Sunday, April 25, 2010

Nuts over Nuts, quite simply

The other day I went nuts and got out all of my raw nuts from the fridge and pantry with a plan of attack....

I looooove nuts, eat them daily, mostly raw, and find them to be one of my main sources of healthy fats and protein. My #1 favorite - raw walnuts! I developed this love in Japan as they were the least expensive of the nuts, and only sold raw. I guess I was sort of forced to like them if I wanted to eat nuts; and like them I did. It was a short while (and a few lbs. later) that I finally understood why my Mom would always force my Dad hide his jars of nuts from her. I guess some things really do run in the family! My obsession became strong and can be quite problematic at times. Then I added dark chocolate and raisins and things got dangerous. Simply put...I am NUTS over nuts!

Nuts can be a bit hard on the digestive system, yet tout most of their excellent health benefits when eaten raw. Well, those of you who know me are aware that I am a bit sensitive when it comes to digestion, so perhaps you can imagine how elated I was when I learned of an alternative method: Soaking or sprouting your raw nuts and then dehydrating them to neutralize the natural toxic enzyme inhibitors that affect digestion.

According to one of my favorite cookbooks, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, "nuts contain numerous enzyme inhibitors that can put a strain on the digestive mechanism if consumed in excess. Nuts are easier to digest and their nutrients more readily available, if they are first soaked in salt water overnight, then dried in a warm oven (or dehydrator). This method imitates the Aztec practice of soaking pumpkin or squash seeds in brine and then letting them dry in the sun before eating them whole or grinding them into meal. Salt in the soaking water activates enzymes that neutralize enzyme inhibitors."
So my plan of attack.....soaking my pecans, cashews, hazelnuts and walnuts and slow drying them in my oven. It gives incredible results! The most crispy, crunchy nuts you have tasted, with just a touch of salt, yet still raw, and enzyme "unhibited". Nut lovers - try it, I beg you!

Crispy Pecans (my favorite of the crispy nuts)

4 cups pecan halves
2 tsp sea salt
filtered water

The buttery flavor of pecans is enhanced by soaking and slow oven drying. Mix pecans with salt and filtered water and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. I like to soak mine for 12 or more hours, sometimes changing out the water. Drain in a colander, rinsing well. Spread pecans on a baking sheet and place in a warm oven (between 100-150 degrees, no higher) for 12-24 hours. Turn occasionally until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Variations can be made using the exact same method above to make the following:
  • Crispy Almonds (skinless are easier to digest)
  • Crispy Almond Slivers
  • Crispy Cashews (soak no longer than 6 hours for this one)
  • Crispy Hazelnuts, skinless (I found these needed more time to dehydrate)
  • Crispy Macadamia Nuts
  • Crispy Peanuts
  • Crispy Pine nuts
  • Crispy Walnuts (store in refrigerator as walnuts contain large amounts of triple unsaturated linolenic acid making them more susceptible to rancidity)
  • Crispy Pumpkin Seeds
Stay tuned for a walnut butter recipe...

Homemade Hummus

I started making my own hummus when I lived in Japan and had a major craving... I could not find it anywhere, even in the import stores, so I bought a can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), miraculously found tahini despite being unable to read the label full of Japanese characters, and made my own in my feeble blender. It was heaven!!!

I have since perfected it to my liking and frequently experiment with flavor variations (think sun-dried tomato/basil or curry). These days I buy my own organic chickpeas in the bulk section and cook them myself, but canned garbanzos are great for when you are just starting out or in a pinch. My secret to the creaminess is to peel the skins off of the beans (see picture below). It is quite the tedious task, but is well worth it in the end for that wonderful creamy texture!

Here is the recipe for my basic roasted garlic hummus. I like it tangy and lemon-y. Lately I have been roasting my garlic because although raw garlic has many health benefits, I just couldn't deal with my garlic breath! For a quick & easy roasted garlic, place garlic cloves with skins on in a skillet over medium-heat for about 5 minutes, rotating occasionally until skins are evenly browned. Peel and use.

Roasted Garlic Hummus

1 1/4 cup cooked garbanzo beans
4 small cloves garlic, roasted
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sweet paprika (not necessary but I love paprika!)
a few dashes cayenne pepper
juice of 2 lemons and zest of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp water (or reserved bean broth)**
1 tsp sea salt
ground pepper to taste
a few parsley sprigs
2 Tbsp olive oil

After peeling garbanzos, add all ingredients to food processor except for olive oil. Process until well mixed and a nice creamy texture. With machine running, add 2-3 T olive oil until texture is desired consistency.
**if using a blender, more water may be needed in the beginning to get ingredients to blend well. If you cook your own beans, you can reserve some of the cooking water for the liquid.

Nutritional Nugget: Garbanzo beans are one of the most nutritious of all the legumes, high in calcium, phosphorus and potassium. They have an exceptionally high iron and vitamin C content and contain B complex as well. Like all pulses, they are rich in essential fatty acids. Finally, they are extremely high in vitamin DELICIOUS!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Grilled Kale marinated in Spicy Coconut Milk

So I am always looking for new ways to cook kale. It is a delicious superfood and I love to incorporate it into my meals. I have been receiving a lot of dinosaur kale lately from my local CSA, Dragon Organics. Dinosaur kale is one of the meatier kales. Dark green in color, it's denseness makes it great for grilling or making Krispy Kale (I'll have to post this another time - one of my all time favorites!).

As I was searching through countless kale recipes, I stumbled upon a forum on about this kale marinated in a can of coconut milk with cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and pepper. I have never heard of this before and was instantly enticed, so I just had to try it! I was already planning on grilling turkey burgers sweet potatoes and fennel on the grill that night anyways, so the kale addition was perfect, and I threw in a bit of swiss chard as well.
Grilled Spicy Coconut Kale

2 bunches of kale and chard, washed and dried well
1 can coconut milk
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp paprika
Juice of 1-2 limes (I like it more limey)
Salt to taste

Remove the stems from the ends of your leaves up until the thickness subsides (they were quite chewy left on) and arrange in a 9x13 pyrex baking pan. Add the coconut milk and spices to a saucepan and warm to incorporate the flavors. Turn off heat, add lime juice. Pour marinade over leaves, turning and spooning over to evenly coat. Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours, or overnight. Grill the marinated leaves a few minutes each side until they start to crisp and the edges brown.
It was tangy and spicy and surprisingly delicious! Add this one to your next barbecue for sure.