New Year Resolutions are so much fun to break! I was doing reasonably well on the “no more cookbooks” scenario, but then I read a post on Taste Food that changed all that. Lynda announced that her recipes would be featured in a soon-to-be-released cookbook, a collaborative effort with Barbara Bryant & Betsy Fentress. I did not even blink: pre-ordered it right away at amazon.com. A full cookbook devoted to almonds, with recipes from one of my favorite food bloggers! That should not (and will not) count as breaking a decision. I had no choice. It was meant to be.
The book is called “Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture“, and you can get it with a simple click here. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with amazon.com, will receive no compensation whatsoever if you get the book. I just happen to think it is a wonderful publication that my readers will certainly enjoy as much as I did.
Almonds are a favorite ingredient of mine. Interestingly enough, Lynda opened my horizons to almond butter a year or so ago, when she published a post on cookies using it. I made those cookies, and have been a huge fond of almond butter ever since. Clearly, you will all agree that her cookbook had to be in my kitchen. It was meant to be. Have I said that already? Hummmm….. Without further delay, I share with you the first recipe I made from Lynda’s book.
FARRO RISOTTO WITH ALMONDS, SHIITAKE MUSHROOMS AND BALSAMIC-GLAZED RADICCHIO
(from Almonds, reprinted with permission)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/4 cups (45g) minced shallots
8 ounces (225g) shiitake mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 + 1/2 cups (300g) farro
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry white wine
1 + 1/2 cups (375 mL) chicken stock
1 small radicchio, cored and sliced
1/4 cup (60 mL) balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup (60g) raw almonds, roasted, and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (60g) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
freshly ground black pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley leaves, for garnish
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Saute until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme. Continue to cook, stirring, until the mushrooms begin to release their juices, about 2 minutes more. Add the farro and stir to coat. Add the wine and cook until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the farro is tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes.
While the farro is cooking, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the radicchio and saute for 1 minute. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook, stirring, until vinegar has thickened and coats the radicchio, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
When the farro is tender, stir in the radicchio, half of the almonds, half of the cheese, and season with freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Place the farro in a serving bowl, sprinkle with the remaining almonds and the remaining cheese. Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: It took me quite some time to decide which recipe to feature, but I am glad I chose this one, even though I knew it would be tricky to get a good picture. It’s the karma of brown food, so unkind to the camera. The flavors in this whole-grain risotto are simply spectacular, each component playing an important role, like musical instruments in an orchestra. The grains of farro will have just a little bite left, so the almonds, added in chunks, give this risotto a delightful crunch. But, in my opinion, the addition of radicchio glazed with balsamic is the touch of genius! I used a syrupy white balsamic, but I am sure any regular balsamic vinegar will be great too. Radicchio can be bitter, in this preparation it mellows down and plays nicely with the almonds and the farro. Simply put: a perfect dish, hearty enough to stand by itself as a main dish, but by now you are probably not going to be surprised that we added a little bit of animal protein to our plates. Sorry, Lynda, I hope you won’t mind…
Let’s take a virtual tour of this beautiful cookbook, shall we?
The book opens up with an introduction about almonds, in which you will learn a lot about this exotic, versatile fruit, which is in fact not a true fruit, but a drupe. From its origins in the Middle East, to the way it is farmed today, and its absolute requirement of bees for pollination. Did you know that to make sure the almond trees will bear fruit, farmers in California often have to order special shipments of bees, that travel by trucks sometimes all the way from Texas? I had no idea. I often skip introductory chapters in cookbooks because I find them for the most part quite boring. For instance, cookbooks that start with “equipment needed”, “ingredients”, or “useful gadgets” just make me roll my eyes to the ceiling and skip those pages without feeling guilty. Not the case in this book. I savored each paragraph and could not put the book down. The photos in the introduction are spectacular, and that quality is maintained throughout the whole book, almost every single recipe has a photo that goes along with it. Very few exceptions.
And now, onto the recipes. The book is divided in courses, and I will list the recipes that tempted me the most in which chapter.
Starters & Snacks : Salted and Spiced Green Almonds: this one made me dream, because I probably will never be able to get green almonds. They are available only for a very short time, and I am sure Californians won’t allow them to move too far from their trees… Burnt Sugar Almonds… Green Olive and Almond Tapenade: quite a change from the regular black olive concoction… White Gaspacho with Green Grapes and Almonds, described as light and refreshing, perfect for Summer days. The photo alone made me swoon… Almond Chai with Dates and Honey... In this page, a reproduction of one of my favorite paintings of Van Gogh, Almond Brunches in Bloom. A touch of class. In fact, the book is full of reproductions of artwork relevant to the subject. Humans have been in love with almonds for a very long time, a love absolutely justified. 😉
Salads & Vegetables : I wanted to make every single recipe of this chapter, but just to list a few, here we go: Asian Citrus and Almond Slaw… Provencal Tuna Salad with Almonds, Olives and Capers in Lettuce Cups… Winter Kale and Quinoa Salad with Carrots and Raisins (amazing colors!)… Zucchini Carpaccio with Toasted Almonds.
Pasta & Grains : Soba Noodles with Spicy Almond Butter Sauce, depicted in the photo above… I have a very soft spot for soba noodles, so this was a heavy contender for featured recipe in this post. But there is also Toasted Pearl Couscous with Almonds and Harrissa (I know this one will be a total winner!), Almond and Saffron Rice Pilaf (a classic), Bulgur Salad with Chickpeas, Pomegranate Seeds, and Almonds… Buccatini with Pesto Trepanese...
Land & Sea : One of my favorite sections of the book. Just to list a few recipes, she starts with Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Sweet-and Sour Apricot Glaze (need I say more?), follows with Pulled Pork with Red Mole (I almost made this one for this review)… Wine-Braised Chicken with Saffron and Almonds… Mughlai Chicken Biryani… Lamb Tagine with Apricots, Almonds and Honey… Roasted Sea Bass with Orange, Olive, and Almond Gremolata… Almond and Lemon Crusted Salmon…
Baked Goods & Desserts : Almond Flour Bread opens this chapter. I love using almond flour, so you can bet I’ll be making this bread in the near future, the photo shows a soft crumb, with a dark crust, perfect toasting bread. I can imagine the taste… Almond and Cinnamon Kringle... Salted Almond Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks… Almond Florentines (I’ve always wanted to try to make these… Pear and Almond Frangipane Tarte (the tarte in the photo is a culinary masterpiece!)… Lemon Semolina and Almond Cake with Olive Oil and Honey... Almond-Fig Tea Cakes… Almond Granita with Raspberries…
If you are a regular visitor of Lynda’s blog, Taste Food, you’ll know what to expect from this cookbook. If you are not, I hope you add her blog to your list of tasty places to visit in the blogosphere. I’ve made several recipes (and blogged on a few) from her site, and have many on my list to prepare at some point in the future. Her site is elegant, straightforward, a real pleasure to visit.
Lynda, thank you for giving me permission to publish this delicious farro recipe, I wish you, Barbara and Betsy a ton of success with this cookbook!
ONE YEAR AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots
TWO YEARS AGO: Codruta’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Bread
THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto
FOUR YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread