what’s cooking wednesday: almond joy

No I’m not making candy bars (but I do love Almond Joys if you’re wondering).

For this What’s Cooking Wednesday, I want to tell you a little more about another of southern Italy’s major crops, the glorious mandorla, or as we know it, the almond.

History of Almonds

Almonds have been around quite a long time, making guest appearances in the Bible and Greek mythology among other ancient texts. One of the most popular uses of the almond in ancient times was to prevent intoxication, which is why they were often eaten throughout meals during Plutarch’s day.

Almond trees are native to the Mediterranean region from the Middle East on over; here in southern Italy, almond trees are all over the place, so it’s not surprising that we love and use the almond early and often.

Health Benefits of Almonds

Almonds are one of the healthiest foods around as they can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol as well as the risks of diabetes and heart and cardiovascular diseases. They may also help you lose and maintain a healthy weight, increase your energy level, and prevent gallstones. Read more about the health benefits of almonds at The World’s Healthiest Foods.

The Almond in Calabria

A common drink in Calabria and southern Italy throughout the summer is latte di mandorla or almond milk; almonds release their oils when crushed, and when mixed with milk, make a lovely, refreshing beverage. Many people also add sugar.

You will also find that many southern Italian dolci, sweets and desserts, contain almonds–my favorite are amaretti; and if you’re the drinking kind, how about some Amaretto Disaranno Originale? Yum!

And of course we all know of the tradition of giving sugared-coated almonds at weddings and other celebrations.

Not convinced of our passion for the almond yet?

We love the seed of the fruit of the almond tree so much around here, there is even a Calabrese song called Facci de n’ammendula mundata that sings its praises; the singer insists that if offered a pile of gold that weighs more than the almond, he would choose the almond because although the gold will eventually be spent, the beauty of the almond will stay with him forever.

Now that’s love.

Our Almonds

We happen to have an almond tree in our giardino–remember that P brings me the first almond blossom every year?

Well a few weeks ago when we were down in the garden with the pooches, P picked some almonds fresh off the tree, still in the green furry casings as seen above.

Throughout this post, you can see the process of shelling a fresh almond; after the above photo, P peeled the outer, yellow casing:

And here is the final result in my waiting hand:

Biting into a fresh almond reminded me a lot of crunching a water chestnut: crisp and clean. But then came the gentle flavor of almond and a slightly stronger aftertaste–a lovely, sweet reminder that I had just eaten something fresh, pure, and straight from our tree. Nothing bitter about it.

So what are you going to do with your almonds? I suggest:

And by the way, all of these would go great with a Caffè Shakerato alla Cherrye!

Do you like almonds? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?

33 Beans of Wisdom to “what’s cooking wednesday: almond joy”
  1. Gil
    09.03.2008

    No almond trees around here but I’m heading off to see if we still have some “Amaretti” and devour one. If not, it will be an Almond Joy later in the day.

    Ooh, I’ll have two of whatever you find :)

  2. 09.03.2008

    Preventing you getting drunk? What a bonus! Seems our ancestors knew a lot more than we do about these things.

    Very interesting post.

    casalba’s last blog post..Gelato

    I bet your comment makes at least one person go back and read the post more carefully…thanks for that :)

  3. 09.03.2008

    My favorite food with almonds in it is Torrone, but I have to wait for Christmas time for that! I’m not a fan of all those sweets made of almond paste. Give me a plain old almond any day!

    Saretta’s last blog post..Villa Pina

    I have a pretty big sweet tooth, but I have to agree with you…I’ll take an almond over just about anything made with them. YUM!

  4. 09.03.2008

    They had dark chocolate almond joys for a while. They were sooo good. I buy almond butter. I sometimes just eat it out of the jar. It is also great for field trips (almond butter sandwiches).

    By the way, where did you get your barck the vote widget? I really like the one you have and have tried to find it but no luck yet. thanks!

    I’m a milk chocolate girl, which was why I always picked out the Almond Joys and left the Mounds in those little bags of “bite-sized” candy bars ;)

    I kind of made my own widget b/c I didn’t find any I liked that said both Obama and Biden…I got the photo from a site that sells buttons (can’t remember where…gah!) and then just put the link to go to Obama’s homepage. Feel free to right click on the image and save it to make your own! If you need help with the coding, let me know, and I’ll just send you the code I used :)

  5. I love almonds, but I am *so* not into that almond milk… gag… the texture gets me. Of course, I dont like regular milk, either1

    Cherrye at My Bella Vita’s last blog post..Southern Italian Nicknames … and a Contest

    The fresh stuff that P made once was pretty good, but I agree with you–a lot of the packaged stuff leaves a lot to be desired in texture. I found one brand I like, although I can’t remember the name of it now. I know it when I see it though ;)

  6. 09.03.2008

    Thanks! Figured it out and added it to my blog :)

    If others ask for it, is it ok to let them copy? Just wanted to make sure since you made this.

