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Not Just Nuts

Just a bar snack? Nuts to that! A french-trained chef is upping the ante when it comes to appetizers


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Roasted nuts are usually more bar snack than elegant appetizer, but Arnon Oren is changing that. The El Cerrito–based chef-owner of Oren’s Kitchen catering has created a line of “aperitif” nibbles, featuring small-batch roasted nuts flavored with rare spices and high-quality oils.

“I wanted to create simple, tasty snacks that would invigorate the appetite, made from local and sustainable or organically grown ingredients,” he says.

Coconut chili macadamias are culinary crack—deliciously addictive—made with dried red chilies from Full Belly Farm and coconut shards. Indian cashews are perfumed with cumin and ajwain, a Middle Eastern spice with a delicate, thymelike flavor. The nuts are baked at a low temperature, and each batch is individually roasted on a sheet pan, using extra virgin olive and peanut oils, or ghee.

Oren, who is Israeli and trained in France, is an alumnus of Oliveto and Chez Panisse. The nuts are inspired by his travels and work as a chef, as well as his childhood in a village rich with fruit and olive orchards, fresh goat cheese, and honey.

Available at Diablo Foods, the Pasta Shop, and online at orenskitchen.com. The nuts are $6.99 for a four-ounce package. 

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