Category Archives: almonds

Asparagus w/ Chorizo & Croutons

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I love asparagus for its mild, spring like flavor but in this dish, from the Smitten Kitchen, this wonderful vegetable takes on a whole new persona. The spices of Spanish chorizo sausage combines with crusty croutons, crunchy almonds and tender white beans and the asparagus in a surprisingly flavorful and definitely interesting dish. Trust me on this one, the combination of ingredients might seem a bit odd but the results are out of this world. Plus the dish is fast to make. So fast and easy that it just might be one of my favorite Fast Friday dishes yet. So try it for yourself before the asparagus is gone for the season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ASPARAGUS w/ CHORIZO & CROUTONS

1 pound thick asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces Spanish chorizo cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups French bread croutons cut into 3/4 inch peices
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus stalk and cut into 3 or 4 pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chorizo and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus, croutons, almonds and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides.
  • Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Toss and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

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Almond Joy Bundt Cake

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As a child one of my favorite candy bars was an Almond Joy. Moist coconut topped with crunchy almonds and slathered in chocolate made for the perfect special treat. As I grew older my love for this flavor combination continued and here it has manifested itself in an amazingly moist and flavor packed cake that is sure to disappear all too quickly.

I’ve adapted this cake  from The Brown Eyed Baker. The cake is rich and moist and filled with coconut goodness thanks in part to using three different types of coconut. Coconut oil takes the place of traditional butter or vegetable oil thus making the cake both moist and flavorful. Coconut milk adds an additional punch ensuring that you taste coconut in every bite. And if that isn’t enough, you get a touch of crunchy toasted coconut on top of the cake. Its delicious.

ALMOND JOY BUNDT CAKE

For the Cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup coconut oil
2½ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⅓ cups unsweetened coconut milk

For the Glaze:
4 to 6 tablespoons coconut milk
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces dark  chocolate, melted and still warm

Shredded coconut & sliced almonds, toasted, to garnish

 

To make the Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-cup or 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the coconut oil and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  • Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the eggs and the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  • Scrape down the bowl again, add the almond and vanilla extracts and beat until just incorporated.
  • Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the coconut milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, mixing after each addition until just combined. Be careful not to overtax the batter.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top into an even layer.
  • Bake until a sharp knife or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with just a few moist crumbs, 50 to 55 minutes.
  • Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Cool completely before continuing.

To make the Glaze:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons of the coconut milk, the almond extract and vanilla extract.
  • Add the powdered sugar and whisk until incorporated and smooth.
  • Slowly stir in the melted chocolate. The glaze should be thick yet pourable; adjust with additional coconut milk if necessary.
  • Pour the glaze in large, thick ribbons over the crown of the cake, allowing the glaze to spread and drip down the sides of the cake.
  • Top with the toasted shredded coconut immediately and slivered almonds.
  • Allow the glaze to set before serving.

Yields 16 slices

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Asparagus w/ Chorizo & Croutons

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love asparagus for its mild, spring like flavor but in this dish, from the Smitten Kitchen, this wonderful vegetable takes on a whole new persona. The spices of Spanish chorizo sausage combines with crusty croutons, crunchy almonds and tender white beans and the asparagus in a surprisingly flavorful and definitely interesting dish. Trust me on this one, the combination of ingredients might seem a bit odd but the results are out of this world. Plus the dish is fast to make. So fast and easy that it just might be one of my favorite Fast Friday dishes yet. So try it for yourself before the asparagus is gone for the season. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

ASPARAGUS w/ CHORIZO & CROUTONS

1 pound thick asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
6 ounces Spanish chorizo cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups French bread croutons cut into 3/4 inch peices
1/4 cup whole almonds
1 cup cooked beans
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Snap off the tough ends of each asparagus stalk and cut into 3 or 4 pieces.
  • Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the chorizo and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the asparagus, croutons, almonds and salt and pepper. Stir well.
  • Cover and sauté over high heat for 5 to 6 minutes (thinner asparagus might be done sooner), tossing or stirring the mixture a few times, so it browns and cooks on all sides.
  • Add the beans and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  • Toss and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until the beans are heated through.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

 

Mole Chicken

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For me, a good mole chicken does for Mexican food what a good pulled pork does for southern cooking. Both are richly seasoned and slow cooked meat which become so tender they can be shredded with a fork and then eaten as is, as part of a sandwich or on top of a favorite grain. They are simultaneously so simple yet their flavors are so complex that the meal becomes unforgettable.

The secret to a good mole chicken is the combination of chile peppers and chocolate. Yes, chocolate. But not any chocolate will do for this dish. Mexican chocolate, which is readily available at Mexican speciality stores and many gourmet grocery stores is smooth and rich with a touch of heat that adds to its complexity. The closest comparison I can come up with is that of a good quality chocolate with a touch of cinnamon and chile pepper. And when you combine the chocolate with two types of dried chile peppers you have the makings of an unforgettable mole. This version from Epicurious braises the chicken in fresh orange juice which only adds to the sauce’s sweet complexity. A good chicken mole dish may take some time to make but the results are worth every minute.

