By Dylan Stuntz, American Forests
For our next Thanksgiving Treets post, we’re focusing on almonds and adding a recipe for pan-roasted green beans topped with tasty almonds, another delicious appetizer sure to win over your friends and family this Thanksgiving!
The almond tree (Prunus dulcis) originated in the Middle East. The wild tree bears fruit with a strong bitter taste because of the presence of hydrogen cyanide, but domestication has bred the chemical compound out of its sweeter, cultivated cousin. While domesticated almonds are perfectly safe, even a handful of wild nuts can potentially be fatal. Almonds have been a part of human historical for millennia — they were even served in bread to ancient pharaohs. Researchers believe that the toxicity was removed from early pre-domesticated almonds through roasting or leaching. Almonds would travel up and down the Silk Road, finding footholds in Asia and the Mediterranean.
The almond tree is deciduous, growing between 10 to 15 feet tall. The leaves of the tree are ovular, with slightly serrated edges. Almonds are not actually nuts, which are a type of dry fruit, but rather are seeds enclosed in fruit. The fruit of the almond tree looks similar to an unripe peach, and falls into a category of stone fruit called a drupe. The fruit eventually splits open to reveal the pit, with a shell surrounding the almond seed.
Almonds contribute $21.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Franciscan missionaries first brought the tree to California, where it flourished in the temperate climate. Almond trees are incapable of reproducing without pollinators, so approximately 31 billion honeybees are used every year to cross-pollinate California’s almonds, a process that Scientific American calls “the largest managed pollination event anywhere in the world.”
Pan-Roasted Green Beans with Almonds
- Kosher salt
- 8 oz. green and/or wax beans, trimmed
- ¼ cup blanched whole almonds, coarsely chopped
- 3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 lemon
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and add salt (a teaspoon or so, or to taste). Fill a large bowl with ice and water. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook until bright green but still firm, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to the ice water. When cool, drain again. Pat dry with paper towels until completely dry.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the almonds and the oil, adding more oil if needed to just cover the almonds. Cook over medium heat until the almonds are golden, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the shallot. It will cook in the residual heat.
- Coat a large skillet with oil. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the beans and season with salt. Cook, tossing frequently, until charred dark brown in spots and tender-crisp, about 7 minutes.
- Top with the almond mixture, then the parsley. Grate the zest from a quarter of the lemon directly over the beans, then cut the lemon into wedges for serving. Season with pepper and serve.
This recipe was originally published by NYTimes Cooking.