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 Filed as : HolidaysRecipes & Pairings

Not Your Average Nut

Feb 9, 2012
Not Your Average Nut
Celebrate National Almond Day with a smooth, nutty Spanish gazpacho

almondsAlmonds are the hipster nut. They’re flavorful, versatile, and a favorite of many star chefs. Never mind how good they are for you. Almonds are high in fiber, vitamin E, and magnesium.

But, it is the nut’s wine compatibility that has us eagerly anticipating National Almond Day on February 16. Blanched, smoked, or covered in chocolate, the almond has a delicate, sophisticated flavor that lends itself quite beautifully to wine pairing. When was the last time you saw a peanut on a cheese plate? Just saying.

In gearing up for the nutty holiday, we suggest whipping up the following dishes and sipping them with the recommended wines. The first, Ajo Blanco, is a classic Spanish “white” gazpacho made with garlic and almonds and dressed with red grapes. Martha Stewart’s version below serves six. The second recipe is for homemade cinnamon-glazed almonds, courtesy of the Almond Board of California.

Ajo Blanco


3 cups crustless day-old rustic Italian bread
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups blanched whole almonds
2 ½ teaspoons Sherry vinegar
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 cups cold water plus more for soaking
5 to 8 red seedless grapes, thinly sliced crosswise, for serving
Marcona almonds, chopped, for serving (optional)


1. Cover bread with water and let soak for 15 minutes. Cover garlic with water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook for three minutes. Drain.

2. Pulse blanched almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Squeeze excess liquid from bread and transfer to food processor. Add cooked garlic, vinegar, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Puree mixture until smooth.

3. With machine running, pour in oil in a very slow, steady stream, alternating with one cup of cold water, blending until emulsified. Blend in remaining 2 cups cold water. Strain through a fine sieve until smooth, discarding solids. Season with salt and pepper and chill for several hours.

Divide chilled gazpacho among six bowls. Drizzle with oil and top with grapes and Marcona almonds before serving with a 2011 Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde from Portugal ($9). The creamed apple flavors and bright acidity of this slightly effervescent wine will complement every spoonful of rich Ajo Blanco.

Cinnamon-Glazed Almonds


1/3 cup butter
2 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
3 cups whole natural California almonds
4 teaspoons cinnamon


1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place butter on 15 1/2 x 10 1/2 -inch jellyroll pan. Place in oven to melt butter (about 7 minutes).

2.  Meanwhile, beat egg whites with salt until frothy. Gradually add sugar, beating into stiff peaks. Gently fold in almonds and cinnamon. Pour almond mixture onto jellyroll pan. Toss with butter.

3.  Bake about 40 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes, until almonds are crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature with an off-dry riesling such as the one-liter 2010 Dr. Heyden Estate Riesling Halbtrocken from Germany ($13), which has sweet notes of honeysuckle and plenty of frisky acidity to cut through the sticky cinnamon.


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