Remember the days when the only almonds that lived in your pantry, came in a blue can and usually had a smokey taste? Those were some yummy little treats, and I still partake here and there, but we have come a long way in the almond world.
I noshed on my first Marcona almond while living in Madrid about 12 years ago. Little naked almonds sauteed in olive oil and drizzled with sea salt. What’s not to like?
I brought Marcona’s back with me in my suitcase and sighed when I got down to the last little bites. Fortunately, years later, they began to spring up on menus at hip restaurants and now you can purchase them at Trader Joes, Whole Paycheck, specialty food stores and even Costco!
Marcona almonds hail from Spain and differ from the common almond in that they are round and plump and I feel have a deep and almost sweet flavor. They are described to be more moist than a standard almond. Most Americans that try them for the first time, cannot get enough of them. For years, they were a staple in my party spread and I see them in salads and on cheese plates of great restaurants across the US.
But that’s not all my friends. I have an insider tip!
Move over Marcona? Largueta’s are on the scene. About a year ago I did some business dealings with a company from Barcelona that was peddling olive oil and almonds in the US. They were the first to fry the Largueta varietal of almond. Largueta’s are from Catalunia, Spain, Barcelona being the most well known city. They are commonly used in combination with other almonds to make Marzipan, the lovely sweet doughy concoction that is often shaped into little fruits or piglets. This brand, Romanico, said, hey, why don’t we fry these in EVOO and see how they taste? Well, my friends, the usual response I get from people when they try them is, “these are like crack”, which always “cracks me up” because how many people have really tried crack? I guess saying, “these are addictive’ just isn’t dramatic enough. It is so uncommon for these puppies to be fried like their cousins, the Marconas, that an expert in Spanish products/one of the top importers of Spanish specialty foods bet me a dinner that fried Largueta’s didn’t exist. There are two things you should never do, one is “never get involved in a land war in Asia” and two, never make a bet with this Colombian when food is on the line! Look out for fried Larguetas. You heard it here first!
If you are cool and love tasty snacks, then you should get some Marconas and Larguetas in your pantry ASAP.
HERBED: I prefer to buy my Marconas or Larguetas simply fried and add fresh, finely chopped rosemary or smoked Paprika to them. You can get as creative as you would like.
RAW: I tried raw Marconas at a party and they were surprisingly really good. They have a higher water content than raw standard almonds so the bite is more interesting and the more you chew, the sweeter the taste becomes.
CHOCOLATE COVERED: We already know that sea salt and chocolate are splendid bedfellows, so why not chop up a few of these lovely treats and give them a quick toss in some melted chocolate? Break up your favorite chocolate bar into smallish pieces, about 1″ max, throw into the microwave oven for 20 second intervals and stir each time. Make sure there is not water anywhere near the chocolate. Bad things will happen. Click here for a video demo.
SALADS AND VEGGIES: Chopped up fried Marconas are incredible in salads. They are also lovely tossed with veggies like cooked asparagus or raw sugar snap peas, EVOO, grated parmesan, a little lemon juice and salt and pepper. Grate a hard boiled egg over the top and your guests will wonder where you got your skills.
CHEESE PLATE: Serve a little pile on your cheese plate and if you want to get fancy, drizzle a little honey over the top and watch them swoon.