For the best

I must be very delicious, because my dissertation is currently eating me alive. The good news is that it’s not so bad in the belly of this beast. The only trouble with all of this dissertating is that it has kept me from telling you about this year’s Chanukah party, and a certain lemon-scented newcomer to the dessert table. Give me a week to plow through some deadlines, and I’ll be back with all of the details. Until then, how about a handful of nuts to tide you over?

It’s probably for the best. I’m guessing that the last thing you need this weekend is another cookie recipe to add to your list. Will you pelt me with shortbread if I suggest that we forget about the cookie tin for today? I hope not. Let’s forget about the cookie tin for today. I’d like to shift our attention to the jar, instead. Or maybe to a pretty white dish, the kind that more or less lives on your table this time of year, filled with the overflow from your latest batch of toffee, or chocolate, or the spiced almonds we’re about to discuss. It’s the bowl that’s filled in the previous sentence, by the way, not the year, but I’m typing too quickly this morning to worry about questionably placed modifiers. Anyway, a year filled with chocolate and nuts doesn’t sound half bad.

I have a lot of nice things to say about these almonds. Here’s the biggie: They’re more nut than candy, more spiced than sugared. They’re sweet, yes, but there’s no thick crust of sugar to distract you from the fact that there’s a nut under there. I appreciate that. Sweet is nice, but I’m much more interested in the cinnamon, citrus, coriander, and cloves on board.

Packed in mason jars, they make a lovely gift. But you hardly need me to tell you that this time of year.

Off to the library. See you next week.

Moroccan Almonds
Adapted from First Impressions, 175 Memorable Appetizers and First Courses by Betty Rosbottom

Amy made these nuts for Thanksgiving this year, and when I asked her for the recipe, she directed me to this book from her collection. The title of the book and the curlicue writing on the cover made me snicker at first, but then I popped another couple of Amy’s almonds. That shut me right up. The book is by a woman named Betty Rosbottom. Betty Rosbottom! Now that is the name of someone I’d like to tell me how to cook. And how to garden, and sew and, judging from the photograph on the inside flap of the book cover, how to do the early-nineties hairspray thing and somehow pull it off. I want my name to be Betty Rosbottom. Ms. Robottom, according to the author blurb, “divides her time between Columbus and Amherst, Massachusetts.” Being a part-time Ohioan and a part-time Massachussett (-ette? Massachusite? Massachusian?) myself, I like that, too.

I struggled with what to call this recipe. These almonds didn’t exactly scream “Morocco!” to me, despite having been inspired by “Moroccan cuisine, known for its enticing combinations of both sweet and savory flavors.” I think of them more as “Sweet and Savory Spiced Almonds,” or “Spiced Almonds with Citrus,” but these options are so clumsy that I decided to stick with the original name.

¼ c. sugar (I might try even a little less next time)
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 tsps cinnamon
1 egg white
1 ½ tsps grated orange zest
2 c. (about 8 ounces) whole, unblanched almonds

Cooking spray or vegetable oil for the pan.

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil, and spray or brush lightly with vegetable oil.

Combine the sugar and spices in a small bowl, and stir. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the spices to the egg, and whisk again. Stir in the orange zest, then the almonds, and mix until the nuts are well-coated.

Pour the nuts onto the prepared baking pan and spread them into a single layer. Bake for 40 minutes. Every 10 minutes or so, give the baking pan a shake, and push the nuts around with a heat-safe spatula. Remove the nuts from the oven, and let them cool to room temperature on the baking pan.

The nuts will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.


Danielle said...

I'm happy to see you back! You popped into my reader just as I was signing out but I had to stop by. I hope your dissertation work is treating you well after all this time you're pouring into it. These nuts look delicious and I think I'm going to make a batch for our twelve hour (yes, twelve hour) drive to Canada on Sunday. It will be a long day and good treats will certainly help.

Hope you are well!

Lisa said...

Oh, Jess. I am laughing out loud. Sometimes I think I'd like to be Betty Rosbottom too. And I know just the bowl you're talking about. Ours is filled with Polish chocolates right now, but these almonds would be perfect for it once they're gone.

Rachel said...

The nuts sound delicious. The things you appreciate in them are things I know I'd love (less sweet, more nut and spice).
Trudging through a dissertation may not be the most enjoyable way to spend the holidays but at least you have nuts to munch on!

Jess said...

So glad you stopped by, Danielle. Twelve hours! And with two tiny people, no less. You are a brave woman. I hope that these nuts will help pass the time. Happy trails.

Hi, Miss Lisa. Polish chocolates? I'll trade you for some almonds.

