Go nuts with the holiday theme

Nothing says Tu Bishvat like a blossoming almond tree.

almond (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Name something associated with Tu Bishvat. Here's a hint: Many are grown in the US, Spain, Syria, Italy, Iran and Morocco. They can be made into flour for low-carbohydrate diets and are gluten-free. They are rich in monounsaturated fat, which is responsible for lowering LDL cholesterol. They are mentioned nine times in the Bible, beginning with the Book of Genesis. The answer is the almond - shaked in Hebrew - one of only two nuts mentioned in the Bible and among the earliest cultivated foods. (The word actually means a "wakeful hastening," referring to the fact that it blossoms so early.) The nine almond mentions in the Bible begin with Genesis 30:37, after Laban and Jacob are negotiating over sheep: "Jacob took him rods of fresh poplar and of the almond and of the plane tree." A little further on, in Genesis 43:11, Israel says to his sons to take the fruit of the land to Egypt, "a little balm and a little honey, spicery and ladanum, nuts and almonds." (Ladanum is a shrub or gum resin.) In Exodus 25:33, Moses is given directions from God to make the candlestick - "three cups made like almond blossoms in one branch." This is repeated in Exodus 25:34: "and in the candlestick four cups made like almond blossoms." Again, later on, in Exodus 37:19 describing the candlesticks of pure gold, "three cups made like almond blossoms in one branch"; the next verse, Exodus 37:20 repeats, "And in the candlestick were four cups like almond blossoms." In Numbers 17:23, when God is instructing Moses to make rods for the tent of meeting, "Moses went into the tent of the testimony; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and put forth buds and bloomed blossoms and bore ripe almonds." In Jeremiah 1:11, Jeremiah responds to a question from God: "And I said: 'I see a rod of an almond tree.'" Finally, in Ecclesiastes 12:5 describing the death of men, "And the almond tree shall blossom..." Celebrate Tu Bishvat with these almond recipes. ALMOND COOKIES Makes about 60 cookies 4 23⁄4 cups flour 4 1 cup sugar 4 1⁄2 tsp. salt 4 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda 4 1 cup butter or margarine 4 2 eggs 4 1 tsp. almond extract 4 6 Tbsp. whole almonds Preheat oven to 160ºC. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a bowl. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture resembles meal. Add eggs and almond extract. Shape into 21⁄2-cm. balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Place an almond atop each cookie and press down to flatten. Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes. ALMOND CAKE 4 1 cup flour 4 1⁄2 tsp. baking soda 4 1⁄4 cup butter or margarine 4 1 cup sugar 4 1 tsp. almond extract 4 1⁄4 tsp. salt 4 2 eggs 4 1⁄2 cup milk or yogurt or parve whipping cream 4 2 Tbsp. sliced or finely chopped almonds Preheat oven to 175ºC. Grease a cake pan or square pan. Combine flour and baking soda in one bowl. In a second bowl, beat or cream margarine, sugar, almond extract, salt and eggs. Alternately stir in liquid and flour mixture. Blend well. Pour batter into greased cake pan. Sprinkle nuts on top. Bake in preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool, then cut into wedges or squares. DIABETIC ALMOND COOKIES Makes about 72 cookies 4 2⁄3 cup margarine 4 1⁄4 cup diabetic white sugar 4 1⁄4 cup diabetic brown sugar 4 Pinch salt 4 2 tsp. almond extract 4 2 egg whites 4 2 cups flour 4 2 tsp. baking powder 4 1⁄4 cup ground almonds 4 36 whole almonds, split in half Preheat oven to 175ºC. In a bowl, cream together margarine and sugars. Add salt and almond extract. Whisk egg whites in another bowl until frothy. Add half to the creamed mixture and save the rest. Combine flour and baking powder then stir into creamed mixture. Stir in ground almonds. Form dough into 72 small balls. Place 5 centimeters apart on nonstick cookie sheets. Press half an almond onto each cookie. Combine 4 teaspoons water with remaining egg white. Brush on top of cookies. Bake in preheated oven 15 minutes or until golden.