Today is National Almond Day. Did you know that almonds are one of the most heart-healthily foods on the market – packed with all sorts of good things like Vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Eight percent of the world’s almonds are grown in California.
We should know. About 10 miles up the road from our home is the town of Ripon, California. It is in the heart of Almond Country. When the almonds begin to blossom, the air smells sweet.
The tiny town of Ripon is home to the central valley’s annual Almond Blossom Festival. The festival is usually held in late February while the surrounding orchards are in full bloom. No surprise that the 2021 festival wasn’t held due to the pandemic and all the mandates that were in place at the time. So glad that this year things are back to normal. And not some new, watered down normal. There’ll be a parade, pancake breakfast and all the things we know and love about small town celebrations. Carnival rides, midway games and lots of food.
Best of all, California is officially mask-free. It’s great to get outdoors, walk about, and just have a good time. Besides, it gives us the opportunity to support locally produced merchandize such as oils, vinegars and jars of homemade jams.
Once upon a time this entire area was nothing but almond orchards in every direction. Our home was built nearly 60 years ago on what once was an almond orchard. There is an almond tree in our backyard that I’ve been told is close to 100 years old. While it still puts out a few blossoms and even an almond or three, they never fully develop.
No matter, I love that tree anyway. So in honor of National Almond Day and my tree, today’s menu has almonds woven throughout nearly every dish. Enjoy!
An Almond Day Feast
Crisp Italian Chicken in a Marsala Sauce
Simple Creamy Risotto
Almond Ricotta Cake
Crisp Italian Chicken in a Marsala Sauce
2 large boneless Chicken Breasts
1 cup Almond Flour, divided
1/2 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons Italian Seasoning
1 teaspoon Garlic Salt
Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, set aside.
Fillet each chicken breast into 2 thin slices. Place in a large plastic bag and pound with a meat mallet until no more than 1/2-inch thick.
Place 1/3 cup almond flour in a pie tin. Set to one side. In a second pie tin, beat eggs and next to the almond flour tin. Mix remaining 2/3 cup almond flour, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning and garlic salt in a third pie tin. Set next to the beaten eggs.
Dip chicken into flour, then eggs, then seasoned flour mixture, pressing to coat chicken well. Lay breasts on the wire rack. Let stand for 10 minutes.
While the breasts rest, prepare the sauce.
Marsala Wine Sauce
1 cup Button Mushrooms
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup Almond Flour
1-1/2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Marsala Wine
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Salt
Slice mushrooms, set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan and brown mushrooms. Add almond flour and cook for 1 minute.
Slowly whisk in stock, marsala, Italian Seasoning and garlic salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes to thicken, stirring frequently; keep warm.
Vegetable Oil as needed
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat about 1/2-inch vegetable oil.
While the oil warms, mince parsley and set aside. If desired, reserve some whole parsley for additional garnish.
Fry chicken for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through.
Ladle some of sauce into a rimmed serving platter. Top with chicken breasts. Spoon more sauce with mushrooms over the breasts. Garnish with parsley, serve and enjoy.
1 lb fresh Asparagus
2 tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup sliced Almonds
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice
Kosher Salt to taste
White Pepper to taste
Begin by trimming the asparagus. Break off the tough ends with your fingers. Bend the asparagus spears near the end and they will break naturally where the spear is no longer tough. For an elegant presentation of the spears, use a vegetable peeler to peel off a very thin layer of the outer skin of the lower two to three inches of the asparagus spears.
While asparagus is steaming, melt butter in skillet over low heat. Add almonds and garlic. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add asparagus to almond mixture, sprinkle with lemon juice, season to taste and heat through. Remove vegetables to serving dish. Spoon almonds over asparagus. Serve and enjoy.
Simple Creamy Herb Risotto
5 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 cup Yellow Onion
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1-1/2 cup Arborio Rice
1/2 cup White Wine
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
1 teaspoons Parsley Flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Basil
Gently warm chicken stock. Hold stock in a saucepan over low heat to keep warm.
While the stock warms, peel and finely dice the onion, set aside.
In a medium stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions and rice, cook over until rice becomes slightly translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add white wine to rice, stirring constantly until wine has evaporated. Slowly add warm chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, to rice, stirring constantly and allowing broth to evaporate between additions. Continue to add broth and cook rice over medium heat until desired doneness. Rice will begin to swell and become creamy as it cook. Do not rush the risotto. In all, it takes about 25-30 minutes to cook tender and creamy.
Once all the liquid has been added and rice is cooked, remove from heat. Stir in butter, Parmesan Cheese and all the herbs. Fluff, cover and let sit about 5 minutes. Fluff again, transfer to bowl and serve.
Almond Ricotta Cake
Prepare the Pan
1 tablespoon Butter
1 tablespoon Powdered Sugar
Position baking racks in the middle of the oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9-inch standard springform pan with butter. Dust pan with a tablespoon of powdered sugar. Swirl pan, tilting, to coat in sugar. Tap out excess sugar once coated. Set pan aside.
1/2 cup Almonds
1-3/4 cups Flour
3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Butter, softened
1-1/2 cups Sugar
1 (15 oz) container Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon Almond Extract
Finely chop almonds, set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand stand up mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar, and ricotta cheese until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Beat in the eggs and almond extract. Cream mixture for an additional minute.
Pour in the dry flour mixture into the cheese mix until combined. Fold in the finely chopped almonds.
Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Bake on center rack for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for at least 10 minutes before releasing springform and cooling on wire baking rack completely.
1/4 cup Sliced Almonds
2 tablespoons Powdered Sugar
For the topping, scatter sliced almonds on top of cooled cake.
Sift the powdered sugar through a fine mesh sieve to dust on top of cake just until cake is just covered.