Think that fancy almonds are only from specialty stores? Impress your guests – and yourself. Andrea Tutunjian and Cara Tannenbaum coauthors of In a Nutshell have an easy recipe for you.

Tea-Smoked Almonds

Makes 3 cups
    3 cups (15 ounces) blanched whole almonds
    1 cup long-grain white rice
    Zest of 1 orange, removed in strips with a vegetable peeler, with no pith
    1⁄2 cup packed light brown sugar
    1⁄4 cup loose Earl Grey, China black, or jasmine tea leaves


Place the almonds in a steamer basket that can nestle in a wok, or into a perforated insert that fits snugly into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Line the inside of either with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Put the uncooked rice and the orange zest in the bot-tom of the lined wok or saucepan. Sprinkle the brown sugar and then the tea on top of the rice. This is the mixture that will provide the smoke that will infuse the almonds.

Place the steamer basket or perforated insert into the wok or saucepan above the smok-ing mixture, and cover.

Place the pan over medium heat until the sugar starts to melt and the tea begins to smoke, about 3 minutes. Make sure the fan in your kitchen is on and the pot stays tightly closed at all times, because this process creates a great deal of smoke.

Once the sugar begins to melt, make sure the lid is on tight and smoke the almonds for 5 minutes. A deep, strong, sweet smell of cooking sugar will mix with the wafting tea smoke. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand with the lid closed for another 10 minutes, until the smoke subsides and the pan cools.

Take the lid off the pan and, using oven mitts if necessary, carefully remove the steamer. The almonds will be dark and burnished, with a slight orange hue. Transfer the nuts to a baking sheet. Using a rubber spatula, spread them evenly in a single layer and cool. Smoked nuts can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Stack three at a time, adding approximately 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta and 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts between each flapjack. Top with chopped walnuts and hot maple syrup.


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