Posted February 11, 2014 03:12 pm - Updated February 12, 2014 09:55 am
In addition to February 16 being National Almond Day, it also marks the beginning of the time of the year when the trees that grow 80 percent of the world’s almond supply begin to bloom in California – the only state that produces almonds commercially. Whether you plan to use almonds whole or sliced (with their light brown skins intact), or blanched (with their skins removed) and slivered, almonds add extraordinary taste, texture and nutrition to wide array of dishes, both savory and sweet. “Ounce for ounce,” says the Almond Board of California, “almonds are the tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin.” When wishing to add buttery crunch to a recipe, creative cooks have long been looking to whole, sliced and slivered almonds to do the job. More recently, tasty almond flour and almond meal have been utilized as an alternative to traditional flours and wheat crumbs for some baking and breading tasks – and not just by those who have a need, or wish, to banish gluten from their diets. Rich and nutty tasting, almond meal, made from ground skin-on almonds, is delicious on fish. A sprinkling of slivered almonds makes an old-fashioned Chicken à la King supper elegant.
And, if you’re really a nut for the taste of almonds, I hope you will try intensely flavored Almond Squares or Chinese Almond Cookies. Either cookie will make your celebration of the almond special, not just on National Almond Day, but all year long, as well. For more information on California almonds, visit http://www.almonds.com.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Almond Cookies - Almond Squares
1 cup almond paste
1¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ pound (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer bowl, blend well the almond paste, 1 cup granulated sugar, eggs and almond extract. Let stand 1 hour. In a separate bowl, beat butter with remaining ¾ cup sugar until lightened. Gradually blend in flour. Pack half of dough mixture in a greased
13 x 9-inch baking pan. Spread almond paste mixture on top. Pat remainder of the dough on top of almond paste mixture. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, then cool on wire rack in pan. Cut into squares when cool. Makes about 24 squares.
Chicken a la King
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped onions
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, plus more as needed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons chopped pimento
¼ cup sliced mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Toasted almond slivers, for garnish
Rice for serving
In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons butter with the oil. When butter foams, sauté onions, green pepper and celery until tender. Scrape cooked vegetables into a dish; set aside. Return skillet to heat and melt remaining butter in pan. Blend in flour and add milk slowly, stirring constantly until thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Beat egg yolks in a small mixing bowl. Add some of the hot milk into the egg yolks to temper. Lower heat to low and pour egg yolk mixture into the skillet with remaining liquid, stirring constantly. Add sautéed vegetables, pimento, mushrooms, chicken and parsley, heating through. Garnish with almonds and serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.