Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review -- Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture

This lovely and unique book about almonds contains cultural history, recipes. nutritional information and gorgeous photographs. It is cookbook, coffee table book, culinary history, and around-the-world tour of the cultures that incorporate almonds in a meaningful way. And I'm not just saying this because I worked on it!

The lengthy introduction to the recipes covers a lot of ground -- the anatomy of the nut, the cultivation of almond orchards in California, the nutrition it provides, even its place in art and literature.

Did you know da Vinci once sculpted from almond paste? Or that 100 almonds for every person on earth are grown each year -- most of them in California? Or that its abundant nutrition qualifies the almond as a "superfood?” Or that the sweet almond we like to eat has a "bad-boy cousin" -- the bitter almond --  that is poisonous?

Once you've digested all this information, move on to the recipes, which traverse the full scope of the meal from starters to desserts and drinks. There is the simplicity of Burnt Sugar Almonds and a Banana Almond Smoothie and more complex dishes like Almond-and-Mint-Crusted Lamb Chops and Spanish Meatballs in Onion and Almond Sauce.

Almonds: Recipes, History, Culture is by Barbara Bryant, Betsy Fentress and Lynda Balslev; $21.99.