In early spring, in regions where almond trees grow – Turkey, Israel, Iran, North Africa and the Middle East – you’ll find green almonds on the menu. The fuzzy pods symbolize rebirth, a sour crunchy treat to welcome spring.  During the brief stage when immature almonds are tender and green, they are eaten whole dipped in salt.  Or sliced thin and scattered over salads and fish dishes. Green almonds can also be cooked as in this recipe for Olive Oil Poached Green Almonds with Ras el Hanout and Fresh Ginger.

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I cook green almonds in olive oil to serve with cocktails and cheese. They resemble olives but are fresher and less salty than cured olives. Diced, they make a delicious garnish on stewed vegetables or meat. Ras el hanout, the North African spice blend, seems appropriate given the almond’s early origins. (If you do not have ras el hanout, use a blend of equal parts ground coriander seeds, white pepper, cinnamon and dry ginger in its place. Or buy this aromatic version from La Boite in New York.) Here are the green almonds and spices in a vacuum bag before cooking.

Green almonds and spices going into the bag with olive oil for poaching

Poaching the green almonds in a vacuum bag prevents scorching.  I find the flavors come together best using this method although you can cook the mixture in a small sauce pan over low heat. Just be sure to keep the heat very low and stir the almonds from time to time as they poach. Here are the green almonds in the oil in the vacuum bag after cooking.

Olive oil and green almonds sealed in vacuum bag

Kitchen Notebook

I’ve read about various ways to prepare fresh early-stage green almonds and done my share of experimenting.  An early favorite is using the pods to make a liqueur that I call Digestive Mandorlato.

Thanks to Jason Jasper, from Stewart & Jasper Almonds, I had a bumper crop of tender young green almonds to experiment with last season.  I am posting this and other recipes now, before they come into season in the hope some of you may be interested and find them in time to try these recipes. You can buy them from Stewart and Jasper’s web site starting soon. Finding green almonds is a challenge outside of California where they are available in farmers’ markets March through early May. Markets that cater to the Middle Eastern and Persian communities often sell them.

Olive Oil Poached Green Almonds with Ras el Hanout

Yield: 3 Cups

Olive Oil Poached Green Almonds with Ras el Hanout

I make these olive oil poached green almonds to serve with cocktails and cheese. Diced, they make a delicious garnish on stewed vegetables or meat. Ras el hanout, the north African spice blend, seems appropriate given the almond’s early origins. (A blend of equal parts ground coriander seeds, white pepper, cinnamon and dry ginger can be used in its place.)

Ingredients

3 cups (12 ounces) whole young green almonds, stem ends trimmed
2 teaspoons Ras el hanout or other warm spice blend such as equal parts ground coriander seeds, white pepper, cinnamon and dry ginger
1 ½ cups olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 dried hot chili peppers
One 1-inch cube of peeled fresh ginger, sliced
Maldon or coarse flake salt
Aleppo pepper flakes or hot chili pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Cover the green almonds with lukewarm water and let them soak for an hour or overnight to soften.
  2. Fill a 4-quart pot with water and bring it to a simmer.
  3. Drain the green almonds and dry them in a clean cloth. Place them in a vacuum of heavy zip-lock bag. Add the ras el Hanout, olive oil, garlic, chili peppers and ginger. Massage the outside of the bag so that the seasonings are evenly distributed evenly.
  4. Seal the bag using a vacuum sealer on the wet ingredient setting. Or press out as much air as you can from the zip-lock bag before sealing it.
  5. Place the bag in the pot of simmering water. Cook for 45 minutes turning the bag over from time to time so that the green almonds cook evenly. The almonds should be tender and have absorbed the seasonings.
  6. Spoon them into serving bowls. Sprinkle with Maldon or other coarse flake salt and hot pepper flakes before serving.
  7. These will keep for a week or 2 in the refrigerator.