Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Almonds, almonds everywhere

What do Toffee Marzipan Walnuts, raw food and Tofu have in common? Not very much, but they all floated through my consciousness at about the same time, and resulted in this post.

Synchronicity- it's a wonderful thing.

Recently, Chuck and I started craving nuts, and purchasing mixed nuts to eat as snacks. We congratulated ourselves on the Omega-threes we were getting.

Never one to take something off the shelf and eat it straight, I bought different kind of mixed nut combinations (with NO peanuts- they have their place, and it's not in my mixed nuts!) Cans of exotic blends marched into the house, and were promptly dumped into a huge mixing bowl, recombined and poured back into the original cans, surprising Chuck every time he opened one. My favorite- cashews, pecans, pistachios, macadamia nuts and a spicy smoked almond, combined with a run-of-the-mill deluxe mixed nut blend, and a couple handfuls of dried cranberries thrown in for color and surprise. Something different in every handful.

Unfortunately, it become expensive. And salty. I decided we needed to cut this out.

A week or so ago, Haalo down under at Cook Almost Anything Once posted about Toffee-coated marzipan walnuts. Visions of marzipan danced in my head, walnuts sounded appealing, even though I really haven't liked them much. I'm a pecan woman, myself.

During this time period, in ways that will be explained in another post, I became interested in making my own tofu. To the amazement of the young woman visiting us for Spring Break, I pulled out a book I purchased years (I'm talking back when I was a vegetarian, before 1979) The Book Of Tofu, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi. There will be more about this in this other post, but deep in the book, Shurtleff talks about making tofu from almonds. An whisper of an idea lodged itself in my brain.

About the same time, my sister Amanda told me about some sprouted almonds she had eaten, and how wonderful they were. She described the process she was told created them. I was intrigued.
My will power crumbled, and I took myself off to my local bulk food store, around here run by Mennonites, and frequented as often by women wearing prayer caps arriving by horse and buggy as by those of us in bare-headed in cars. The price was better (But still not cheap, as is the nature of nuts) and the nuts unsalted.

Many dollars later, I returned with pounds of walnuts, mixed nuts, almonds, whole pecan halves. No marzipan.

My main goal was to coat my almonds with a spicy, sweet coating to add to my mixed nut compilation. But I saved some out for sprouting, so I could let Amanda know how it went.

To coat the almonds, I looked in my cabinet. At any given time, I have a wide variety of stuff to make food spicier. Since we are still working on getting the pantry cleaned out from before I became a local food fanatic, not a bit of it is local, (spicy isn't high on the taste priority list around here. ) Well, I consider the stuff from Original Juans (with the screaming faces, or 100% Pain) local, but only because I stop by the factory outlet when I am in Kansas City.

I decided on the two at the far left- Dan-T's smoked chipotle sauce, and the Fiesta Raspberry Jalapeno. I was hoping for a sweet, hot, smoky flavor.

I combined 1/4 cup of each sauce in my big Pyrex mixing cup, and tossed 4 cups of almonds in it until they were well coated.


I dumped them into a 9 by 12 cake pan, and roasted at 350 degrees F for about an hour, stirring every so often.

These were OK- not as hot or as sweet as I wanted, but OK. Next time I'll add some honey to the mix, and perhaps a habanero sauce instead of jalapeno. OR, I might get fancy and make my own sauce.

I also wanted to try the sprouting almonds thing. I did a little research on at a place where I have shopped before- Sprout People. Turns out sprouted almonds are really soaked almonds, because they aren't left long enough for a real sprout to appear, just long enough for the enzymes to activate and (supposedly) make the almonds both more digestible and healthier.

Now, my bulk store lady isn't sure whether or not these almonds are really raw- they don't say so on the bin, but the label that prints up when she enters the code comes up as raw. Anyway, I soaked them overnight, then put them in a sprouting jar for 24 hours. I rinsed them, and then put them on my dehydrator for another 24 hours.

They are OK- certainly not the marvelous taste delights Amanda described, but nicely crunchy and light.

The final two items in my Almond Synchronicity- this article about the California Almond Board and their decision to pasteurize almonds but still market them as raw

And this post from bad home cooking with a recipe for almond lemon almondrados. I once handed my dog a piece of particularly aromatic Provolone cheese, and she threw it to the ground and rubbed herself all over it in ecstatic delight before she ate it. At the time I found that peculiar, but just reading about these almondrados makes me understand the urge...

Sorry for the terribly long post. It took me 3 days to finish!

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