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Market Watch: Green Almonds


Recently I was in the Batali/Bastianich Italian food megastore Eataly in NYC.  Always a recipe-provoking stop, particularly mid-week when not utterly tourist-jammed and you can actually see the counters and food.  The variety of food and ingredient offerings is as impressive as the block-wide size of this culinary cathedral.  Rarely do I go there and not see something I have never encountered previously.  Never have I been able to leave there empty handed.

On this balmy day I came across a long basket of fuzzy green almonds.  The only other time I've seen them was on the cover of my beloved Zuni Cafe cookbook.  Admittedly, I had no idea what they tasted like, how to cook them, how to eat them, or if I was purchasing them even at a reasonable price.  But, 1) I have made a commitment to trying new foods and ingredients I see at the market and in stores, most particularly when I don't have the slightest idea what will come of them (try this in Chinatown--it's a blast).  Much more often than not I've added a brand new tool to my bag of culinary tricks that I am so happy I didn't leave the earth not having tried.  And 2) if the masterful Judy Rodgers chose to have these almonds as one of only three items on the cover of her recipe treasure trove, there must be something there.

So into my basket went a half pound.

After a little investigating, I learned that these green almonds were the unripe fruit of the almond tree, and while green, the outer flesh, and in turn entire fruit, is edible.  The green-fuzzy flesh is firm and crisp, much like biting into an unripe peach--of which they are a relative and bear a striking resemblance in this form.  The inside almond nut, with which we are much more familiar, was still pale white, soft and jelly-like on the inside.  Biting into that was like a sliver of a firm grape, with just the slightest burst of moisture.


None of the flavors are particularly strong, but just fresh and green and vital.  The outside flesh tastes much like a cross between an unripe peach and a fresh-picked raw green bean.  The center jellied nut was slightly sweeter with just a hint of sour, but again, nothing overpowering.  But the combination of textures and herbaceous qualities I found thrilling and unable to put down.

Green almonds are popular in many Middle Eastern cuisines, simply dipped lightly in a dish of salt as they are eaten.  This way was my favorite.

Like many of their green baby spring cohorts, these green almonds are only available for a brief eight week season from mid-April to mid-June.  I was a little late to the party too this year, but keep your eyes out this week and definitely snap some up if you come across them.  Put them on your radar for next year regardless.



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Asparagus Ricotta Galette


As hinted at earlier this week, asparagus is bustin' out all over on our micro-farm.  One of the very first signs of a long season of fresh food from the gardens, this perennial faithfully returns each May, basically without us having to do a thing.  (That's my kind of garden vegetable!)

Since it is never better than right now, we'll eat just-picked asparagus almost every night for dinner for the next several weeks.  Then finally, when we can't stand it anymore, which fortunately is right about when the asparagus season peters out, we'll put our asparagus habit to bed for another 11 months.  Once you've had it this fresh and this good, you are spoiled for anything trying to masquerade as asparagus in the rest of the year.

But it is a challenge to keep it interesting in the dinners ahead.  Even as good as it is, when having asparagus almost nightly, sauteing, grilling, and soup-ing gets old quickly.  This savory galette was a very welcomed change, and was gobbled up quickly last evening.  It would also be wonderful for brunch, or cut in small squares for late spring hors d'oeuvres. I have been on a galette with corners kick this year, but feel free to form it in the more traditional round shape, or any free-form shape that works for you and your stalks.


Asparagus Ricotta Galette, with Caramelized Shallots and Lemon Zest.
By Catie Schwalb

Makes one 9" square or round galette.

1 single pastry crust (half of the recipe posted here, in my "Pie Crust 101" piece)
1 large bunch fresh asparagus, about 8 ounces, washed and woody ends trimmed.
1 1/2 cups shallots, sliced thin (4-5 large shallots)
1 cup ricotta (here's my recipe for homemade fresh ricotta)
1 tablespoon lemon zest, from about one lemon
2 eggs
salt
olive oil, for roasting and sauteing

Heat the oven to 350 F.

Make the pastry crust, as described here, and allow to rest for thirty minutes in the refrigerator.

Lightly toss asparagus with about a tablespoon of olive oil and a light sprinkling of salt.  Roast on a baking sheet in the oven until about half way roasted.  For pencil-thin asparagus this took six minutes.  Roast longer for thicker stalks.  Do not roast all the way, as they will continue to cook when the galette is baked.  Remove from the oven and set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 425 F.

In a wide saute pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat.  Add shallots and stir to coat with oil.  Turn heat down to medium-low and slowly cook, stirring every few minutes, until fragrant, light amber, and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Lower the heat if they start to brown too quickly.  Set aside.

Combine ricotta, lemon zest and a good pinch of salt.  Taste, and adjust salt if necessary.  Add one egg and mix thoroughly.

Roll out pastry dough to 1/4 " thin and transfer to a baking sheet, either by gently folding in quarters, or rolling around your rolling pin.  Spread a thin, about 1/4" layer of the ricotta mixture on the dough, leaving at least an inch boarder of dough around all sides.  Top with caramelized shallots, and then asparagus.  Fold dough up and over on all edges and crimp where necessary to hold in place.

For a more golden crust, mix one egg with a tablespoon of water, and using a pastry brush, gently brush perimeter of the crust with the egg wash.

Bake at 425 F for 35-40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

 


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happyasparagusmonday.


 



 



 



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happyrhubarbmonday.


The first inch and a half of Victoria rhubarb poking up from the muddy March ground.  Pies and jams to follow.


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Pan-Seared Sea Scallops, with Pickled Watermelon Radish and Microgreen Salad
 


Here's a great little dish using those irresistable watermelon radishes and microgreens now growing at a farmers' market near you.  Ready in under a half hour, this would be a deceptively easy, super impressive first course for a local-chic dinner soiree.  Or triple the scallops, and pair it with cool buckwheat soba noodles dressed with sesame vinaigrette and sprinkled with additional microgreens for a light and springy main course.

Either way it uses some of the best items our farmers are offering up at this moment.  And after months and months of braised root vegetables, some very welcome fresh leafy crunchy variety.




PAN-SEARED SEA SCALLOPS,
WITH PICKLED WATERMELON RADISH AND MICROGREEN SALAD

Serves 4, as an appetizer. Triple recipe for a main course.

4 large sea scallops
12 thin slices of watermelon radish. (Other radish varieties will work well too, but will have a bit more bite.)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup loosely packed microgreens
2 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon canola, vegetable, or peanut oil

Remove the adductor muscle from the scallops.  Pat dry with paper towels and keep refrigerated.

In a small bowl combine the radish slices with the sugar and salt.  Allow to sit for about five minutes.  They are ready to use at this point, or can be refrigerated for up to four hours.  Before using, rinse gently and blot with paper towels.

Put the rice vinegar in a small bowl, with a small pinch of salt.  Gradually whisk in the sesame oil.  Set aside.

Arrange radish slices on plates.

Remove scallops from the refrigerator, season lightly with salt. In a saute pan, over high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of oil. When hot and shimmering carefully add the scallops to the very hot pan. Do not move them at first. After about a minute gently check to see if they are stuck to the pan, and if browning too quickly. Turn down heat slightly, if so. After about another minute, they should be nicely browned an caramelized, flip to the other side and sear for another minute.

Place scallops on radish slices on serving plates. In a medium bowl toss microgreens with sesame dressing (you may not need to use all of it), and top scallops with dressed greens. Serve immediately.



[caption id="attachment_2004" align="aligncenter" width="600"]http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/03/25/pan-seared-sea…crogreen-salad/ http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/03/25/pan-seared-sea…crogreen-salad/[/caption]

 


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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