Using Almonds to Their Best Advantage
Almonds are perhaps the most versatile nut in the world. Whatever the meal course, and whatever the ethnic cuisine, there’s bound to be an almond form or culinary technique to fit. Whether you’re using almonds for their flavor, crunch, or thickening properties, here are some guidelines and suggestions on using all the different available forms to their best advantage.
Roasting almonds before serving them brings out their toasty crunch; their flavorful, healthful oil; and their golden brown color. To roast almonds, place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant; stir once or twice to ensure even browning. Note that almonds will continue to roast slightly after removed from oven.
Whole natural almonds: This form is versatile, and is suitable for all-around use.
· Try it in cocktail mixes, such as the Sweet ‘N Spicy Almonds recipe on www.AlmondBoard.com. This recipe uses a technique in which egg whites are whisked and combined with seasonings; the almonds are then coated with this mixture, laid out on a baking sheet and baked until crispy. Other techniques include coating the almonds in simple syrup and seasonings, and then baking them; or sautéing them with seasonings in a touch of oil or butter.
· Serve roasted whole almonds and dried fruit with cheese as a pre- or post-dinner snack.
Whole blanched almonds: This form works well as an attractive garnish, either as is or roasted to bring out its flavor and color. It’s beautiful for color contrast on cakes, cookies and other sweets, or it can easily be ground for pastes or for thickening.
· Grind them in a blender or food processor as part of soups, sauces or vinaigrettes to add body and nutrition.
· Place them on top of sugar cookies just before baking – try one by itself, or two in the shape of a heart, or five in the shape of a star.
Sliced natural almonds: This form is well-suited for fruit salad, green salad, in hot or cold vegetables, in granola and in soup.
· Try a creamy vegetable soup with a sprinkle of roasted, sliced natural almonds for crunch and flavor.
· Or, make a granola by bringing a touch of butter to a simmer and steeping it with some orange zest; then stir in sliced natural almonds, oatmeal, and dried cherries. Spread it on a baking sheet and bake.
Sliced blanched almonds: This form is attractive on decorated frosted desserts or as sprinkled on muffins or other pastries before they’re baked.
· Make a spinach salad containing sliced blanched almonds, orange segments and red onion.
· Spread celery sticks with flavored cream cheese, and sprinkle some sliced blanched almonds on top for extra flavor and an additional layer of crunch.
Slivered blanched almonds: For stir-fries and grain dishes, this form holds its shape without breaking, to give a nice crunch and flavor.
· For a one-pan meal preparation, try roasting slivered blanched almonds in a dry wok. Then set them aside, and stir-fry meat, vegetables and sauce in the wok. Return the almonds to the pan and stir before serving.
· Try slivered blanched almonds in a rice pilaf or in couscous, with small-diced zucchini, red bell pepper and feta cheese.
· Top baked chicken breasts with sautéed mushrooms and a sprinkle of slivered blanched almonds.
Diced natural almonds: This form works well for stuffings and coatings. Many bread bakers include it in their whole grain bread dough.
· Coat fish fillets with milk, then with a mixture of diced natural almonds and Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs before baking.
· Stir diced natural almonds into whisked egg before making an omelet, for extra texture and nutrition.
Diced blanched almonds: This form works well for stuffings and coatings when a light, delicate appearance is needed.
· Press diced natural almonds around the sides of a cake, for a homey, crunchy rim.
· Include diced blanched almonds in pancake batter, and serve the pancakes with fruit such as peaches or raspberries.
Ground blanched almonds: This form works well for coatings, or to make almond butter or marzipan. Almond cake recipes include this form as “almond flour.”
· To make almond butter, place 3/4 cup ground blanched almonds in a blender or food processor, and add 1/8 teaspoon salt; pour in 3 tablespoons almond or vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream, blending until the mixture comes together.
Almond milk: Found in a box near the soymilk at the supermarket, this form is delicious to enjoy alone and great in coffee or in smoothies. Some pastry chefs sweeten it and make almond milk sherbet.
· Blend together almond milk, fruit and ice cubes or frozen yogurt to make a delicious smoothie.
· Make hot chocolate using almond milk instead of plain milk.
Green almonds: Available in limited supply in spring, green almonds are a true delicacy. These young, small, ivory almonds are still inside their fuzzy green hull.
· Cut the almond hull along the seam with a paring knife, and use the fresh, herbaceous-tasting nuts inside as part of a composed salad, or nibbled plain with a bit of sea salt.