I hope you all had crazy fun weekends to make up my totally tame past couple of days. Please, tell me stories about late nights and bottomless brunch mimosas so that I may live vicariously through you.
As for me? I stared at this screen a lot and cleaned, mostly. I bathed my puppy dog (Cookie wants you to know that she is so fresh and so clean clean), moisturized my handbags (you guys, it’s like I got brand new purses) and finally, cleaned off my camera lens and viewfinder. I can see!!! All hail the transformative power of cleaning. Please don’t tell my mother I just said that.
I hadn’t cleaned my lens since, ah, I don’t even remember, but definitely not since I toured a dusty almond orchard last month. The Almond Board of California invited a group of dietitians and bloggers out to visit the Sacramento area and learn about almonds. To clarify, they covered our expenses, but I’m not sharing the experience out of obligation—I genuinely thought it was interesting and thought you might, too.
It was a whirlwind trip and I was only there for one full day. On that day, we woke up early for a group yoga session before breakfast, followed by what I can only call, “Almond School,” which lasted from 9 am to 3 pm. My main takeaway? Almonds are good for you. But you know that.
We snacked on almonds as we learned about the satiating effect of almonds—which is certainly true, because I ate so many almonds that I wasn’t hungry for lunch. I realized that snacking is BIG business and that all the different food industries are fighting over pieces of the pie. Did you know that Americans now eat, on average, 2.3 snacks per day? And we make 4.4 snack food/beverage choices snacking occurrence. Snack, snack, snackity snack.
Some other fun facts from my notes:
Almond trees actually start out as peach trees, then almonds are grafted onto the trunk and the tree grows into an almond tree. (Almonds and peaches are botanically related, which is also why they taste so good together.)
Fuzzy, green baby almonds are called nutlets! They’re pickled and served as a delicacy elsewhere in the world.
One hundred percent of U.S. grown almonds are grown in California, so I’m still wondering why the Almond Board of California isn’t called the Almond Board of the United States.
There are no genetically modified almonds.
Seventy-two percent of California almond farms are family owned, with fifty-one percent owning fewer than 49 acres, so you’re often supporting family farms when you buy almonds. High five!
I found the section on global almond consumption and subsequent almond marketing efforts totally fascinating. For instance, most European almond consumption comes in the form of desserts. In contrast, in India, almonds are sold in their shells. Indian mothers like to offer their children several almonds per day in a display of motherly love, treating them almost like vitamins.
The Japanese pay a premium for smooth skinned, flawless almonds, which are a far cry from the almonds I bought at Trader Joe’s. This American doesn’t mind the nicks, though—they all taste the same to me.
Naturally, they offered us a variety of almonds to snack on during school. We all ate a lot of almonds that day, and we all went, “Woah,” when we tasted these basil pesto-covered snacking almonds. They’re crunchy, savory, herbaceous and utterly irresistible. They aren’t the prettiest of appetizers, but I’m confident they would be a big hit at your next party nonetheless. I just couldn’t keep them to myself.
For the record, I tried to make a vegan version with olive oil instead of egg whites and nutritional yeast instead of Parmesan, but they just didn’t work. The egg whites are essential here—they basically glue the blended basil to the nuts. Any ideas on vegan binders that might do the trick?
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ cup packed whole basil leaves
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups whole, unsalted almonds
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a blender, combine the egg whites, basil leaves, salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes. Process on low speed until mixture is pureed. In a small mixing bowl, toss the basil egg white mixture with the almonds until well combined. Let the almonds soak up some of the excess moisture for a few minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Use a large mixing spoon to transfer the almonds to the prepared pan, leaving any excess basil mixture in the bowl.
- Spread almonds in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or longer, stirring every 15 minutes, until the basil mixture is dried and the almonds are sufficiently crunchy. Let the almonds cool completely, then store in an air-tight container. Mine are in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer for my next girls' night.
Serving suggestions: I think these nuts would go well with my roasted grape and brie crostini, lemon Parmesan popcorn, red bell cocktail (bell pepper and gin), grapefruit, honey and rosemary cocktail. The Almond Board suggests glasses of Chianti or sauvignon blanc.
Change it up: I'm pretty sure you could substitute a variety of nuts for the almonds. You could also substitute arugula for the basil.
If you love this recipe: You'll also love my rosemary roasted nuts.