Almonds are probably one of the most universal foods used in Jewish celebrations. Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi and other Jewish cultures all claim this nut as a symbol of hope, renewal and happiness.
The almond’s connection to marriage is particularly strong. Some traditions are based on there being both bitter almonds (unavailable in the U.S.) and sweet — so they use this relative of the rose and peach as a reflection on the duality of marriage. Others view almonds as symbols of prosperity, fertility and financial security.
Customs at weddings include tossing almonds and coins at Sephardic couples when they leave the chuppah, serving sweet dishes garnished with almonds and offering almond confections, most notably Jordan almonds (first made with jardin almonds).
Here are some treats for engagement parties, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners or day-after brunches.
Almond Tart with Strawberries
1 uncooked tart or pie shell
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbs. flour
1 Tbs. rum or brandy
1 lb. strawberries
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prick 9-inch tart or pie shell all over with fork. Place tart or pie pan on baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes or until just golden. If using a frozen pie crust, follow package instructions. Remove from oven, place on rack and let cool completely.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix the sugar with the almond meal or flour (if you can’t find, grind raw almonds in food processor until fine and powdery). Add the butter and thoroughly blend using fork, pastry blender or fingers until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the egg, flour and rum. Mix well.
Place in pre-baked crust on baking tray. Bake for 20-30 minutes. The filling should be set but still soft, having risen slightly, and the crust should be lightly colored. Cool for 2 minutes on a rack. Wash, drain and remove stems on strawberries. Slice if large. Arrange berries on top of baked tart, pressing slightly into the filling. Let cool. If using a removable bottom tart pan, remove outer ring before serving.
Anya’s Luxe Party Mix with Almonds
Makes about 2 cups
4 oz. dark or bittersweet chocolate chopped into
1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch chunks.
3⁄4 cup dried pitted cherries or dried cranberries
1 cup (shelled) whole roasted almonds
1⁄4 tsp. canola or extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 tsp. (or to taste) finely ground sea salt
Combine chocolate, dried fruit and almonds, drizzle the oil over the mix and toss well. Sprinkle in salt and toss again. Serve in a bowl or small individual dishes.
Almond Stuffed Dates
16 large Medjool dates (about 12 oz.)
1⁄3 cup almond paste
8 whole almonds, raw (shelled)
Cut a slit into the long side of the date, making a deep opening nearly from end to end. Remove pit. For each date, take 1 tsp. of almond paste (do not substitute marzipan)â€ˆand roll into an oval. Press inside date opening. Gently squeeze sides of date. Slice each almond in half, then press onto top of almond paste filling. Refrigerate until 20 minutes before serving. If desired, roll in sugar to lightly coat just before serving.
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.