Vegan green almond & asparagus risotto with almond & Amontillado cream
Green almonds & asparagus risotto
Few weeks ago I made an exciting discovery at my local international grocery store: green almonds!!! I’ve never seen these seasonal delicacies IRL, so I instantly grabbed a box and took it home. At home there was a bunch of green asparagus waiting to be used, an open bag of peeled almonds + annoyingly almost empty bottle of Amontillado. One thing led to the other… and soon I had one of the best vegan risottos I’ve ever prepared on my plate!
Green almond = young almond. And as you may already know, almond is no nut, but a stone fruit! Almonds are the seeds of the almond fruits. When they are young, their skins are soft, succulent and fuzzy. At this stage, the almond itself is but a translucent little nugget. When the almond is this young, you can eat the whole thing!
The flavor of green almond is fresh, sour, lemony and slightly grassy. There is a distant echo of almond flavor, which will later become more pronounced… but honestly if I didn’t know I’m eating almond, I’d have no idea. The flavor is more reminiscent of rhubarb and common wood sorrel to me! Both are dear flavors of my childhood, so needles to say I fell in love with green almonds at first bite. In Middle Eastern countries fresh green almonds are often dipped in salt and eaten as a snack, and that’s how I like to munch on them too. You can dip them in sugar too, if you have more of a sweet tooth than I have. Green almonds can however be added to all kinds of dishes! Salads, soups, stews, pestos, dips… you name it! You can also pickle them, marinade them or even make green almond liqueur!
Season and storage
The season of green almonds is short, and lasts from April to early June. As time passes, that fuzzy green shell hardens and dries up as the almond inside matures. If and when you get your hands on these funny and tasty little things, don’t hesitate to buy them! You’ll likely have to wait a whole year if you don’t – at least if you live in a country such as Finland. Just remember to check the stage of the almonds before cooking: if the shell is tough and bitter it’s best to peel the almonds before using them.
I read that green almonds don’t really store well, so I was prepared to say goodbye to a part of the big box I’d bought. I did my best still, and stored my stash washed, dried and loosely wrapped in ever so slightly damp kitchen towel. This bundle was placed in a plastic container with its lid left open in one corner. Stored like this in the fridge, the green almonds kept well over 2 weeks! And in that time I managed to eat the whole big box.
green almond risotto
My recipe today is a vegan risotto made with green almonds and asparagus. The green almonds add in a good dose of fresh sourness, which is balanced by a creamy white almond and Amontillado puree. The idea for this recipe is very loosely based on white gazpacho aka ajo blanco!
I totally understand that green almond is an ingredient that isn’t readily available everywhere. You’re likely also not reading this blog during the short season of green almonds! So, I’ve come up with a few ideas on how to substitute green almonds in this risotto. I’d chop some wild or cultivated sorrel to the risotto at the very last minute to get a tart flavor. To achieve a similar texture as well as flavor, I’d try adding in some finely cubed green apple, rhubarb or even green tomato!
Green almond and asparagus risotto
- Immersion blender
- 250 g green asparagus
- 1½ dl risotto rice
- 6 dl vegetable stock (You may need a bit more or less)
- 1 dl fresh green almonds (Test that they are still fully edible and haven't gone too hard or bitter!)
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 1 big spring onion
- 75 g vegan butter
- 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar (if using dry sherry)
- 1 dl peeled white almonds
- ½ dl dry or medium dry sherry
- ½ dl water
- Risotto is best served immediately after it's done and on a warmed up plates!
- The amount of liquid needed depends on the rice you use (among other things). If you run out of stock before the risotto is done, heat up some water in the stockpot (with the asparagus ends and all) and use that.
- I usually use Amontillado in this recipe. If you're using dry sherry, add in a little sugar to the risotto to balance the tartness of the green almonds!
- If and when green almonds are not available, you can have a similar tartness in the mix with a handful of sorrel or some quickly blanched finely minced rhubarb. Also finely cubed tart green almond could work, or green tomato!
- Green almonds start to discolor and brown soon after being sliced. To serve your risotto with freshly coloured green almond, slice them at the very last minute!
- Mix half a deciliter of sherry with water and add the almonds. Allow to soak for at least half an hour (or overnight in fridge). Puree the almonds with their soaking liquid until creamy and smooth.
- Wash and snap off the hard parts of the green asparagus, chop up the stalks in bite sized pieces (c. 2-3 cm). Thinly slice the green onions, separating the white and green parts. Peel and thinly slice the garlic, wash the green almonds and remove the hard ends. Slice the almonds.
- Heat the veggie stock and add in the hard ends of asparagus. Allow to bubble for about 5 minutes, then lower the heat a lot just to keep the stock warm under a lid. If you want to serve the risotto later with some asparagus tips, quickly blanch them in the stock and remove before fully cooked!
- Set the oven to warm up to about 50 °C and put the plates you're serving the risotto from inside to warm up.
Making the risotto:
- Heat up the vegan butter in a heavy bottomed pot or deep frying pan. Add in the black pepper and allow to "bloom" for a minute or so to release some peppery aroma into the butter. Add in the garlic and sautee until it's softened and translucent, just about to start browning.
- Add in the risotto rice (+ sugar if using dry sherry). Stir the rice in the pan until each grain is coated with the butter and starts to get translucent in the edges. I like to keep stirring until some of the garlic is getting a bit caramelized, then add in the white parts of the spring onions.
- Start adding in the asparagus infused veggie stock, about half a deciliter at a time. Stir the rice until the liquid is almost fully absorbed, then add in the next half a deciliter of stock.
- Keep adding and absorbing the stock until the rice is getting near to being al dente but is still a bit too much under cooked. Add in the asparagus and green almonds at this point!
- Keep adding more stock until the rice has a tiny bit of bite but is no longer under cooked. Add in the almond cream and the green part of the scallion (reserve a little of both for serving). Check the seasoning, add a pinch of salt or some more black pepper as necessary. A tiny pinch of sugar might also be needed to balance out the tartness of the green almonds!
- Spoon the risotto on the warmed plates. Garnish with finely sliced green onion greens, a spoonful of the almond and sherry cream, some freshly sliced green almonds and asparagus tips.
- Serve the green almond and asparagus risotto immediately!
Read more about green almonds from Spruce Eats! Have you used green almonds? How? I’d love to hear your tips!