One of the things I love most about San Francisco is the year round farmer’s markets. The city is full of them – big markets open on the weekends but small collections of stalls pop up in different neighborhoods throughout the week. They sell fruits and vegetables but also eggs, juices, and snacks. Some sellers pop up over and over at the markets. But one of my favorite treats comes from a market that I don’t visit much anymore.
There’s a market near where I went to law school that has one of the more random assortments of stalls. Sure there’s produce, eggs, and flowers, but there’s also a place to buy fresh fish and another stall offering fresh chickens. It’s downtown and busy with both tourists and locals but amidst the hustle and bustle is a stall that sells only almonds and pistachios in a variety of flavors.
There are herbed varieties and a few sweetened with maple or honey, but the chile lemon almonds are what I went back for. I’d always grab a sample, pretend to make a decision, and then get a half pound. It was an expensive habit and now that I’m not in school anymore, I don’t have much reason to go back. I’m sure you can guess what comes next – I made my own.
Some foods are beloved enough that they’re worth the complicated process of making them every once in a while but this is not one of those foods. It’s almost as simple as making a bowl of popcorn and only slightly more expensive too. Which leaves me free to find a new over-priced farmer’s market obsession. With my current favorite snack in hand, of course.
Chile Lemon Almonds
2 cups raw, unroasted and unsalted, almonds
1 tbs oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less depending on how much spice you like)
Juice of half a lemon
Preheat the oven to 400F. Toss the almonds with the oil and salt and roast them for about 15-20 minutes. Stir them about halfway through to make sure they roast evenly and don’t burn on one side. When they’re lightly browned and smell nutty, take them out and pour the hot almonds into a bowl.
Quickly stir in the paprika, cayenne, and lemon juice (it should sizzle) and let it sit for a few seconds. Then pour the nuts out onto a piece of foil or parchment paper and let them cool for a few hours or until they are room temperature. Warm, the nuts won’t be crisp or crunchy, they’ll be a little soggy in fact. But once they cool the roasted and seasoned almonds will stay crunchy for a few weeks if they’re stored in an airtight container.