An ovular, versatile nut that provides a good source of protein and also contains fiber. Almonds make a crunchy, healthy snack and are often used to make a variety of desserts, salads and candies. They are used in marzipan, nougat, and many pastries. The young fruit of the almond tree is sometimes eaten whole when they are still green, before the inner shell has hardened ("green almonds").
Almonds contain almost no carbohydrates and are also gluten-free. They are also a rich source of Vitamin E and monounsaturated fat.
Almonds are used in Mogul style cooking in Northern India. Almonds are used in both sweet and savory dishes in India. Also used to thicken sauces and as a special garnish.
The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a glorious medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut.
Selecting and Buying
If you want almonds with a roasted flavor and texture, choose those that have been "dry roasted" as they are not cooked in oil like their regular roasted counterparts. Yet, even when purchasing "dry roasted" almonds, it is important to read the label to be sure that no additional ingredients such as sugar, corn syrup or preservatives have been added.
Preparation and Use
Whole shelled almonds can be chopped by hand or can be placed in a food processor. If using a food processor, it is best to pulse on and off a few times, instead of running the blade constantly, as this will help ensure that you end up with chopped almonds rather than almond butter.
If you want to remove the almonds' skin, blanch them for a few of minutes until you notice the skin beginning to swell. Drain them and then rinse under cold water. Pinch the cooled almonds between your thumb and index finger, and the skin should slide right off the almond meat.
To roast almonds at home, do so gently--in a 160-170°F (about 75°C) oven for 15-20 minutes--to preserve the healthy oils. For more on the effect of high heat roasting on nuts, please see the following article.
Conserving and Storing
Since almonds have a high fat content, it is important to store them properly in order to protect them from becoming rancid. Store shelled almonds in a tightly sealed container, in a cool dry place away from exposure to sunlight. Keeping them cold will further protect them from rancidity and prolong their freshness. Refrigerated almonds will keep for several months, while if stored in the freezer, almonds can be kept for up to a year. Shelled almond pieces will become rancid more quickly than whole shelled almonds. Almonds still in the shell have the longest shelf life.