MOLE CHICKEN

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided (more if necessary)

5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 cups low-salt chicken broth

2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice

1 1/4 pounds onions, sliced

1/2 cup sliced almonds

6 large garlic cloves, sliced

4 teaspoons cumin seeds

4 teaspoons coriander seeds

4 ounces dried pasilla chile, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed

1 ounce dried negro chiles, stemmed, seeded, torn into 1-inch pieces, rinsed

1/4 cup golden raisins

4 3 x 1/2-inch strips orange peel (orange part only)

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 3.1-ounce disk Mexican chocolate, chopped

Warm flour tortillas for serving

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pot set over medium-high heat.
  • Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper.
  • Working in batches, brown the chicken in the pot, for about 3 minutes per side. Add more oil to the pot as necessary.
  • Return chicken and any accumulated juices to pot.
  • Add the broth and orange juice to the chicken and bring just to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until chicken is tender and just cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to medium then add the almonds, garlic, cumin, and coriander. Sauté until the nuts and garlic begin to color, about 2 minutes.
  • Add chiles and stir until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  • Using tongs, transfer the cooked chicken to large bowl. Pour the chicken cooking liquid into saucepan with onion mixture .
  • Add the raisins, orange peel, and oregano to saucepan; cover and simmer until chiles are very soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove from heat then add the chocolate to the pot. Let stand until chocolate melts and sauce mixture cools slightly, about 15 minutes.
  • Working in small batches, transfer sauce mixture to blender and puree until smooth.
  • Return the puree to the reserved pot. Adjust the seasoning of the sauce with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Using two forks, coarsely shred chicken and return to sauce; stir to coat.
  • Rewarm over low heat before serving topped with the warm tortillas.

Serves 8

Almond Biscotti

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Hands down, almond biscotti are my all time favorite baked treat.  They are simple yet satisfying, just as good accompanying a cup of coffee as a mid-afternoon snack as they are alongside a dish of gelato for dessert, or for a real Tuscan treat, sipped and dipped into vin santo as the final course of an Italian dinner.  When Glenn would deploy I would send him boxes filled with almond biscotti since they ship well, never got stale, and most importantly, provided him with a little taste of home while he was thousands of miles away.  This recipe comes from the always reliable America’s Test Kitchen.  If you don’t have almonds on hand, pistachios make for a nice substitute.  If you go this route, simply omit the almond extract.

ALMOND BISCOTTI

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

3/4 cup whole almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.  Set aside.
  • Beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl using an electric mixer set on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then both extracts, until incorporated, about 30 seconds.
  • Reduce the speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture, about 30 seconds.
  • Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts.
  • Split the dough in half and with floured hands, press each half into a 2 by 13 inch loaf, spacing them about 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake until the loaves are golden and just beginning to crack on the top, about 35 minutes.
  • Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  • Transfer the loaves to a cutting board and using a serrated knife, slice each loaf on the diagonal creating 1/2 inch slices.  Lay the slices about 1/2 inch apart of the baking sheet.
  • Return the cookies to the oven and bake until the slices are crisp and golden brown on both sides, about 15 minutes, flipping the slices over halfway through.
  • Let the cookies cool completely before serving.

Yields:  3 dozen

Honey Braised Lamb Shanks

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I love lamb and despite its abundance here in Albania, I rarely prepare it.  Albanians use the term “lamb” and “sheep” interchangeably and as anyone who has eaten it knows, there is a big difference between a tender piece of lamb meat and an older piece of sheep meat.  There is one solution for older meat however, and that is braising it.  The slow simmering and stewing of meat in a flavorful and well seasoned broth will render even the toughest piece of meat tender.  I love the rich and spicy flavors of Moroccan foods and they provide the perfect foil for braising.

This recipe is adapted from Saveur Magazine and brings together the spicy and exotic flavors of northern Africa to make a meal that is sure to satisfy.  Braising done properly takes time so this is the perfect meal to make on a cool and lazy weekend.  As the meat braised and the flavors melded I found myself wishing it was dinnertime already.  Serve the lamb on top of a bed of couscous or other grain so you can  soak up all of the yummy juices.

HONEY BRAISED LAMB SHANKS

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 lamb shanks

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

1 large white onion, diced

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

2 cinnamon sticks

1 cup golden raisins

1 cup whole almonds

2/3 cup honey

Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

  • Heat the oil and butter in an 8 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper.
  • Add the lamb to the pot and cook, turning as needed, until well browned on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a plate and set aside.
  • Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the raisins, allspice, black pepper, coriander, cloves, ginger, cayenne, saffron, and cinnamon sticks and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  • Return the lamb to the pot and nestle it between the onions and spices.  Add the almonds, honey, and 3 cups of water.
  • Cover and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the lamb is very tender, about 3 1/2 hours.
  • Serve over couscous and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds before serving.

Serves 4

Salted Caramel Orange Upside Down Cake

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Pineapple upside down cake is common, but orange? With salted caramel?  Why not?  These popular flavors are good on their own but even better when served together.  I came across this recipe in the Food Network Magazine, which is not a magazine I read regularly but came across while sitting in a waiting room.  I took one look at the cake and was immediately intrigued.  I made a few adaptations, substituted the almond flour I had on hand for the ground almonds called for in the original recipe, and was good to go.  What resulted was a sweet and salty gooey cake that was a resounding success with everyone at the dinner table.  Enjoy!

SALTED CARAMEL ORANGE UPSIDE DOWN CAKE

For the caramel:

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

5 oranges

For the cake:

1/2 cup almond flour

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 cup buttermilk

Sea salt, for sprinkling

  • To make the caramel:  Combine the sugar, 1/3 cup water, and the salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves.
  • Cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, but not stirring, until amber 8-10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and carefully whisk in the butter.
  • Pour the caramel into a 9-inch round cake pan, tilting the pan so the caramel coats the bottom.  Set aside.
  • Slice off the top and bottom of each orange and cut off the peel and white pith using a chef’s knife, following the curve of the fruit.  Cut along each side of the membrane to remove the segments.  Discard any seeds and place in a decorative pattern in the caramel.  Set aside.
  • To make the cake:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
  • In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar with a mixer set on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.  Beat in the orange zest.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, until just smooth.
  • Pour the batter over the top of the orange slices and smooth the top.
  • Bake the cake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a rack and let cool slightly, then run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.
  • Invert the cake onto a serving plate and allow to cool completely.
  • Sprinkle with the sea salt before serving.

Serves 8-10

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