It’s been a pleasant, sunny and slightly chilly spring, but spring nonetheless. And as the seasons change, the market is offering the first springtime and summer fruits — namely, stone fruits. That includes loquats, a few too-solid peaches and nectarines, and green almonds.
Yes, green almonds — generally grown for the pit, more familiar as a nut, at this time of year you can still eat the green outer fruit itself. The flesh is tart and quite hard, while the young almond inside is translucent and glassy. But nature isn’t static, and that’ll all change within a few weeks — by then, the almonds at the market will contain soft white nuts, while the outer green shells won’t be good for much anymore.
So for those who like almonds for their fruit, not just for the nuts themselves, now is your very brief time. When in doubt, you can ask the seller whether the green part is still edible, or whether the almond inside is mature.
Due to their strong sourness and hard texture, I like green almonds best in savory dishes such as salads — a few thinly sliced green almonds make a great addition to a chopped Israeli salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs, seasoned with a good dose of lemon juice.
Or in this pasta salad, for instance, as a tart counterpoint to fresh herbs, enhanced by a dressing of lemon and young garlic. The textures are varied, from the hard crunch of the almonds — both the fresh green ones and the roasted nuts — to the soft fluffiness of the red lettuce leaves and the chewy swirl of long noodles. And if we’re talking spring, you might as well use fresh garlic, too — have you bought your 10 kilos to last you through the year?
This dish was inspired by a photo of a rather Asian-looking pasta salad that I had no hopes of preparing at home, due to my lack of fresh Asian ingredients. Instead, I wound up with this Mediterranean/Middle Eastern mix, since those are the kind of things I have in my kitchen. After all, I wouldn’t go a week without buying parsley.
For 1 pack pasta (500 grams/1 pound; I prefer whole-wheat pasta):
- 3 fresh garlic cloves (or 2 older ones. If you don’t know whether your garlic is fresh, it probably isn’t.)
- 6 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1.5 to 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt (or more; adjust to taste)
- 1 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh green almond fruits (±16-20 almonds)
- 1 1/2 cup chopped cucumber (4 little Israeli ones)
- 1 cup roasted sliced almonds (i.e. your standard nuts)
- 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1 cup chopped green onion, preferably the less-spicy green stalks
- ±12 red lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces (1/2 a small head)
Prep time: 10 minutes. Cook time: 10 minutes.
Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Let cool, ideally to room temperature.
Prepare the dressing: Blend everything together in a blender, or crush the garlic and then mix with the other ingredients. Mix with the pasta.
Toss the pasta with the topping ingredients. A note on toasting almonds: Put them in a dry frying pan on a high flame, stirring constantly until they start to turn golden. Then, remove from the pan immediately so they don’t burn.
As with any pasta salad that contains long noodles and chunky ingredients, the toppings have a tendency to sink to the bottom. Make sure to scoop them out as you serve this dish. The lettuce looks lovely arranged on top of every bowl.