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...

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