Guests at a dinner party can usually be divided into two camps: those who cook, and those who do not. It's not exactly difficult to tell who falls into what category. Those of us who cook are easily recognizable, characterized by our eagerness to contribute ("What do you need?! First course?! Dessert?! Is anyone bringing dessert?! Are there vegetarians?!") Some of us cooks even poll other guests to figure out if there are any strong dessert preferences, and keep running lists of dinner party ideas (or is that just me?) The non-cooks at the dinner party, on the other hand, are distinguished by their willingness to bring alcohol, the bread, or dessert, if aforementioned dessert can be purchased at a bakery. There is nothing wrong with this of course -- my own sister falls into this category -- but that being said, I wanted to offer a recipe to the non-cooks, one that is as easy as Banoffee Pie or this Asparagus with Prosciutto. If you're not much of a cook and you find yourself wanting to contribute something a little fancier than the usual loaf of bread, keep reading!
So! This recipe! I tried Marcona almonds at the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid last week that were prepared just like these -- toasted with olive oil, salt, and rosemary, and served warm. They were perfectly crunchy, salty, and addictive, while still being arguably healthy to boot. I tried to replicate them at home with great results, and given the simplicity of the recipe and the short ingredient list, I thought these almonds would be an ideal easy appetizer for non-cooks to contribute to their next dinner. Pair these with some olives, cheese, and a glass of wine, and you have the perfect spread for all of the non-cooks to munch on while the cooks do all the heavy lifiting preparing the main courses in the kitchen. We enjoyed our almonds with Manchego cheese from Spain -- so good! -- so if you can get your hands on some of that, I highly recommend it, if only to round out your Spanish cuisine experience.
A couple of notes: If you're not familiar with Marcona almonds -- one of Spain's specialties -- go out and buy them right away! They are smoother and have a much more delicate flavor than regular almonds, and are also delicious eaten plain. They are not too hard to find in Italy or the U.S, but if you can't find them feel free to substitute regular almonds. Next, you can prepare these either in a pan on the stove or in the oven. If you make them in the oven, they tend to come out a bit dryer and not as oily as when you pan roast them -- and a little oil here is good! -- but both methods work. Be careful not to over toast these as well -- nuts cook very quickly, so keep a close eye on these whatever cooking method you use. Enjoy everyone!
ROSEMARY ROASTED MARCONA ALMONDS
2 cups Marcona almonds
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
If you are using your oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay the almonds out in a single layer on the baking sheet and toss with with the olive oil, rosemary, and a little salt. Add a little more olive oil if you think its necessary (and feel free to add more or less rosemary, if you want -- the quantities above are just suggestions). Roast the almonds until they start to turn slightly darker (watch these carefully!) This shouldn't take long. Let the almonds cool slightly, mix everything around, and serve warm. If you're using the stove, heat up the olive oil and rosemary in a skillet and add the almonds, tossing them to coat in the oil and waiting until they turn slightly darker. Add salt to taste. Serve warm. Makes 2 cups almonds, about enough for 10-12 people.