picking up ingredients for a lunch for friends, I grabbed a tub of the Savory Nut Mix, thinking that they would be a sprightly companion to the cheese platter I was serving alongside the salad.
This little nutty party is a happening – toasted corn, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and pepitas fully roasted and seasoned with a turmeric, cayenne and aji amarillo powder (whatever that is) and salted to perfection. The restraint with the seasoning allows the flavor of each nut to shine through, and it is surprising that each element carries its own crunch rating: the pepita offers the least resistance, peanuts then almonds and hazelnuts are in the middle range and then way, way up to the power snap of the toasted corn. Although you will probably be eating these by the handful, the cumulative effect of varying crunch is intriguing, and keeps you coming back (and in my case, means I will probably finish the container without coming up for air).
I try to always have a tub on hand for many a dish that could benefit from a last jolt of flavor – I have sprinkled this mix atop a platter of steaming hot basmati rice, added a tablespoon or two as a garnish for smooth soups like carrots for an interesting bit of crunch, and mixed a small handful into a bowl of quinoa for color and textural contrast. A couple days ago I made a chickpea and spinach salad with a tahini dressing and the addition of this nut mix made a good thing even better.
There are other charmers in the Albina City Nuts family – be it hazelnuts (hello arugula and pear salad), candied walnuts (warm goat cheese I am seeking you out) and sweet almonds (guess who’s topping my curried lentils tonight?). Someone told me that they saw pecans in the line-up, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.
A warning: if you are living with nibblehounds, you may want to put these somewhere they won’t stumble upon casually (mine currently live amidst my muffin liners). Snack hoarders unite!
For sale throughout the Portland area: look to Foster and Dobbs (a wonderful tiny cheese shop in NE Portland), New Seasons, Whole Foods, and various wineries and specialty markets throughout Oregon and southern Washington.