|Part of this year's almond harvest. Time to get cracking!|
I wanted a handful of almonds to make ajo blanco, a white gazpacho made with crushed almonds. We ended up picking a bushel of the nuts, which are beginning to fall off the trees. Let’s get cracking!
Besides ajo blanco, I made a batch of almendras fritas, unskinned almonds fried in olive oil and spiced with cumin and pimentón, and almendras tostadas, blanched and skinned almonds toasted in the microwave. They make delicious snacks or accompaniment to cocktails.
|Almonds are the perfect accompaniment to cocktails or Sherry. In the foreground, microwave-toasted almonds, and, on the left, unskinned almonds fried in olive oil and spiced with pimentón and cumin.|
|Add toasted or fried almonds to autumn salads. This one combines sweet pears, fresh goat's cheese, crunchy celery, toasted almonds and a hint of fennel.|
I wear gloves to crack almonds--not to prevent smacking my thumb, but to protect my fingertips from the pressure of the pointy shells. Do I need an almond shelling machine?
One pound almonds in their shells makes approximately 1 cup (5 ounces) shelled almonds.
To blanch and skin almonds: place the almonds in boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and cover them with cold water. While the almonds are still warm, pinch off the tip of the skins and squeeze out the white almonds. Discard skins.
Fried Spiced Almonds
Almendras Fritas con Especias
|These unskinned almonds are fried until golden in olive oil (include a couple almonds that have been skinned so as to be able to see when they turn golden). After draining on paper towels, they are sprinkled with cumin, salt and pimentón.|
To better see when the almonds are toasted, include one or two skinned almonds or a few almonds that have been cut in half. Moderate the heat so the almonds don’t fry too fast and scorch.
When the oil is cool, strain it and save for other uses.
2 cups (10 ounces) unskinned almonds
1 ½ cups olive oil
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon smoked pimentón (paprika), sweet or picante
½ teaspoon salt
|Fry almonds in olive oil.|
Heat the oil in a skillet on moderately-high. Add the almonds and fry them, turning frequently with a spatula or skimmer, until they are toasted, about 2 minutes. Skim them out to drain on paper towels.
Combine the cumin, pimentón and salt. While the fried almonds are still warm, sprinkle them with the blended spices and toss them to mix.
Let the almonds cool completely before storing in a jar.
|Drain almonds on paper towels and toss with spices.|
Almendras Tostadas en Microonda
|These almonds have been blanched and skinned, then toasted with a small quantity of olive oil in the microwave. They are done when golden. Perhaps these could have had another minute, to get a little darker.|
1 cup blanched and skinned almonds
1 teaspoon olive oil
|Add 1 teaspoon oil to almonds.|
In a bowl combine the almonds with the oil. Stir to coat the almonds. Spread them in a microwave-safe shallow bowl. Cover with a microwave-safe lid. Microwave the almonds on High for 1 minute. Remove the bowl and toss the almonds. Return and microwave on High 1 minute. Stir and microwave 30 seconds more or until the almonds are beginning to turn golden.
Sprinkle the almonds with salt. Allow to cool completely before storing.
I used queso fresco de cabra, fresh, soft white goat’s cheese, in this salad. Feta or fresh mozzarella would be good substitutes (careful with added salt if using feta). Or, maybe, blue cheese?
12 ounces firm, ripe pears (2-4, depending on size)
6 ounces fresh goat cheese
½ cup chopped celery or raw fennel
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
Red pepper flakes, to taste
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
Pinch of fennel seeds
Salt, to taste
¼ cup toasted almonds
Salad greens to serve
Peel the pears. Slice them around the cores. Cut the slices into dice and place in a bowl. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and stir gently. Cut the cheese into cubes and add to the pears with the chopped celery and chopped red pepper. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes to taste. Add the oil, vinegar, fennel seeds, salt and half of the almonds. Stir very gently to combine.
Divide greens between four salad plates. Mound the pear-cheese-almond mixture on the greens. Scatter remaining toasted almonds on top.
|I´ve finished the salads with sprigs of wild fennel flowers.|
Another almond snack: Crunchy Caramel Almonds (Garrapiñadas).
Recipes for White Gazpacho with Almonds (Ajo Blanco):
|Fallen almonds, some still in their outer husks, are camouflaged by leaves and stones.|