Archives for category: Nuts

Last time there was a threatening storm in this region I threw a paella party with my friend Amy. This time, I was in Boston as part of a small team of cooks catering my dear friend Melony’s dinner party in Jamaica Plain (the Brooklyn of Boston). Paella for Irene. Middle Eastern Vegan for Sandy. I made it back to NYC yesterday just before the subways shut down.

I decided a while back that, for the party, I’d make hummus and ful served with dukkha and the tomatoes I canned in September. Ful is broad beans, or dried fava beans, mashed into a kind of paste with garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. I turned to Yotam Ottolenghi for both the hummus and ful recipes and sort of winged it for the dukkha. Dukkha, by the way, is a staple of Egyptian street food—a finely (or coarsely, depending on preference) ground mixture of spices, nuts, and sesame seeds, traditionally served with pita that’s been dipped in olive oil before coated in the spice mixture. I’ve never heard of it served with hummus or ful but I couldn’t imagine this being a bad thing. I love Ottolenghi’s hummus and ful recipes — you cook both beans, separately, until they’re a disintegrated mush that makes for the creamiest spreads you’ve had. It requires lots of hand-squeezed lemon juice.

Here is the very non-New York kitchen I got to cook in this weekend, in JP…

I needed pita. I had enough to tend to in the thirty-six hours I was in Boston that making pita from scratch didn’t make the list. I asked Melony where we might get the freshest, tastiest pita and a friend steered us toward Sofra, a Middle Eastern bakery and cafe in the Mt. Auburn section of western Cambridge. I lived in Cambridge for a hot minute some years ago but had never heard of the place. Although I was somewhat familiar with its sister restaurant, Oleana, and Siena Farms, where they grow produce for both locations. It was a twenty-five minute car ride from JP to Sofra Saturday afternoon and all I can say is: dukkha donuts. That, and: go. Run. Get thee to Sofra! One thing—you can’t take the T there. Which, if you’re a local, is probably a bonus—helps keep the masses (and tourists) at bay.

I was enthralled with this place. I considered buying their own dukkah mixture but had brought all the spices and nuts with me from Brooklyn to make my own. So I walked around flustered for ten minutes unable to decide what to order. I settled on the aforementioned dukkha donut (last bite below), and split a rolled flatbread with spinach falafel and beet tzatziki with Melony. But a highlight might have been the espresso-sized shot of tahini hot chocolate: Sofra’s signature drink. And the pita, made to order, did not disappoint (also below).

The party was a grand success. It felt like a wedding—there were speeches, toasts, a lot of love in the room, and an impressive spread of both savory eats and sweet treats. I won’t bother to retype Ottolenghi’s recipe for hummus and ful, which you can find here. I barely tweaked it—other than multiplying proportions by four, in order to serve thirty people—you can’t go wrong following this recipe to a t. But I do want to share my recipe for dukkha, below. And a shout out to my step-mother for giving me the initial inspiration after tasting a batch she had made a couple months ago.

And last, but not least, I made what has become my party staple: Union Square Cafe bar nuts. Warm, salty toasted nuts tossed with rosemary, cayenne, salt, and a hint of brown sugar. These are best served warm to guests right as they’re arriving, a little hungry, with a fresh drink in hand.

Dukkha

1 c assorted, unsalted, raw mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, peanuts)
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/4 c cumin seeds
1/4 c coriander seeds
2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp fenugreek
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp paprika

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet and let cool. Place the sesame, cumin, coriander, cumin, and fennel seeds on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 5 minutes. Let cool. Then combine all the ingredients—nuts, seeds, spices, salt—in a food processor and blend to desired consistency.

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

1 1/4 lb mixed, unsalted nuts
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp dark brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts onto a baking sheet and toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. In a large bowl combine the rosemary, cayenne, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Toss the toasted nuts with the spiced butter and serve warm.

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So I was at my happy place yesterday afternoon (the PSFC, which you should know by now is the Park Slope Food Cult), slicing a wheel of Humboldt Fog, bantering with my fellow workers about topics ranging from: if the quality of red meat continues to improve with grass-fed beef and small farmers, will overall meat consumption rise? How to make french toast with tofu instead of bread (tell ya later). And using Tuesday’s general meeting on the Israeli boycott as a venue for one’s performance art. In other words, we were a parody of ourselves, what Samantha Bee called “a diverse group of NPR listeners.” (If you haven’t seen the Daily Show clip on the co-op, click here.)

My little crew of Week-A Friday food processing workers is a delightful bunch of folks including the NYC Bikram Yoga champion; a journalist exposing a cover-up at Fukushima; an event planner organizing a 1,500-person NYC Easter egg hunt next weekend; a midwife; writing professor; and metal-worker jewelry designer. We come together once every four weeks to wrap cheese, package dried mango, and debate things like the Pfizer birth control recall and the best new burger joint in the Slope, for precisely 2 hours and 45 minutes.

We started talking about almond milk and one woman mentioned making her own. I’ve been wanting to try this since I go through about a quart a week and, well, generally prefer making to buying. She told me her method, I committed it to memory, and after our shift I bought about one pound of raw, unsalted almonds, the only ingredient you really need. This is the easiest thing I’ve made for this blog yet (except maybe for one of my first posts, last April, on Vermont Iced Coffee.)

The benefits of homemade almond milk are more about flavor than cost effectiveness. In fact it may even cost more to make it yourself, even when buying from the co-op’s bulk bins, but not much. The price I paid was $4.21 per pound (for organic), and you need about 1 pound of almonds to yield one quart of almond milk, whereas buying a pre-made quart is usually $2 to $3. But the flavor is incomparable. This homemade stuff is rich, creamy, not watery, with a very distinct almond flavor. Buy your almonds from a place with high turnover. Nuts go rancid rather quickly; they should be as fresh as possible, I wouldn’t really bother with stale almonds. The resulting flavor is so good, and texture so smooth, I will definitely finish this quart before next week.

One more thing, in order to do this, you need a powerful blender, preferably one with at least 1,000 watts of power. A VitaMix is ideal, although expensive I know (but such a good investment); I use the Ninja blender I got a few months ago, which makes amazing green smoothies and blends everything from ice to vegetables in seconds.

You can adjust the amount of water in the recipe below depending on how thick you’d like the results. These proportions will give you a creamy-ish milk but not all that thick. Get blending!

Homemade Almond Milk

1 pound (about 3 cups) raw, unsalted almonds
3 cups water (for soaking) plus 2 more cups
a few drops of vanilla extract
tiny pinch of salt (optional)

Place the almonds in a bowl or pot and add the 3 cups of water. Cover with a lid, and let soak for at least 12 hours.

Place the almonds and their soaking liquid in a blender and blend until creamy. Halfway through blending, add the vanilla and about 2 more cups of water, gradually. This will take anywhere between, say, one and two minutes depending on your blender.

Line a large bowl with cheesecloth (or, I used a reusable cloth produce bag) and place the contents of the blender (liquid, almond pulp, and all) into the cheesecloth or bag, over the bowl. Strain the mixture into the bowl, squeezing all the liquid out. You’ll be left with quite a bit of almond pulp – I’m taking suggestions on what to do with this since it seems like a shame to just throw out.

Ode to Milk Thistle Farm – paying tribute by using their old glass bottle to store my almond milk. (I mention here how they sadly went out of business recently.)

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