Saturday, December 16, 2017
Cooking

Five ideas for almonds: Almond cake, almond-herb sauce, almond-crusted fish

It's important to take cooking inspiration where you can find it. It's easy for me to get into a rut, cook the same old stuff for dinner each night and leave my creative cooking muscles to languish. So when I stumble on something that really inspires me, I usually take a deep dive.

So it is with Molly Yeh's cookbook Molly on the Range, from which I've made a handful of recipes now, from breakfast to dinner to dessert. The first recipe in this collection of ideas for how to use almonds is inspired by one of the recipes Yeh published on her blog in 2016, and is sort of the epitome of almond usage. It uses almost every variation there is: almond paste, almond meal, almond extract, actual almonds.

The rest of these ideas utilize the almond in different ways, showcasing its versatile nature and irresistibly nutty flavor.

Michelle Stark, Times food editor

Almond Cake

This cake is simple to make if you have a stand mixer or electric beaters. Without either, be prepared to give your arm muscles a workout. Start by separating six eggs into whites and yolks. Add the whites to a stand mixer or bowl, and beat with ½ teaspoon salt until soft peaks start to form on top. Beat in ½ cup sugar gradually, beating until peaks become more stiff. Scoop this mixture out into a bowl and set aside. Add yolks to same mixer or bowl, and beat with 8 ounces almond paste. Mix until yellow and smooth. Add 1 teaspoon almond extract. Fold the whites in until combined, then add ⅓ cup all-purpose flour, ¼ cup almond meal and 1 teaspoon baking powder and mix until fully combined. Be gentle. Pour into a 9- or 10-inch round pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven, and let cool. Make frosting by mixing 2 cups heavy whipping cream with ¾ cups powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon each vanilla and almond extract until fully combined. Frost cake, then top with crushed almonds and serve. Recipe adapted from mynameisyeh.com.

Almond-Herb Sauce

I could put this sauce on almost anything, but it pairs particularly well with roasted vegetables. The original New York Times recipe where I encountered this sauce was for a whole roasted cauliflower, and the only way I can now eat roasted cauliflower is with this chimichurri-like sauce slathered on top. To make the sauce, add ⅓ cup blanched almonds to a small frying pan and toast over low heat, shaking often, until fragrant. Set aside to cool for at least 5 minutes. In a food processor, combine almonds, 2 peeled garlic cloves and 2 tablespoons room temperature unsalted butter and pulse until smooth. Mix in ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar and ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro or a combination (I typically use parsley and mint). Pulse until relatively smooth (mixture will be pretty coarse) and transfer to a bowl. Season with 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Serve. Recipe adapted from the New York Times.

Almond- and Lemon-Crusted Fish

Coating a fillet, whether of fish, chicken or even meat, with a crust of nuts is a quick way to make it delicious. This recipe goes one step further with the introduction of lemon. Start by heating your oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Combine the zest of 1 lemon, ½ cup coarsely chopped almonds, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive and ½ teaspoon salt and pepper in a small bowl. Use 1 ¼ pounds cod or halibut, cut into 4 portions, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Top each piece with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, then divide the almond mixture between the pieces and press it onto the mustard. Bake the fish, about 8 minutes. Serve with freshly wilted spinach. Finish the dish with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Recipe adapted from Eating Well.

Roasted Pears With Almond Crumble

You'll want to save this crumble to eat on top of other desserts, like ice cream or yogurt, or even on its own with a large spoon. To make, heat your oven to 375 degrees. Place 2 ripe Anjou or Bartlett pears, halved and cored, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil and roast on the upper rack of the oven for about 25 minutes. Pears should be soft when done. Let cool slightly. While pears are cooking, toss on another baking sheet ¼ cup raw coarsely chopped almonds, ¼ cup shelled pumpkin seeds, 2 tablespoons each light brown sugar and old-fashioned oats, and a pinch of salt. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, stir to coat, then bake for about 10 to 12 minutes on the lower rack. Stir occasionally. Remove from oven, then stir in 1 tablespoon sesame seeds. Whisk ½ cup mascarpone cheese (Greek yogurt works as well) and 2 teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Divide cheese mixture between 4 plates, then top with 1 piece of pear and some crumble. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

Brussels Sprouts and Chorizo Almond Hash

Start by toasting ½ cup skin-on almonds in a dry skillet over medium heat, until fragrant and sort of browned, about 7 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop. Thinly slice 6 ounces Spanish chorizo, then cook in a large skillet over medium-high heat until chorizo is crisp. This should take about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to a bowl and wipe the skillet out, then place it back on the heat and heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves and 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, stirring as you cook for about 1 minute. Trim the stems then separate the leaves from about 1 pound of Brussels sprouts, adding them to the skillet in batches and letting them cook slightly before adding more. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until all leaves are browned in spots and softened, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and the almonds, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve. Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

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