This is a fast dish, but a long story, going back to ancient Rome. You think that almondine means “made with almonds,” and you are right. But google it, and you’see a different word – amandine. Google that, and it means – surprise! – made with almonds. Scroll down a little, and the Urban Dictionary tells you that it means “She who has to be loved.” It also has this beautiful little tidbit of poetry:
I think I’m falling in love. And not with just an ordinary girl. Not with a real beauty.
Not with a model, a friend, a dream. But with Amandine. (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Amandine)
The name Amandine is a feminine form of the Roman name Amandus, which is derived directly from Latin amanda, “lovable, worthy of love”(www.behindthename.com/name/amanda). What does all this have to do with almonds, you ask? Give me a chance to research some more while you listen to James Taylor sing “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.”
I hope you enjoyed this musical interlude. I am back with a quote from one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, a Nobel Prize Laureate, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His novel Love in the Time of Cholera starts with this poignant phrase:
What do the great writers know that we don’t? What is the connection between almonds and love? Dr. Maryanne Fisher in Psychology Today answers the question: “Our bodies produce a chemical stimulant, phenylethylamine (PEA)…which creates a rush or feeling of euphoria.” According to Dr. Fisher, “foods that increase PEA are apples, avocados, tomatoes, almonds, and cheddar cheese.” So next time you want to bring her flowers, consider getting some fruit instead, and don’t forget almonds! She adds that just the scent of almonds makes women feel more amorous and also improves their heart health. As unbelievable as it is, Gabriel Garcia Marquez knew it years before it was confirmed by scientists!
To make this delicious fish dish that absolutely “has to be loved,” we need string beans, lots of fresh cilantro, garlic – that’s another traditional aphrodisiac! – and, of course, almonds.
I prefer to crush almonds in a food processor together with garlic, to release more natural oils, as well as – you guessed it! – the scent. Sear them together on a very hot, lightly misted with oil deep frying pan.
Can you feel euphoria coming? Are you falling in love already? Good, now you can add your string beans. Keep stirring until string beans are softer but still crunchy. This is almost good on its own, but I promised fish, so…
… here it is, two fresh filets of tulapia, cut into three pieces each. Add it to the lovely mess in the frying pan and get your seasoning ready.
I use basic salt and pepper, lemon juice, and allspice. Oh, and the secret ingredient…
… a splash of dry white wine, preferably the same wine you are planning to serve with this dish. Add some roughly chopped cilantro, stir some more, and the moment your fish starts flaking, it’s ready.
Garnish with a few slices of lemon and some cilantro sprigs. Do you realize you just made a truly exciting dinner in about ten minutes? Now pour a glass of that chilled Chardonnay and enjoy a great operatic tenor Jan Peerce singing an old Yiddish lullaby “Rozhinkes mit Mandlen” – raisins and almonds, for a sweet year full of love!
- 2 filets of tulapia or any firm white fish
- 1 pound fresh or fresh frozen string beans
- 1/2 cup raw almonds
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves
- A large handful of cilantro, torn or roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 tablespoon or dry white wine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lemon slices to garnish
- Pulse almonds with garlic in food processor. Sear in very hot deep frying pan lightly misted with oil.
- Add string beans. Cook covered for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
- Cut fish filets into 3 pieces each. Add to string beans.
- Add lemon juice and allspice, season with salt and pepper. Add wine and cilantro. Leave some cilantro for garnish. Stir together making sure fish is under the beans.
- Cook covered for 5 – 7 minutes until fish flakes.
- Plate and serve garnished with lemon slices and cilantro sprigs.