Ready to take your taste buds on a trip? Travel to California, the only place in North America where almonds are grown commercially. Along a 400-mile strip of land in the lush San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, more than 7,000 growers harvest almonds on 400,000 acres. Almonds are the No.1 food export from California and the seventh-largest food export of the U.S. This state produces over half of the world’s supply of almonds.
The most versatile of nuts, almonds blend well with other ingredients both savory and sweet. They’re delicious eaten as a nutritious snack and enhance virtually every food with their distinctive taste and satisfying crunch.
Even appetizers benefit from the goodness of almonds, as proven by the Toasted Almond Crab Spread from Taste of Home field editor Sonja B. of Groveland, California. Sonja reports that almonds are very plentiful in her area and she cooks with them often. “This super spread is always popular at social gatherings,” Sonja says. “It’s so easy to make, yet it looks and tastes fancy.”
Toasted Almond Crab Spread
- 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1 can (6 ounces) crabmeat, drained, flaked, and cartilage removed or 1/2 cup imitation crabmeat, chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions, divided
- 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- Assorted crackers
- In a mixing bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Stir in crab and 2 tablespoons onions. Spread into an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with almonds and remaining onions. Serve with crackers. Makes 2 cups.
- Toasting almonds heightens their rich flavor and also makes them extra crunchy. Spread whole almonds in a shallow pan and toast at 350°F for 8 to 12 minutes (5 to 10 minutes for slivered, sliced, or chopped almonds), until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan to cool. The nuts will continue to brown slightly.
- When you’re purchasing almonds in the shell, look for clean shells free from cracks. Almonds without shells should appear uniform in color and size. One pound is equal to 3 cups of whole almonds, 3 1/3 cups chopped, 3 1/2 cups slivered, and 4 1/2 cups sliced.
Note: Almonds are a powerhouse of nutrients. While high in calories (170 per ounce — 20 to 25 nuts), they have the best ratio of important nutrients to calories of any nut. A good source of vegetable protein and vitamin E, almonds are exceptionally high in riboflavin. They also contain large amounts of calcium, iron, zinc, thiamine, niacin, and folic acid. They’re high in fiber and low in sodium. Clearly, you’d be nuts not to enjoy them often!