6 quick ways with almonds

From Chris Halpin

2016 Nov/Dec

When people talk about super foods, the almond quickly becomes the conversation. I love them and consume them on a daily basis, in one form or another. I like to use almond milk in my smoothies to round out the protein isolate and as a great flavour booster. Here are some of my favourite go-to almond recipes.

smoked tamari almonds

Simple and delicious. Tamari is similar to, but thicker than, soy sauce. If you don’t have it in the house, just use regular soy sauce. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Arrange 2 c. raw, skin-on almonds onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the almonds smell toasty and delicious. Remove from the oven and immediately add 1 T. tamari and 1/2 t. hot smoked paprika and stir to coat evenly, until all the tamari has been absorbed. Sprinkle with salt if you wish and allow to cool before serving. Makes 2 cups.

almond-stuffed dates wrapped in pancetta

This is a twist on a traditional holiday nibble. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Lightly toast 24 whole blanched almonds, remove and cool. Stuff 24 pitted dates with 1 almond each. Slice 12 slices of spicy pancetta in half and wrap each date with half a slice. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they are all seam-side down. Bake until the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove and allow them to cool for a minute or so before serving. Makes 2 dozen.

almond-crusted halibut with a beet beurre blanc

This recipe is as delightful to look at as it is to eat. Preheat oven to 400° F. Into a pot over medium heat, put 1 c. white wine, 1 garlic clove, cracked, and 1 bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer while you finish the recipe. Into a bowl, put 2 c. sliced blanched almonds, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 t. white pepper, 1 t. salt and 1 egg white, and mix well. Arrange 4 halibut fillets on a baking sheet and pat each with some of the almond mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the almonds are golden and the fish is done to your liking. While the fish is in the oven, drain a small can of beets and pour them into a blender. Remove the bay leaf from the wine garlic mixture and add it to the blender. Purée until smooth, return to the pot and bring back to a boil. Whisk in 4 T. of butter, in lumps, and continue to whisk until the butter has been fully incorporated, then whisk in 1 t. grainy mustard and salt to taste. To serve, puddle some of the sauce on 4 plates and place a piece of fish on top. Serves 4.

rapini with burnt almonds and pecorino cheese

The toasty buttery flavour of burnt almonds is such a nice counterpart to the tang of rapini. Rapini is a vegetable that requires a bit of finesse, because the tannins are a bit bitter. You must blanch and rinse rapini before you do anything with it. This is the only way to make it palatable; much like fiddlehead greens, which I use as an interchangeable vegetable to rapini. Place a pot of water over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Trim off the bottom 2 inches of 1 bunch of rapini and blanch until the vegetable turns shiny and bright, about a minute. Rinse and blot on paper towels. In a pan over medium heat, put 1/4 c. butter, 2 T. olive oil and 1/2 t. nutmeg. When the butter has melted and is no longer foaming, add 1/2 c. sliced almonds and stir until the almonds are golden brown. Add the rapini and, tossing a bit with tongs, sauté to heat, about 3 minutes. Add 2 T. apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and stir a minute more before removing from the heat. To serve, arrange on a platter and with a vegetable peeler, shave pecorino over top. Serves 4 as a side dish.

chicken romesco

A classic romesco would have you roast the vegetables and garlic in olive oil, then purée them with the other ingredients to make the sauce/dip. What I suggest is a little different and a lot easier. In a blender, put 6 quartered roma tomatoes, 1/2 c. red wine vinegar, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1 large red bell pepper, cored and chopped, 6 garlic cloves, peeled, 1 c. blanched almonds, 1 slice of fresh white bread, 1/4 c. sweet paprika, 1 t. ground fennel, salt to taste and a pinch of dried chile flakes. Blend until smooth. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange 8, skin-on, bone-in chicken pieces in a casserole dish and pour sauce over top so that all the chicken is coated with sauce. Bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until bubbling and with crispy bits. Serves 4

almond florentines

These are a crisp and elegantly thin cookie. The trick to these cookies is to not place them too close to each other so they have room to spread, and don’t use more than 1 teaspoon of batter for each. It’s important to use parchment for these or they will be a big sticky mess. Other than that, these cookies are a snap. In a bowl, put 1 c. soft butter, 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c. white corn syrup and 1 t. dried ginger. With a beater, whip until smooth, then add 1 t. vanilla and beat to incorporate. Add 1 c. flour to the mixture and beat until smooth. Preheat the oven to 350°F. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, using a teaspoon, drop 6 cookies, making two rows of three. Bake for 4 minutes, or until the dough has flattened out, remove from the oven and sprinkle 1 t. sliced, blanched almonds over each and continue to bake for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the cookies are bubbling and caramel coloured, and the almonds are toasty. When they first come out of the oven, the florentines will be quite liquid and soft, they firm up when they cool. When they are leathery and still quite warm, use a couple of chopsticks to pinch each into a bow shape. Once fully cooled and crisp, transfer to a platter to serve. Makes 36.