Marcona almonds: the filet mignon of nuts

  • By J.M. Hirsch Associated Press
  • Tuesday, February 28, 2012 12:48pm
  • Life

Five years can make a world of difference for an almond.

That’s about how long it took for Spain’s addictively good marcona almond to go from obscure gourmet goodie to a Trader Joe’s staple with serious culinary cred.

Why do you care? Because marconas are not your average almond. These wide, teardrop shaped treats are the filet mignon of the nut world.

Almost literally.

The flavor and texture of marcona almonds are entirely different than the more common California almond.

A higher fat content helps explain the textural difference — tender-crunchy and moist. As for flavor, think uber savory and steaklike.

And it doesn’t hurt that they typically are processed by being fried in olive oil, then sprinkled with salt.

Once only a limited import, marcona almonds now are widely available, often sold near the cheese, olives and other so-called gourmet items.

This soup is great whatever the weather. When it’s cool, serve it hot. When it’s hot, serve it cool (and topped with a spoonful of sour cream).

Tomato sweet potato soup with rosemary marcona almonds

2tablespoons olive oil

1medium yellow onion, finely diced

1clove garlic, minced

2cups peeled, diced sweet potato (1 large)

128-ounce can diced tomatoes

115-ounce can tomato sauce

2cups chicken broth

1tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and ground black pepper

1/2cup chopped marcona almonds

1tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and sweet potato. Saute until the sweet potatoes start to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, then cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches if needed, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pan, stir in the vinegar, then season with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, mix together the almonds and rosemary. Ladle the soup into serving bowls, then sprinkle the almond mixture over each serving.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 149 calories; 73 calories from fat (49 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 3 g fiber; 820 mg sodium.

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