Makes 4 cups Southerners always seem to have candied and spiced pecans around to nibble on during the holidays. My grandmother always made sweet pecans crusted with egg whites and sugar, using the nuts she and my grandfather had collected in the fall. So this version, with extra-virgin olive oil and herbs, is a real departure for my family. Recipes such as this, with a short ingredients list, are completely determined by the quality of the ingredients. The shorter the list, the better the ingredients must be. Pecans are the star, but the choice of olive oil and salt is crucial to the success of the dish. Use the finest possible. This recipe is splendidly simple, just perfect with apéritifs and for cocktail parties. Ingredients 4 cups pecan halves 2 teaspoons coarse salt or sea salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil Instructions In a large, dry skillet, toast the pecans over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine the salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and olive oil. Add the warm toasted pecans to the thyme-oil mixture. Stir well to combine and evenly coat the pecans. The fragrance is amazing! Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Making ahead Once the seasoned nuts have cooled, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring them to room temperature before serving. James Beard Foundation Award-winner Virginia Willis has made cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in Sicily, and beguiled celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Bill Clinton, and Julie Chrisley with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. She is the author of Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. She’s been seen on Food Network, CBS This Morning, and Fox and Friends and featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Eater, and Food52. She has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. Her fans love her foolproof recipes and down-to-earth attitude. Learn more at www.virginiawillis.com. Reprinted with permission from Bon Appétit, Y’all by Virginia Willis, copyright (c) 2008. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2008 by Ellen Silverman.