When home entertaining picks up at this time of year, nuts are a virtual chameleon in the kitchen, delicious as an appetizer as well as for dessert.

One of my favorite offerings is a quick and easy pan of mixed nuts that I toss lightly with herbs and oil, and toast for a few minutes in a hot oven. Once guests arrive, the serving bowl is always emptied in short order.

I also rub strips of boneless chicken with herbs and roast until golden and cooked through. Then I toss the roasted chicken with cashew or peanuts for an old Southern delight, adding a dash of soy sauce or dark rum for a bracing flavor. Brazil nuts are particularly fine in this combo, too.

On the other hand, broccoli or broccoli rabe is delectable when simmered briefly in vegetable broth laced with garlic, then drained and combined with nuts of choice. Walnuts or pecans are fine in this dish, as well as pistachios.

Especially during the holiday season, there are many nuts to choose from, including those, such as pistachios and Brazil nuts, that aren't nuts in the biological sense. No matter. Consider your options: almonds, cashews, chestnuts, coconuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, soy and walnuts.

Some of us eat nuts because they're good for us; I grab a daily handful because they taste good.

Joyce White is the author of "Brown Sugar" and "Soul Food."