26
Mar

green-almonds-military-police-copy

It’s green almonds season again. In full flow now but they were really expensive at the beginning — I paid  $7 for 200 g about a month ago in Beirut which is a large amount of money for so little. Fortunately, when I went to Damascus a couple of weeks later, they were more plentiful and cheaper of course, and a lot larger too.

They sell two types there, very large and medium large and normally sprinkled water to make them look more appetizing except that the hygiene of the water is often questionable. As I walked around the modern part of the city, I chanced upon a street vendor who not only sold green almonds but also lupin seeds which I hadn’t seen on the street for a while. But the poor guy was quickly stopped by two military police who asked to see his license, both to check whether he had the right to be where he was and whether he was allowed to sell both almonds and lupin seeds — they are very strict there unlike Lebanon where anything goes, well almost.

green almonds & lupin seeds copy

Turned out he didn’t have a license to sell almonds and he couldn’t convince them to let him get away with it. As I watched the scene, I thought of buying his stock but I couldn’t have eaten so many however much I love munching on them dipped in salt. And the whole discussion between him and them was taking too long, so, I left without finding out what the outcome was. I guess he must have offloaded the almonds onto one of the nearby greengrocers.

lupin seeds copy

As for the lupin seeds (known as tormus in Arabic), they are an ancient pulse that has been part of the Mediterranean diet from as far back as the third century BC. The seeds need to be soaked for a few days before they become edible. Start by soaking the dried pulses in plenty of fresh water (8 cups water for 1 1/2 cups lupin seeds) for 24 hours then blanch them for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse and put to soak again in cold water for a week. During that time, change the water 3-4 times every day. Then drain the seeds and chill before serving salted as a snack or part of a mezze. The soaked seeds, as you can see from the picture above, are bright yellow, round and flat with a thick opaque skin which you need to remove before eating. In Israel they sell them on the street in newspaper cones topped with a mixture of salt, ground cumin and chopped parsley. Sometimes you will be given a lemon wedge to squeeze over the seeds. I guess my Damascus vendor must have sold them in paper cups, as I didn’t see any newspaper cones on his cart.

They make a very nourishing and healthy snack and you can buy them dried or pre-soaked in Middle Eastern stores. I have also seen them at the Pasta Shop in Rockridge, California and who knows, they may even have them at Wholefoods.


There is 19 comments on this post


  • This is the kind of thing that makes me homesick the most, the quirky seasonal foods that are so typical and that make me so nostalgic. Even if one does manage to find them here, not only are they never as good having traveled so far but it is never the same as stopping the car on the side of the road to buy some from a street vendor and listening to my mother demanding that he give her his best stock… Thanks for the memories Anissa 🙂


  • you’re welcome mayssam.


  • I have never seen green almonds. Here in BC the only ones we ever see are the dried form and most likely covered in salt.

    On the military presence.
    I recall in Pakistan that when we went into the city to go to a Kentucky Fried Chicken place they had a guard with gun minding the door. A poster on the window next to the door showed that no ammunitions were allowed inside.


  • they are totally delicious. and the military police were perfectly nice. just unyielding. i like your story re armed guard.


  • It’s a pity that nowadays green almonds and lupin seeds are seldom found in Greece.
    Btw, are green almonds used in Lebanese recipes?


  • actually they do (or did) have them at wholefoods..ive seen them in nyc, in tightly vacuum-packed pouches and labeled both as ‘healthy’ and ‘imported from egypt’ …best place to find them is ofcourse the corniche in beirut, adorning the vendor’s carts but also their discarded skins sprinkled all over the pavements and rocks of the sea 🙂


  • mariana: no, they are not used in lebanese recipes


  • rima: how amusing. i thought they may just have them as they grow in california. have never seen them there myself. and you are right about buying them on the corniche.


  • Fun! I did not know about the almond and termos police! Thanks for enlightening me!


  • I once ate a spectacular version of “sarimsak asi” (green garlic stew) at Ciya in Istanbul, made with both garlic shoots & pieces of very young garlic bulbs, chickpeas, little bits of lamb, safflower (hasbir) and yogurt. I was told that there is also a green almond stew, a specialty of Gaziantep, which is made in virtually the same way: with the same chickpeas, just enough meat to flavor, dried safflower, yogurt, but substituting green almonds for the garlic. Green almonds are due to show up in Middle Eastern groceries here in Chicago very soon (they might even be out by now). Can’t wait to try my hand at making that dish.

    Richard (RST)
    Chicago


  • sounds very interesting. let me know when you try it. and everything at ciya is pretty spectacular.