I'm with you, Rachel. There's enough that's purely sweet going around this time of year. I'm lucky to be still very much in love with my dissertation topic, so fortunately all of this work hasn't been too bad. Though there are definitely times when I'd like to toss my laptop and my huge stack of crumbly old books out the window. Reaching for a handful of nuts, as you suggest, is probably the more responsible thing to do.

nina said...

hi there miss jess! sorry i haven't popped in to say hi here for awhile. i've been busy myself lots to do but always read your posts. so glad you still love your topic - half the battle in my book :)! hope you have a comfortable computer chair for dissertating (i love that you used that -- i thought i was the only nerd who made it a verb!). hang in there with it, i'm sure you see the light at the end of the academic tunnel.

i might try these with my egg replacer powder - they sound delish! thinking good thoughts for you as you head to and fro the library -- hang in there! xo nina :)

Maggie said...

Good luck with it all!

jacqui | happyjackeats said...

OK, I just need to know one thing: Did you love diagramming sentences in the 6th grade? Because I did. Your comment about modifiers made me pause, re-read that sentence, then chuckle and have a creepy urge to curl up with a grammar text book.

Happy dissertating, and thanks for the snack!

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said...

I just read your original dissertation post - and having been through it all myself you have NAILED those food - to - thesis analogies! Good luck :)

Nithya said...

These look lovely. I'm a big believer in combining sweet and savoury myself, it's like a whole new dimension of flavours, isn't it?
Happy dissertating Jess!

Imwaytoobusy said...

Fantastic "non-cookie" recipe! :) These sound amazing!

molly said...

I'm pretty sure that's the best opening sentence I've read all year.

Although dissertating is what still has me in a fit of giggles.

Back to the belly with you!

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said...

PS Jess - I've highlighted your blog as my Blog of the Week at Easy Peasy Organic ... you do lovely work :) xx

Jess said...

Good morning, all! I hope you're having great weekends, all around.

Please, no need to apologize, dear Nina. It means a lot that you take the time to stop in and read even when things get busy. Funny you should mention the chair. Just last week I switched to one of those fancy ones that's all mesh-y and supportive. My back is already thanking me.

About egg replacement powder: Have you had much luck with it? I've tried working with it when I bake for Eli's vegan brother, and I've been underwhelmed. If the point of the egg in the recipe is to make things stick together (like in these cookies), then I find that flax seed "eggs" work best. Plus, they add a nice flavor that complements nut-based things. I haven't tried it, but I think flax "eggs" would work well here. The recipe:

Put 2 parts warm water to 1 part flax seeds into a blender, and let sit for 15 minutes. Then blend until gelatinous and the flax seeds are no longer visible.

You might need to strain out a few stray, un-blended seeds.

1 Tbsp flax "eggs" = 1 egg white

My brother-in-law gave me the recipe, and I'm pretty sure that it came from The Candle Cafe Cookbook.

Thanks, Maggie!

Jacqui - Ha! Yes, obviously.

It's nice to hear from someone who's made it through to the other side. And thank you so much for the mention on your lovely blog, Amanda! I truly appreciate it.

Thanks, Nithya. And yes, I definitely need more sweet and savory in my life.

Thank you, Imwaytoobusy.

Hi, Molly. Back to the belly, indeed. I've been at it already for a couple of hours this morning. Speaking of bellies, I think it might be time for a breakfast break...

Melissa said...

Great stuff here. A happy holiday season to you and your readers!

linda said...

thank you for the new-to-me name in the culinary world!

curious about betty r…i goggled & found that she leads culinary tours through italy & france…now wouldn't that be fabulous!
& she has a blog (amongst her many talents):


now off to make the moroccan almonds!

& as melissa commented…yes, a joyous holiday season to all!

& jess, thank you for all your lovely posts & sharing with your virtual family…wishing you all the very best!

LimeCake said...

Such delicious flavours! I don't know about moroccan, but cinnamon and cloves seem like christmas to me.

redmenace said...

Oh dear. Dissertations. I remember grad school and the guilt and pain associated with it. I'm sorry you are in the thick of it. I hope you can enjoy the holidays a little bit too. Sounds like you deserve it. Love the almonds. Thank you!

koshercamembert said...

Yum! I've been thinking about cocoa and spice covered almonds a lot lately - maybe cayenne? You've inspired me!

Stephanie said...

You had me at "sweet and savory spiced..."

I may not make these today (or even in the next week) since I am already quite overwhelmed with cooking several large dinners as it stands, but I will make these. Someday soon.

I also agree with Jacqui above -- the line about the modifiers made me laugh, too. I still diagram sentences every now and then, when they get too complicated.

Happy writing!

Maddie said...

Jess, I'm rooting for you on the dissertation front! I remember how exhausted I was during finals week in college, but this must be at least eighteen times as tiring. At least you have delicious snacks to help keep you going! And coffee, I imagine...lots of coffee. :)