In this relatively easy recipe from Alinea, green almonds are embedded in cucumber gelée and topped with sweet, spicy, sour, and salty elements. The crisp almonds, soft jelly, and four contrasting ingredients fully engage the senses and palate like nothing else.
Green almonds have an edible crunchy shell with a pronounced sourness, so add a pinch of salt and you can make a light snack out of it. It has a fuzzy exterior that feels and looks like the surface of a tennis ball. Try your luck finding green almonds in Middle Eastern groceries around springtime.
We’ll need the young almonds found within. The nuts, at this point in its prepubescent life, will have a thin outer layer encapsulating a semi-liquid center. It has a grassy taste and refreshing quality to it.
I made the following substitutions for the sweet, spicy, sour, and salty elements (this should give you an idea of how confused eclectic my pantry is):
- Sweet: Thai coconut sugar instead of crushed sugar cubes
- Spicy: Basque espelette pepper instead of cayenne pepper
- Sour: Indian amchur powder (from unripe mangoes) instead of citric acid
- Salty: Filipino rock salt instead of Bali sea salt
Green Almonds in Cucumber Gelée
Sweet, Hot, Sour, Salt
makes 8 small bites
Green almond cross section.
5 gelatin sheets
2 English cucumbers, quartered lengthwise and seeded
8 grams / 0.3 oz granulated sugar
5 grams / 0.2 oz kosher salt
8 green almonds, shelled
- I used 2 packets of Knox powdered gelatin (14 grams / 0.5 oz) instead of the gelatin sheets.
- To shell the green almonds, use a paring knife. Cut a shallow slit on the seam that runs down the length of the almonds. The shell can be easily pried open with your fingertips.
- Line a 9- x 13-inch pan with plastic wrap. Reduce the area of the pan to 9 x 4 inches by lifting up one end of the plastic wrap. Place some sort of straight-edged object adjacent to the plastic wrap to make a barrier (I used an 8-inch springform cake pan lined with plastic wrap).
- Juice the cucumbers in a juicer and strain using a fine mesh strainer (I used a blender and strained the resulting puree several times). Weigh 70 grams / 1.8 oz of juice and reserve the rest in a small bowl.
- If using the gelatin sheets, immerse in iced water for about 5 minutes or until pliable. Squeeze excess water out of the sheets. Heat the measure of cucumber juice over the lowest heat setting and whisk in the gelatin sheets until fully dissolved.
If using the powdered gelatin, add to the measure of cucumber juice and stir until moistened to bloom. Heat the bloomed gelatin over low heat until liquefied.
- Whisk the sugar, salt, and gelatin into the reserved cucumber juice until fully dissolved. Pour into the container lined with plastic wrap.
- Evenly set the shelled green almonds in the gelatin.
- Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until the gelatin is completely set.
- Cut the cucumber gelée into 1-inch squares, centering the almonds (I used a 1.25-inch round cookie cutter). Chill until ready to serve.
To Assemble and Serve:
Gather the sweet, spicy, sour and salty elements of your choice. See the list above for the original ingredients. Add a pinch of the ingredients to each of the opposing corners and serve immediately.