  • As a matter of fact, green almonds arrived in Chicago yesterday. I was told two days ago when they were expected and came in time to see five huge sackloads (each one bigger than my entire torso) being delivered. (For those living in Chicago, this is at Al-Khayam on Kedzie/Lawrence.) The fuzzy little fruits were in superb state, with hardly even a paper-thin shell forming yet to separate the crunchy flesh from the gel-like center. These almonds (from California, I was told) are from a variety that produces a fruit with the most beautiful jade-green color, and far smaller than those in Anissa’s picture above (these are only slightly bigger than the first joint of my thumb.) The owner of the grocery was not in a good mood and kept b-t–ing about how hard they are to keep and how they need to be constantly spritzed with water which might explain what the guy in the above picture is doing.

    I tried them in the ff recipe I found on the internet for sarimsak asi:
    http://www.gaziantep.net/mutfak/sarimsak_as.htm
    substituting green almonds split in half for the sarimsak but essentially keeping the proportions of the other ingredients. It was delicious!

    When green almonds come to market, can spring be far behind? After this, we get the little sour green plums (also a very short season here), then pretty soon, there will be tiny young greens of every sort, and before you know it elderflowers will be in bloom.

    Richard


  • thanks for the link richard. shame it’s in turkish. am assuming you can read it. and are the sour green plums what we know as janarek. love these as well, again dipped in sea salt.


  • wow, you are so inspiring !!!!
    i have one question, how are you so thin and you love to cook!!!!
    do you always do sport or you don’t eat what you cook, please i really nedd to know!


  • i wish i were thin. not the case sadly.


  • The linked recipe assumes familiarity with some of the more intricate techniques of Turkish cookery. So it’s a little useless to provide a line-by-line translation. Instead, I will point out that in her Eastern Mediterranean cookbook, Paula Wolfert has a section on the world of Turkish yogurt-based stews (she calls them yogurt “soups”) where she gives very precise and careful instructions and explains the “why” for the trickier steps.

    Basically, the linked recipe says to take 500g of meat and cook in water till tender. A recipe for a similar “soup” in Wolfert made with potatoes (instead of either young garlic, or green almonds) calls for 5 ounces boneless shoulder of lamb, trimmed of all fat and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. She says to simmer for an hour (skimming off scum, adding salt and so on of course.)

    Wolfert adds dried chickpeas to cook with the meat. I have access to fresh chickpeas from my Indian store and this doesn’t need a whole hour so I added them at the next step: with the green almonds.

    I cooked the chickpeas and halved green almonds in the meat broth about 15 minutes.

    Now comes the tricky part. You take “1 kg. süzülmü? yo?urt” (drained yogurt/labne//Wolfert calls for “3 cups drained yogurt” which is what I used) and “stabilizes” it by whisking in an egg and a tablespoon of flour. This step keeps the yogurt from breaking but is also the key to a creamy, silky stew. You add a bit of the meat/almond broth to the yogurt to raise its temperature, then pour the yogurt back into the soup to cook for another 15 minutes. Wolfert’s step-by-step explanation is quite elaborate and is nothing like this sketchy account.

    Then you add “a final flourish” of safflower “sizzled” in hot butter (the linked recipe uses sizzling olive oil, and also includes a bit of dried mint).

    Turkish butter is insanely delicious and is drizzled-yikes-abundantly on everything (notably, as the finishing touch on Bursa, or Iskender kebab). This final gesture of drizzling hot butter takes things to a completely different, sublimer level.

    That said, I might try “sizzling” with olive oil instead tomorrow when I make this again-on the theory that good green oil might resonate nicely with the lovely herbaciousness of green almonds.

    (Green almonds are flying off the shelf at Al-Khyam. The five sacks are virtually gone when I went back today. But they have now also shown up at Fresh Farms on Devon as well as Andy’s. The local price is $3.99 a pound.)

    Richard
    Chicago


  • it’s interesting. we also cook with yoghurt and it is not that difficult. you just have to be v patient and careful at the end. the syrians use cornflour i think while the lebanese simply use egg yolk to stabilize the yoghurt and stop it from curdling. the dish paula describes sounds like the turkish version of the arab laban emmoh (cooked in its mother’s milk). i have a recipe for it in my lebanese cookbook but we don’t add chickpeas. these are paired with lamb in fatteh where they are served on a bed of toasted or fried bread and covered with yoghurt. i love fresh chickpeas and eat them as a snack. will have to try them instead of dried. the result must obviously be v different. as for the melted butter and dried mint or aleppo pepper garnish, it is indeed delicious and i love how it sizzles when poured on soup.


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  • thanks. i will check it out.

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