    Absolutely! And here is where the logo came from: ObamaShirts.com.

  7. 09.03.2008

    That was a beautifully written ode to the humble almond. Love that song too.

    Don’t forget almond butter, plus the Greeks make some pretty fine almond based desserts.

    running42k’s last blog post..First day back

    We in the Mediterranean are united by our love of the almond :) I don’t think I’ve ever had almond butter, but if you keep mentioning it in comments….

  8. 09.03.2008

    I’ve most of the forms, even the cookies and likker, but my fave is to scrape them with my teeth one by one. It makes them last and last and last. I think you’d need a glasshouse here to grow them.

    I make crumb crusts from the cookies and am working on a cake using the likker. You’re in charge of the trees.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Wild plums this morning

    What a great idea for a crumb crust. I was looking to make something with amaretti today but there were none at the little store in the village :(

  9. 09.03.2008

    Ohhhh a fresh almond. I never had one- nor have a seen one in its green state. I do love them.

    I love that Disaranno too ;) We have a place nearby that has Almond Joy Ice Cream. Yeah. It is soooo good!

    My Mélange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday : Charming European Hotels and B&B’s

    Oh that sounds fabulous…I love coconut, chocolate and almonds together :)

  10. Carla
    09.03.2008

    I like fresh almonds, latte di mandorla and confetti but I LOVE Amaretto Disaronno on the rocks or with sour mix! Good stuff!

    Yum yum :)

  11. Very cool! I’ve never seen raw almonds right off the tree.

    I always keep lots of almonds in the house. They’re great for a quick snack on the tennis court. I cook and bake with them a lot too. Perfect in salads.

    I make a killer cheesecake crust with amaretti cookies. They don’t get soggy like graham crackers do.

    When I was growing up, my dad used to love Orzata. It’s a milky almond syrup that you mix into drinks. We used to add it to seltzer and have Orzata “cocktails” together. It is hard to find in Florida, but I always keep a bottle around.

    Susan at Sticky,Gooey,Creamy,Chewy’s last blog post..Let’s Party!!!

    I’ve never heard of Orzata, Susan, but it sounds interesting. I’m not a big fan of seltzer, but I’m sure I could find something to do with it ;)

  12. 09.03.2008

    Almonds are so good for you, so many health benefits. How nice that they grow near you and you use daily and in so many ways. It sounds like beautiful countryside.

    Joanne’s last blog post..Distractions

    We have lovely landscapes here, indeed :)

  13. You have a tree in your yard? Lucky you.

    I used to love the milk chocolate Almond Joys because sometimes I felt like a nut. :)

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..What’s the big deal about Palin? Obama doesn’t have experience either and he’s at the top of the ticket.

    Considering I always choose Almond Joy, I suppose I *always* feel like a nut ;)

  14. 09.03.2008

    What a great post. I love almonds but honestly had no idea they started life in that green furry casing. As for how I eat almonds — I go through phases where I snack on them every day, and then get sick of them. I have found several good recipes that involve ground almonds in the sauce — that always add to the richness.

    I was curious about the almond milk you mentioned — is it made with actual cow’s milk — ie different than the almond milk I know from health stores here in the U.S. (I never saw any growing up in Switzerland — whether milk made from almonds or almond milk made with cow’s milk).

    City Girl’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday — Basic Basil Pesto

    Actually there’s no “milk” in almond milk–it’s just the liquid from the crushed almonds (which is milky) mixed with water. There are recipes that add other things, but not milk I don’t think. We just add a bit of sugar if the almonds aren’t sweet enough, although if they’re young enough, they usually are.

  15. I try to always keep almonds around… don’t eat meat, but I have a household’s normal meat budget in almonds: raw almonds, tamari almonds (my favorite), dry roasted salted almonds, wasabi and soy almonds, etc.

    The only nut butter I really like is almond, and when I have cereal (which is rare), I have it with latte di mandorla, or as we call it here in the States “Pacific Natural Organic Unsweetened Almond Non-Dairy Beverage.”

    Almonds keep my energy up, my hunger down, and control my cholesterol (which is unfortunately elevated due to a genetic predisposition to send money to Merck). Lost twenty pounds over the last year with my always-have-some-‘monds-within-reach diet…

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..what and how I write

    Wow, now *that* is an endorsement. If only you had done before and after shots, perhaps there’d be some cash from the Great Almond Lobby. There must be one, right?

  16. Giocho
    09.03.2008

    Until relatively recent times, several hundred years ago, almond and chestnut flour were the major types of flour used in many parts of europe. The significance is that they provided a high protein and low carb diet instead of what the dependence on wheat flour has caused.

    I know they’ve always used a lot of chestnut flour further north in Italy, but I’m not sure about almond flour down here. I’ve used it recently in gluten-free recipes, though, and it is lovely :)

  17. 09.03.2008

    I just loved having latte di mandorla for breakfast when I vacationed in Sicily. You know, we never had Almond Joy in Canada. But I am craving some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups right now. Mmmm!

