Saturday, October 15, 2011

Smoked Almonds with Thyme and Sea Salt

Wooden cutting board give these nuts a "rustic" look.
My name is Kat and I have a Marcona Almond addiction. They are not your standard almond. They're more round than, um, almond shaped. They are usually blanched, but the ones I get at Trader Joe's still have skin on them. They are fried in olive oil and covered in sea salt. If you have a salty-oily food addiction, these may be your downfall.

I couldn't find any last time I was in Trader Joe's. Probably better off that way. I've been known to eat an entire 6 oz bag at once. When I got home, I knew I had a bag of raw almonds waiting to be roasted. Almonds are one of those foods that I can eat cooked, but not raw. I bought those raw almonds with every intention of smoking them.

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning blend made from thyme, sumac, sesame seads, salt and sometimes other herbs (marjoram, oregano). The first time I had it was at a Lebanese Restaurant in Arlington, VA that served olive oil with za'atar to dip their fresh baked pita bread in. I was never one to over indulge on bread, but when it's fresh baked and I can drench it in seasoned olive oil it's a little hard to resist. Now that I don't eat bread, I need to find other things to drench in seasoned olive oil.

I didn't put sesame seeds in this because the almonds already have the nutty flavor, being that they are nuts. Sumac is widely used as a seasoning in the Middle East. Yes, it is from the same genus as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, but the sumac berries used for seasoning are from a different species of plant, one that does not cause irritation. Don't worry, you won't get hives on your tongue. Sumac has a slightly bitter flavor and as we know, acidic flavors are good for bringing salty flavors to life.

Ingredients:
1 lb raw almonds
1/4 cup olive oil (If you don't want them dripping with oil, use 2 tbsp.
2 tbsp thyme
2 tsp sea salt (or less, these came out pretty salty)
1 tsp (or more) sumac (optional)

Hickory wood smoking chips. Or any wood, really.

Combine all ingredients and smoke for 1 1/2 hours. Rather than spreading the almonds out on a sheet, I put them in an aluminum loaf pan to save space and periodically shook them up. If you don't have a smoker, grill indirectly and don't forget the smoking chips.

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