Caló des Moro, Mallorca (Photo/Flickr-Tommie Hansen CC BY 2.0)
Caló des Moro, Mallorca (Photo/Flickr-Tommie Hansen CC BY 2.0)

Discovering the joy of almonds among the Jews of Mallorca

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Here are a couple of items for a vegetarian Shabbat dinner that bring together some of the flavors I got to experience while traveling through Spain— saffron and paprika, hearty almond-thickened stews and sauces, and the rich, pudding-like hot chocolate sold in cafés.

I served the Vegetable Stew Thickened with Almonds and the Thick Almond Chocolate Pudding below for a Friday night dinner while we were in Mallorca, where we were able to visit a small but fascinating museum detailing the island’s Jewish history.

Ground almonds thicken foods well while adding taste and texture. Almonds are a symbolic and favored food in many Jewish cultures. Grind whole almonds in a blender or food processor until fine but not powdery, or simply use commercial almond meal.

Both of these recipes are parve

Vegetable Stew Thickened with Almonds

Serves 4

2 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
2 tsp. finely chopped garlic
½ tsp. salt
28 oz. strained or puréed tomato (can or box)
2 cups vegetable stock or broth, plus more as needed
1 pinch saffron threads
2 tsp. regular or smoked paprika, divided
¼ or ½ tsp. ground cumin (see directions)
2 cups carrots (cut in ¼-inch slices)
3 cups new, red or Yukon potatoes (cut in ½-inch pieces)
1½ cup red bell pepper (cut in ½-inch pieces)
1 cup ground almonds, plus more as needed
15-oz. can large, white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup string beans (cut in ½-inch sections)
¼ cup apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar, or to taste
¼ cup chopped parsley

Heat oil over medium-high heat in wide pot or deep sauté pan. Sauté onions until lightly browned. Add garlic. Sauté until golden. Stir in salt and tomato purée. Simmer 5 minutes, adjusting heat as needed. Add stock, bring to a simmer. Crumble saffron threads between fingers and add to pot with 1 tsp. paprika. If using regular paprika, add ½ tsp. cumin. If using smoked, add ¼ tsp.

Let simmer for a few minutes then add carrots and potatoes. Keep at simmer and cook until vegetables are cooked about halfway, stirring occasionally. Stir in red pepper and almonds and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken. Stir in white beans and string beans. Continue to simmer, stirring periodically, until all vegetables are cooked through and stew is thickened but still a little soupy. (If too thick, add more stock. If too thin, stir in more ground almonds). Taste and add more salt if needed. Refrigerate if desired. Reheat over low heat adding more stock if needed. Just before serving, stir in vinegar, sprinkle on remaining paprika and top with parsley. Serve warm in bowls or rimmed dishes.

Thick Almond Chocolate Pudding

Serves 4-6

8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tbs. water
3 egg yolks
½ cup ground almonds
½ cup sugar, divided
2 cups unflavored, unsweetened almond milk
½ tsp. cinnamon, optional
Whole or sliced berries, optional

Combine chocolate and water in heavy saucepan. Melt chocolate over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside. Place yolks in bowl with ground almonds and 2 Tbs. sugar. Beat until well combined. Set aside. In a separate pot, heat almond milk to simmer. Slowly add milk to yolks, beating continuously, being careful not to cook or curdle the eggs. Return milk-yolk mixture to pan and bring to simmer. Add cinnamon and remaining sugar and simmer 1 minute. Stir in melted chocolate and simmer, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until beginning to thicken (do not let it boil). Let cool slightly and pour into serving bowl or dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until set. Top with berries.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is Contact her at [email protected].