    Milanese Masala’s last blog post..The centre of the universe, man!

    Oooh yes, I could definitely go for a Reese’s….

  18. 09.03.2008

    I SO love almonds, Michelle. They are truly one of God’s greatest gifts.

    Here’s what I’ve been doing with ground almonds lately:

    http://thym-thym.blogspot.com/2008/08/baked-apricots-filled-with-almond-paste.html

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: End-of-Summer Gratin

    Ooh sounds fabulous to me! I love apricots too :)

  19. 09.03.2008

    Luv fresh almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, any nuts! We had a tree in our garden in Melbourne and the Cockatoos used to get them before we did.

    Scintilla’s last blog post..Beach that !

    Dang cockatoos! At least they’re pretty :)

  20. 09.03.2008

    We love mandorla in our family and will eat them however they are cooked! My mom loves Amaretti, my husband, brothers and dad love them just plain and toasted and I love marzipan – made with almond paste. You can not find good marzipan here in the US and indulge when we’re in Italy – probably a little too much!

    Lisa’s last blog post..A trip to Gallipoli

    Ah, marzipan…one of the most controversial almond concoctions that exists ;)

  21. 09.03.2008

    I don’t have a tree, but I liked them smoked right out of the can. I also like drinks with almond extract.

    Thotlady’s last blog post..Memories (1 1/2 years ago)

    Ooh I haven’t had them smoked….

  22. 09.03.2008

    Some day I will have a tree!!!

    If you a little hungry and it is not dinner time, a handful of almonds will tide you over!

    jmisgro’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday

    Yes! Can’t wait to see photos of your tree!

  23. Lucky you with your nut tree. The blossom is so beautiful too. I love almonds in every form, especially used in dolce or freshly roasted with some salt that’s good. Can someone tell me what almond butter is? Is it like peanut butter? Also what is apple butter?

    Amanda@A Tuscan View…’s last blog post..Ferragosto

    I imagine almond butter is similar to peanut butter just made with almonds, but I don’t know as I’ve never seen it. Apple butter, on the other hand, is more like a marmalade consistency made with *lots* of cinnamon and spices. YUM!

  24. 09.04.2008

    Very interesting post. Thank you!

    Paz

    Paz’s last blog post..Spinach, Tuna, Tomato and Radish Salad for Paz

    Glad you enjoyed!

  25. 09.04.2008

    Oh what a great post! I love almonds! And especially the ones surrounded by chocolate and coconut. ;)

    Dory’s last blog post..You wanna play a game?

    Mmmmm me too :)

  26. Susan
    09.04.2008

    almond biscotti :-)

    Excellent choice, Susan :)

  27. I do love almonds! I love just eating them raw and unsalted – I don’t think I have ever had a fresh almond before though! WOW! Lucky you! Have you ever had a smoked almond? Those are pretty good too! :)

    I hadn’t even heard of them until a couple comments ago…sound lovely though :)

  28. 09.04.2008

    I love just raw almonds, buy them by the packet…. i think i off to the super market now……..bye

    Pellet stove help’s last blog post..Enviro Pellet Stoves / Inserts

    Well I certainly can’t blame you :)

  29. 09.05.2008

    I love almonds! I sprinkle them on frosted cakes and in cereal. : )

    Anali’s last blog post..Community Organizing – Not A Laughing Matter

    They are such great additions to so many things…frosted cakes with sliced almonds on top? YUM!

  30. 09.06.2008

    I had no idea the almonds were, at one time, green and fuzzy. Thanks!

    Shan’s last blog post..eat well save more giveaway

    Aren’t they cute? I didn’t know either :)

  31. 09.07.2008

    I love almonds- almonds in chocolate, almonds by themselves, almonds over fish- so I loved your post!

    Louise’s last blog post..Blue Water Grill Lobster Sandwich Recipe

    Thanks Louise :)

  32. Mardella
    09.10.2008

    I found this website because I was concerned about my love for nuts and especially the almonds. I eat more than my fair share. But, they make my stomach feel good and keep my hunger down. I am pre-diabetic and found when my hunger is out of control after eating high glycemic fruits or other sugars ALMONDS gets it back in control.

    I am wondering though about the fat content and weight control. Any hidden gems of knowledge regarding the high fat content and weight.

    I am glad I found this lovely site.

    I don’t have any solid proof or source to cite, but my guess is that because they are high in fat, they make you fuller, so you eat less otherwise…thus helping you lose/maintain weight. Best of luck finding a more solid answer, though :)

  1. Pingback: Coming Up for this Week | Yankee in a New World
    [...] History of Almonds, from Bleeding Expresso, about that snack and crop Southern Italians go nuts [...]...
Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time.

 
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