Tuesday, 24 April 2012

California Almond Board at the Drake

The California Almond board invited members of the foodie scene and special guests from as far as LA to kick off a nutty night of everything almonds at the Drake Hotel last week.  Showcasing the multi-talented nut was Chef Anthony Rose (formerly the head chef at the Drake), NYC Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy and Hollywood Mixologist Matthew Biancaniello creating several concoctions of nut related deliciousness.

First guests were treated to Matthew’s ‘Lost in Laos’ gin based cocktail, infused with almond milk and green Chartreuse.  Expecting it to be somewhat creamy and thick, it was anything but, offering a delicate nutty flavour that was balanced out with the kaffir lime leaves.

Cooking demos led by Chef Anthony gave gawkers the opportunity to learn how to properly stuff a pot sticker and a walkthrough on his lemon roasted halibut. Chef Jenny turned her almonds into a delectable almond milk panna cotta with a crispy almond praline and strawberry rhubarb compote. Small sample plates were distributed ensuring guests a sample of every dish, which were not only almond rich, but seasonally accessible as well.

And just in case you didn’t get your daily quotient (which according to the California Almond board is an exact 23 almonds) there was a clever self-serve almond bar with eight different flavours to fashion yourself a grab bag for the way home.

So, no excuses people. Almonds are good for you; they’re easy to eat, readily available and highly adaptable to just about every recipe. So get out there and get nuts!

Recipes are re-printed with express consent from the California Almond Board. For more information on almonds and more recipes, check out almondboard.com

Lost In Laos

Ingredients 3-4 kaffir lime leaves 3/4 oz (21 g) of fresh lime juice 3/4 oz (21 g) agave syrup ½ oz (14 g) of Green Chartreuse 2 oz (55 g) gin 2 oz (55 g) unsweetened almond milk

Directions In a cocktail shaker, muddle together kaffir lime leaves, lime juice and agave, approximately 2 minutes. Add liquors, almond milk and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a collins glass with ice, Garnish with kaffir lime leaves on the side.

Lemon Roasted Halibut with Crunchy Spring Mix

Ingredients 2 cups (500 mL) yellow quinoa 1 bunch asparagus, cut into 6 pieces on the bias 4 cups (1 L) sugar snap peas, cut into 4 pieces on the bias 2 cups (500 mL) shelled green sweet peas ½ lemon, zest and juice ¼ bunch chives, finely chopped ¼ bunch tarragon, finely chopped 3 oz (85 g) extra virgin olive oil 6 (5) oz (142 g) halibut filets 2 sprigs fresh dill 2 lemons, thinly sliced 1/4 lb (113 g) unsalted butter ¼ cup (60 mL) white wine 1 cup (250 mL) toasted crushed whole almonds Salt and pepper, as needed

Directions Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
Rinse quinoa thoroughly and place into a rice cooker with 3 cups (750 ml) of water; Cook until done.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a large bowl with ice water nearby.

Blanch asparagus, snap peas and sweet peas by placing them into the boiling water for about 1 minute. Strain and remove to ice water for another minute to stop the cooking. Drain well and set aside.

Remove quinoa from rice cooker, place into a large bowl and mix together with lemon zest, chives, tarragon and olive oil. Season to taste with salt & pepper

Season fish with salt and pepper and place onto a parchment-lined sheet tray. Place a sprig of dill onto each piece of fish; layer each with 3-4 lemon slices and top with 1 tsp (5 mL) butter. Splash with white wine and cook uncovered approximately 7 minutes. While the fish is cooking, brown the remaining butter in a pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining lemon juice and blanched vegetables and toss quickly. Season to taste and add toasted almonds to vegetables. To serve, arrange quinoa and fish on a plate and spoon vegetables around and over the fish.

Almond Milk Panna Cotta
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Ingredients ¼ cup (50 mL) almonds, finely chopped 2 tbsp (30 mL) almond paste, finely chopped 3 ½ cups (875 mL) unsweetened almond milk ¼ tsp (1 mL) almond extract 2/3 cups (150 mL) granulated sugar Pinch fine sea salt 1 1/3 cup (325 mL) heavy cream 2 envelopes powdered gelatin

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C) Set 8 to 10 four-ounce (120 g) ramekins on a baking sheet.
Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast until deep golden and fragrant, about 6 to 8 minutes.
In a medium saucepan, bring toasted almonds, almond paste, almond milk, almond extract, sugar, and salt to a boil. Turn off heat and let steep at room temperature for 15 minutes; return to a rolling boil.

Pour heavy cream into a mixing bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the surface of the cream. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then whisk to incorporate. Add hot almond cream and whisk smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large metal bowl. Place bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water and stir until cool.

Divide panna cotta base amongst ramekins. Carefully transfer to refrigerator and chill overnight until fully set.

To serve, dip ramekins into a bowl of hot water to loosen the side of the custard. Gently invert onto desired serving dish. Top with Strawberry-Rhubarb Preserves and a piece of Almond Praline.

Makes 4 cups (1 L)
2 ½ pounds (1.135 kg) rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into ½" (1.3 cm) pieces

½ pound (227 g) strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters

Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, optional

1 cup (250 mL) water 4 ½ to 5 ½ cups 1.125 L to 1.375 L) granulated sugar, to taste ¼ tsp (1 mL) fine sea salt Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of fine sea salt

In a large pot, combine the rhubarb, strawberries, vanilla bean, and water over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes, or until the rhubarb is just tender.

Add sugar and salt. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until jam has just thickened, skimming off and discarding any foam that rises to the surface. Add remaining sugar, to taste, if needed. Continue cooking until jam has reached 220°F (104°C) on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Carefully spoon jam into heatproof jars. Let stand uncovered until room temperature. Store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients ¼ cup (50 mL) granulated sugar 2 tbps (30 mL) light corn syrup 1 ½ tsp (375 mL) light brown sugar 1 ½ tsp (375 mL) unsalted butter, softened ½ tsp (2 mL) fine sea salt ¼ cup (50 mL)plus 2 tbsp (30 mL) almonds, finely ground

Directions Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until evenly combined. Refrigerate overnight to harden.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat.

Divide praline base into 8 to 10 pieces and place on baking sheet, evenly spaced apart. With the palm of your hand, press praline firmly to flatten. Bake until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet to room temperature.

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