January 20, 2008

World's Best Almond Recipes

In my opinion, the addition of nuts to any recipe can only improve the outcome. Although I favor pecans, almonds are certainly on my list of favorite nuts, both for snacking and cooking.

According to Blue Diamond Growers, almonds are California's largest food export and the 6th largest U.S. export. In a nutshell, it's a billion dollar business.

A Treasury of the World's Best Almond Recipes (revised edition, not dated, 48 pages), a recipe booklet with a cheerful bright red cover, was published by the California Almond Growers Exchange. Blue Diamond is the brand used for marketing to consumers. A large portion of their business is to worldwide food and candy manufacturers.

The cooperative began with a group of 230 growers in 1910. At the time of this recipe booklet's publication there were 5,00 producers throughout California who marketed their product under the Blue Diamond label.

Though the booklet isn't dated, I have a photo of a 1972 magazine advertisement showing the booklet along with the mail-in order form. The cost of the booklet was fifty cents.

The first photo inside the cover shows an Almond Strawberry Trifle, nicely displayed on a milk glass cake stand. Although there's not any chocolate involved, nor are strawberries in season, the pink background and pink flowers that complement the strawberries suggests Valentine's Day to me.


1 envelope plain gelatin
1/4 cup water
16 to 18 (3-inch) ladyfingers
2 packages (3-3/4 oz. each) instant vanilla pudding
2-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup orange juice or milk
1/2 cup strawberry jelly
1/2 cup slivered almonds, roasted
1 cup whipping or heavy cream
Fresh Strawberries

Combine gelatin and water in saucepan; place over low heat and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool. Split ladyfingers and stand up around sides of an 8-inch springform pan; cover bottom of pan with remainder. Combine the 2 packages of vanilla pudding with the milk and orange juice in an electric mixer and beat for two minutes. Stir in gelatin mixture and place in refrigerator for 5 minutes or just until it begins to get quite thick. Turn half of pudding into ladyfinger-lined pan. Spoon jelly in dabs over pudding; sprinkle with all but 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with remaining pudding and chill until firm. Remove the pan sides and place on plate. Whip cream and spoon or pipe on top. Garnish with fresh strawberries and sprinkle with remaining almonds. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Although this photo of Savory Cocktail Almonds isn't very appealing, it does serve to remind us that once upon a time we routinely made our own snacks rather than buying them already processed and prepackaged. The ones shown here are blanched almonds sautéed in butter with the addition of a variety of different seasonings. The company is covering all their bases, however; right below the recipe for these cocktail almonds is the suggestion to look for the handy vacuum tins of Blue Diamond almond snacks while shopping. The Smokehouse flavors available at that time were Hickory Smoked, Garlic-Onion, Barbecue and Cheese.

The California Fruit and Almond Salad shown in the photo below features orange and avocado slices atop an iceberg lettuce "raft" with a green goddess dressing mixed with cream cheese, orange rind and vinegar. I'll take the more modern version, which would probably include pretty much the same ingredients but tossed with mesclun mix rather than perched upon that little hunk of iceberg.

This photo shows eight different varieties of almonds: (1) sliced natural, (2) whole blanched, (3) in shell, (4) whole natural, (5) ground blanched, (6) sliced blanched, (7) roasted blanched slivered and (8) diced roasted. Look at the fabric beneath the nuts nd the colors in the photo--pure 1970s.

Cookies are always better with nuts. These Almond Macaroons Supreme cookies use a homemade Almond Paste.


1-1/2 cups whole blanched almonds
1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Grind almonds, a portion at a time, in electric blender or food chopper using fine blade. Combine with remaining ingredients and work to a stiff paste. Store in airtight container or disposable plastic bag. This makes 13 oz. (1-1/3 cups) almond paste.

In this advertising booklet, Smokehouse Almonds are called "The Most Sophisticated Nut". The company proudly states that their almonds "made airline beverage service history." This refers to the fact that airlines began serving small, snack-size foil pouches of Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds to their passengers in 1955. Is the choice of the word sophisticated also meant to convey the impression that sophisticated peope traveled by air?

The caption for the photo also says that the foil packaged Smokehouse Almonds could now be purchased in better stores everywhere. (Ah, another group of sophisticated people--those who shop at better stores.) You can see along the top edge of the foil pouch, the small red airliner with the words "The Sensational Taste Treat--Served on the Airlines."

Give me Smokehouse Almonds over Honey Roasted Peanuts any day. Are you listening Southwest Airlines?


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