Photo by James Ransom
Well-traveled, easily assimilated into other cultures, can be found in Morocco during the day and later at night in China. What is this mysterious thing? The almond, a tree nut that is deeply loved around the globe. Almonds are one of the most popular nuts in the world due to their versatility and adaptability -- whole almonds can be sliced, roasted, chopped, blanched, slivered, or even pulverized into a paste. They can be ground into flour for a gluten-free substitute or made into almond milk for those who avoid dairy or soy.
And the health benefits! Just to rattle off a few: almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, contain high-quality protein (a third of which are essential amino acids), dietary fiber, and good-for-you monounsaturated fat. What's more, skin-on almonds are said to deliver twice as much antioxidants as their stripped-down brethren, so keep them sheathed whenever possible.
Most often, the almonds found at the grocery store are fully ripe. Before they reach maturity, for an extremely brief eight-week period each year from approximately late-April to mid-June, young green almonds can be found and are considered a delicacy around the world. They have a fuzzy green coat, but within is the sought-after gem: a skinless, white almond with the texture of a firm grape. These prized nuts are seen on both top restaurant menus and in street vendor stalls in the Middle East (where the almond originated), the latter being salted and sold as a casual snack.
In home kitchens, mature almonds find their place in a diverse array of dishes. In China, almonds are blended with milk and soaked sticky rice to make a hot almond "tea." In Morocco and France, almonds are ground with sugar and egg to form a sweet paste used in pastry fillings. In India, almonds serve as the base of creamy, mild pasanda curries. Stateside, crunchy granola and raw almond butter find their way into breakfasts and baked goods galore.
How do you cook with this honey-hued nut? Share your favorite ways to enjoy almonds in the comments section below. Remember, if you choose to upload a recipe (and we hope you will), please mention it in your comment.
We'll assemble and share some of our favorite ideas next week.
Photos by Sarah Shatz
Citrus Almond Noodle Salad with Crunchy Vegetables
Raw Mint Chocolate Truffles with Almonds and Sea Salt
Gluten Free Almond Raisin Granola
Cherry Brown Sugar Fool with Honey Almonds [Food52] (pictured above, left)
Tangerine and Almond Shortbread Tart [Food52] (pictured above, right)
Roasted Broccoli with Smoked Paprika Vinagrette and Marcona Almonds [Food52]
For more seasonal produce inspiration, check out our previous topic, Your Best Ideas for Watermelon, and the selection of your best tips and recipes, How to Use Watermelon.