Friday, May 25, 2012

Nutty Approach to the Heat

Summery weather here in Buffland has me looking for more quick, easy raw dishes. Being hunched over the stove on an 80 degree day is not to my taste; and I'm too scattered in the mornings, too busy searching out a luscious breeze, to use the crockpot much yet.

Besides, raw food is full of water, and life; it's hydrating, and energizing, and cooling, all at once. And the sheer bulk of uncooked vegetables makes them filling. That's what I'm wanting now, and that's why I find myself using raw nut 'meat' for many creations.

 (Maybe we should even try to get beyond that description, and call it a filling, but that seems vague and easy to misunderstand. Ah, well, I'll leave the label issue for another day).

 If I just begin by soaking some almonds, cashews or walnuts for a while in the afternoon, I'm good to go come dinner prep-time. You can soak them for as little as an hour before use, to make them more easily digestible and blendable with flavorings, but if you have the presence of mind, start them at lunchtime and drain and refrigerate a few hours later. Catch the drained soaking water to use as a vitamin treat for your houseplants or garden.

 After draining, grind half the nuts fine, and half a little chunkier, for texture and chew factor,
(I use about 1 1/2 C for two people, but use more if you like-- leftovers keep well in the fridge for days), and then add your flavorings, tastings as you go-- a few drops of extra virgin olive oil, or sesame or walnut or basil oil-- a minced clove of garlic, and then seasonings appropriate to your dish, plus a grinding of sea salt. Note-- before adding the oil, the mixture should hold together well and not be too goopy and wet-- if it is, scoop it out to a bowl and grind a handful or so of unsoaked nuts fine, add to the original mixture and let it soak up the extra moisture. Then proceed with adding your spices as usual.

If you're not sure what you'll creating, add a simple herb, like dill or thyme, or fennel seed, that can blend well with many cuisines. In any case, set the nutmeat aside in the fridge, if you can, for a half hour, to firm up a bit, and let it pick up the taste of the seasonings.

 We like to have raw taco nutmeat salad, piling small mounds of cumin & chili-scented nutmeat around a bed of shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage or carrot, with sliced zukes or cukes, peppers of course, jicama, onion if we want, orange or apple bits, corn sliced off the cob, maybe some guacamole, all topped with chunked raw salsa or coriander for juiciness.

 Don't be contained by conventional ideas of taco ingredients either-- for one thing, our US version of tacos is hardly authentic; for another, it's really the seasonings and the combo of creamy/crunchy that make it anyhow. I often throw some slivered broccoli into both cooked and uncooked burrito mixtures, and the addition works. Don't even be hard-nosed about using all raw, here-- run hot water over frozen corn to thaw, squeeze out the moisture, and add to your salad. A sprtiz of lime will freshen the corn flavor, of you have some on hand.

 You could use sesame oil instead, and make raw pad thai, using uncooked vegetables, and some soaked glass noodles to fill in your favorite recipe. The nut meat can be formed into small balls or coins, or just crumbled, and you won't need to add crushed peanuts for nuttiness, unless you want to!

 Using minced onion, dried oregano and savory in the nut mix makes a good flavor base for mini-sliders-- finely chopped pickle or a spoonful of relish added works, too. Form the tiny burgers right after grinding and seasoning the nut mixture, then do the half hour chilling. Serve on buns or green salad with your usual toppings, or eat them on top of a pile of coleslaw or a bed of sliced mushrooms dressed with raw shoyu or a viniagrette.  Some crudite or fresh fruit on the side makes a meal.

 The same flavors of oregano and onion, plus dill and/or mint, turn your nut meat into a souvlaki filling for pita or to top a salad with-- use the nut meat in place of feta if you're trying, as I am, to use less cheese. Make a traditional salad of chunked tomato, peppers, cucumbers, and olives; or put that all onto spinach or lettuce and add croutons, for a great meal. Olive oil and red wine vinegar make the perfect, simple dressing, while lemon juice and parsley dress it up and add authenticity.

 These are a few of my regular raw nut dinner standbys-- but I'd love to hear your ideas. Enjoy!

  Peace, Mari


  1. Mari, Try this 1 ingredient dessert:

  2. Nutmeat is a new one on me - but I'll be trying this out especially for my vegetarian daughter.

    1. I hope she enjoys it, Sally--- the great thing about nutmeat is, you can season it to fit any cuisine.