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Fortunately, the delicately flavored and versatile almond is available throughout the year to make a healthy and tasty addition to both sweet and savory dishes. The almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a 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.
Almonds is known as the King of Nuts are off-white in color, covered by a thin brownish skin, and encased in a hard shell. Almonds are classified into two categories: sweet and bitter.
Sweet almonds are the type that is eaten. They are oval in shape, usually malleable in texture and wonderfully buttery in taste. They are available in the market either still in their shell or with their shell removed. Shelled almonds are available whole, sliced or slivered in either their natural form, with their skin, or blanched, with their skin removed.
Bitter almonds are used to make almond oil that is used as a flavoring agent for foods and liqueurs such as Amaretto. They are otherwise inedible as they naturally contain toxic substances such as hydrocyanic acid. These compounds are removed in the manufacturing of almond oil.
Peel or unpeel the almonds as preferred. Then, cut the almond in half. Slice using a sharp knife by cutting vertically across the cutting board. Slice them thinly or thickly as the recipe requirement. It can be sliced raw, roasted or blanched, as per the recipie.
Almond flakes are slices of almonds that can be added to cakes, biscuits and any other sweet treats you make. They add a wonderful crunch when toasted and added to a salad or simply tossed into a stir-fry. Almond flakes also add a special flavour and decoration to any cookie,kheer or summer cooler drink that calls for nuts. It can be easily prepared at home by slicing the almonds using a fine sharp knife into very thin pieces (care should be taken so as to avoid cutting the fingers). Sometimes, a peeler can also be used.
Blanched and chopped almonds
Take almonds and soak them in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and peel the skin. Chop the almonds. Use in desserts and Indian sweets.
Blanched and sliced almonds
Take almonds and soak them in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and peel the skin. Slice the almonds. Use in desserts and Indian sweets.
Blanched peeled and powdered almonds
Broken Almonds are the one broken cross-wise, evenly or unevenly.
Almonds can be peeled or unpeeled, as desired. Take a sharp knife, slice it from the top and then cut it into half from the centre. Cut the half portion into another half and remove the seeds from centre. Chop ingredients by cutting them in small pieces approximately ¼ inch in diameter, although the chopped food doesn't need to be exactly the same size. If the recipe calls for the ingredients to be "coarsely chopped," make the pieces slightly larger.
Almonds are good for snacks but very difficult and cumbersome to peel. To peel almonds easily, put them in a pot, pour water, and bring it to boil. Make sure you start with cold water. When it boils, rinse almonds with cold water. You can now easily peel almonds.
Peeled and sliced almonds
After peeling they can be sliced thickly or thinly using a sharp knife.
How to Select
To soak them, simply cover them with purified water in a glass or stainless steel container overnight for 12 hours. You can then drain and refrigerate them. This easy step can fit into even the busiest of schedules so that you can get all the healthy benefits of almonds.When soaked; almonds act as protein plus nitrogen. This protein helps your blood sugar stabilize throughout the rest of the day. Also, can be enjoyed on its own or a handy way to make almond paste or almond milk.
Almonds that are still in their shells have the longest shelf life. If you find them in the shell, shake it. If it rattles a lot, chances are its aging and shrinking. Purchase whole almonds and chop or slice them before each use for the freshest flavor. Aged almonds will turn rancid. To check for rancidity, slice the almond in half and look for a solid white texture throughout. If it is yellowish or has a honeycomb texture, it is way past its prime and should be discarded. The skin of the almond is edible, but sometimes bitter. Taste first, if it's not too bitter, doesn't bother removing it as it will add flavor to the recipe.
Look for shells that are not split, moldy or stained. If purchasing almonds in bulk bins make sure that the store has a quick turnover of inventory and that the bulk containers are sealed well in order to ensure maximum freshness. Look for almonds that are uniform in color and not limp or shriveled. In addition, smell the almonds. They should smell sweet and nutty; if their odor is sharp or bitter, they are rancid. Culinary Uses
" Add a punch to plain yogurt by mixing in some chopped almonds and dried fruit.
" Enhance a healthy sauté of curried vegetables with sliced almonds.
" Add some almond butter to a breakfast shake to boost its taste and protein content.
" Almonds and apple slices make a wonderfully simple, on-the-go power snack.
" Make a delightful cold rice salad with almonds, fresh garden peas and currants.
" Whether you're serving salad or soup, pasta, almonds are a natural and healthful addition to any menu. With their excellent nutritional profile, almonds can be a part of an overall balanced diet.
" Make "nut crumbs" by adding whole toasted almonds to the bowl of a food processor and pulsing on and off until the almonds are coarsely ground. Use them as a wholesome gratin topping for casseroles, or sprinkle on pasta and grain dishes.
" Bursting with flavor, savory seasoned almonds are the perfect topping for your favorite side or main dish. In a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat, toss whole natural or slivered almonds in a small amount of vegetable oil until golden. Add your choice of dried herbs, then sprinkle over salads, vegetables and pasta.
" Mix toasted slivered or sliced almonds into grain-based dishes or salads to add flavor, nutrition and crunch.
" Try tossing finely diced toasted almonds or add toasted whole natural almonds to Chinese vegetable stir-fry dishes.
" Almond butter is a nutritious and hearty topping for bagels or muffins. And, it's easy to make at home by chopping whole natural almonds in a food processor with a little vegetable oil, salt and sugar until almost smooth.
" Visual appeal is important in low-fat cooking. Make a prudent parfait look sinful by layering frozen yogurt, pureed frozen berries and toasted sliced almonds in an elegant stemmed glass. Or, make individual trifles by adding layers of cubed food cake. Garnish with sprigs of mint, sliced almonds or whole berries, and serve with almond biscotti.
" The buttery flavor and crunchy texture of almonds make them a perfect topper for freshly baked low-fat breads
" To give hot cereal just a little more panache, mix in dried cranberries or cherries and a generous amount of chopped toasted almonds just before serving. Serve with skim milk and a drizzle of maple syrup.
" Satisfy your palate while watching your waistline by steaming your favorite fresh vegetables and sprinkling them with toasted, sliced almonds. Serve with wedges of lemon or lime. You will get the entire flavor and all the benefits of a healthy, low-fat meal.
" Your favorite prepared cheesecake can be dressed for success by covering the top with toasted, slivered or chopped almonds. Simply sprinkle the almonds over the top of the cake to cover, and press down lightly. A fabulous marriage of textures and tastes!
" You can choose decadent fudge sauce and ice cream or go with the low fat versions. Either way, the crisp almonds make it a memorable treat.
" The nutritional profile of almonds allows you to incorporate them into a healthy diet, and their wonderful flavor and texture makes those decadent foods that much more special. So, with "everything in moderation" as your motto - indulge!How to Store
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. Health Benefits
" Protein is one of three macronutrients, including carbohydrates and fat, that is vital to overall health, growth and development.
" High in monounsaturated fatty acids and cholesterol-free, almonds can help reduce cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.
" They are also high in Vitamin E, a potent antioxidant which helps prevent the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
" Almonds are often recommended as a building food for those who are underweight.
" Almonds contain Copper in organic form which combines with Iron and acts as a catalyst in the synthesis of blood hemoglobin.
" It is an excellent Laxative, hence highly beneficial in treatment of chronic constipation.
" An emulsion of almonds is useful in bronchial diseases, hoarseness and whooping cough.
" To sum it up - Almonds are a delicious source of protein, fiber, vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
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