One of the things I really like about our new “old” digs are the almonds. We live in a community surrounded by almond trees. There’s even an almond festival and an almond parade and all things almond. Do you have a bottle of almond extract in your pantry? Go get it, open the bottle and take a big whiff. Do you smell that sweetness of the almonds? That’s what it is like to step outside in the spring, when the trees are in bloom.
Sometimes in the spring, when the winds blow just so, it carries little almond flowers everywhere like pedals of almond scented of snow. Sixty years ago, the little piece of land that our home was built on was actually in the middle of an almond orchard. Many of the old trees of the orchard were cut down to make room for the city’s expansion north. I’m not sure what prompted the push for expansion nor what prevented it from continuing. All I know is that we live at the edge of civilization. Less than two miles further north, and it’s all orchards as far as the eye can see. What isn’t producing nut trees is producing fruits. And yes, there’s a Nut and Fruit Festival as well, just a little further east of here.
In the corner of our yard, leaning rather ominously toward the bedroom roof, is an old almond tree. It looked pretty scary when we moved in, leaning over and all dried up with gnarly branches scratching the house. At night the silhouette looks like a haunted hallow of a tree against the moon. We were told the tree had been there for 100 years, one of the few remaining from the original orchard. I’m not sure why it was left to die, but it was. I’ve been told we need to take it down, that the tree will make for excellent firewood or perhaps some wood chips for smoking meats. The tree, it seems, has outlived its usefulness. The first spring in the house, and some of the tree’s twisted branches grew new leaves. But by summer, the leaves were gone and the tree appeared completely dead again. Still, I’ve held out hope. This past winter, we saw a lot of rain. Our old tree put out more leaves. And began to flower. Now we have almonds. Still, I’ve been told the tree needs to come down before it crashes through the bedroom roof. As long as there is life, there is hope – right?
Almond Chicken with Apricot Sauce
2 tablespoon Red Onion, finely minced
1 cup Apricot Jam
3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
4 teaspoons Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon Ground Mustard
6 Chicken Breast, boneless
1/2 cup Almond Slices
1 tablespoon Butter
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Peel and finely dice red onion. Place onion in a shallow bowl. Add Apricot Jam, Soy Sauce, Cider Vinegar and Ground Mustard. Whisk to combine. Measure out 1/2 cup of the mixture, transfer to a serving bowl for later.
Dip chicken breasts in the remaining apricot mixture, turning to coat well.
Arrange the breast in the prepared pan. Sprinkle almond slices over the breast. Melt butter, drizzle over the almond crusted chicken.
Bake, uncovered, in the heated oven for 30 minutes or until meat reaches 170 degrees.
Remove from oven, arrange on a serving platter with reserved apricot sauce. When serving, spoon some of the sauce over the plated chicken.