You'll occasionally score green almonds, those spring almonds that look like fuzzy uncured olives with a soft nut that you pop out to snack on, at the farmer's market this time of year. But rarely do farmers appear with the even younger version, those with merely a jelly-like idea of an almond so you can eat the entire thing, pod and all.
You're most likely to find those first April harvest arrivals at Iranian markets (green almonds are used in many Persian dishes), which is exactly where Squid Ink lucked into a sack full over the weekend. Our grocer at Star Market, a mom-and-pop shop in West Los Angeles, handed one over and demonstrated how to eat them raw (“Pop it into your mouth,” she said. Right.). They've got a grassy flavor with a slightly astringent bite — curiously good, the kind of thing you want to keep eating to figure out that not-quite-familiar flavor.
Back in the kitchen, the question was what to do with them. They've got enough of an art nouveau edge to make a killer centerpiece, but we couldn't bring ourselves to just pour them in that Lucite bowl. Most recipes were of little help, as they assumed we had the Big Brother version with that delicate nut inside that required hulling. The few recipes that did call for youthful almonds, like this Persian stewed lamb shoulder dish, felt too heavy handed after all that Easter weekend lamb-and-ham reverie.
So we followed our grocer's recommendation and simply sautéed the little green pods in olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and finished with a squeeze of lemon juice. Even cooked they are still fantastically intriguing – the citrusy jellied center liquefies and pops when you bite into the still-crunchy little orbs. And at only $4 a pound (about 3 cups to a pound), you can bet that they'll be going into the centerpiece bowl too.
Star Market: 12146 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 820-6064, no website. Open daily. Young green almonds will only be available this week and possibly next.
Fried Green Almonds
Serves:3 to 4 as an appetizer.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup very young green almonds, without hard nut centers
juice of about 1/4 lemon, or more to taste
1. Trim the stems off the almonds. You can rub off any fuzz with a kitchen towel, but as the almonds have so little at this stage, it's really not necessary.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the almonds and toast until lightly golden in several places, about five minutes, shaking the pan regularly.
3. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the salt and lemon juice to taste.