Never have I welcomed autumn so emphatically as this year. A response to an excessively long, hot, sticky summer? A larger desire for change in our life? I’m really not too concerned about the details; only that autumn to me means calm and comfort, and are two things I need a whole lot of at the moment.
Today I have a recipe to share that toes the line between seasons. It’s energizing and light, as you long for in summer + homey and warm, just right for autumn. With only a few ingredients this simple, traditional side is elevated to a beautiful and balanced meal — be it supper, lunch or even breakfast.
Mentions of socca, the savory besan flour flatbread, are lovingly sprinkled about the pages of this blog. Each reference with a footnote from yours truly promising that a recipe post is on the horizon. It’s time I make good.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world. Years of research confirm myriad benefits, particularly for our hearts, brains and span of life.
May is set aside to celebrate the Mediterranean diet, and I see no reason not to adopt these health-promoting — not to mention delicious, sustainable and affordable — eating habits for the remainder of the month and beyond!
What does this style of eating look like?
At its heart the traditional Mediterranean “diet” — as in eating pattern; not restrictive, calorie-counting regimen — is a healthy and balanced way to eat. It’s primarily plant-based, focusing on simplicity, freshness and, whenever possible, foods that are locally grown and produced.
+ Heavy emphasis is placed on a variety of fresh veg and fruits, whole grains, as well as healthy fats, such as those from olive oil, seeds and nuts, olives, and occasionally cheeses or yogurt. Lean proteins, predominantly beans, legumes, fish and shellfish, are also highlighted.
+ Red meat is treated more like a “garnish” than the main event, and sweets are saved for special occasions. Highly processed foods and beverages are taken sparingly, if at all.
+ Water is the main beverage. A glass of wine — if appropriate for age and stage — is common in moderation.
What are the benefits?
In moving toward or fully adopting this style of eating your diet will receive significant bumps in healthy unsaturated and omega-3 fats, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. On the other end, the limitation of high fat meats, sweets and processed items results in far fewer refined starches and sugars, and unhealthy saturated and trans fats.
Eating seasonally and locally not only ensure that you save money, support farmers and promote community economic stability, and contribute to energy conservation and sustainability, but also that your products are the freshest, best-tasting and most nutritionally complete.
It may be that the myriad health benefits are not solely a result of diet. Of equal importance to the foods eaten is the ritual of the mealtime itself. Meals are a time to sit and slow down, savor the flavors, connect and share time with family and friends, rather than eating on the hoof, at a desk or alone at the counter. Simple cooking methods are typically employed, and the concepts of celebration and heritage are cherished. Moderate, regular physical activity is often a necessary part of daily life in these regions, but is routinely done for pleasure as well.
Taken altogether, it’s easy to see how the traditional Mediterranean eating pattern — lifestyle — has earned its acclaim as one of the healthiest in the world.
We know by now that nuts are as virtuous as they are delicious, receiving serious adulation for off-the-charts healthy nutrition profile. They probably show up one way or another in your daily diet, or at least several times per week.
ButI’m willing to bet this rarely, if ever, includes Brazil nuts. Admit it — you forage through the bowl of mixed nuts for the almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios… anything other than the Brazils.
What is it exactly that puts so many of us off? Their giantness? Their mild and sweet taste? Their distinctly smooth texture? Add their wonderfully nourishing properties, and those are some pretty groovy accolades if you ask me.
If you’re still keen to be a nut bowl forager, consider giving Brazils a go with the new favorite in our home: Brazil nut milk. It’s rich. It’s creamy. It’s the new almond milk.
Similar to other nut and seed milks, Brazil nut milk is mild and slightly nutty tasting. It’s also vegetarian/vegan-friendly, gluten-free, sugar-free, soy-free and, naturally, dairy-free. Because you already read my post about, maybe tried and seen for yourself, how easy, inexpensive, customizable, wholesome and tasty, tasty, tasty homemade nut and seed milks can be, I’ll jump right in to the merits of the Brazils themselves.
What’s in it for me?
Brazil nuts are rich in protein and fiber, providing 4 grams and 2 grams per 1-ounce serving (6 to 8 nuts*), respectively. While Brazil nuts contain a fair amount of saturated fat, their proportion of good-for-your-heart poly-unsaturated(omega-3s) and mono-unsaturated fats is much higher. They are also rich in plant sterols and contain no cholesterol. This unique combination of fiber, protein and beneficial fats promotes satiety, making them an excellent weapon in your weight management arsenal, and may also may reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes with improvements to blood pressure and glucose levels.
Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin E, to help fight infections and cell-damaging free radicals, as well as copper, the B vitaminthiamin,zinc and magnesium for healthy bones and muscles, energy and immune health. Magnesium is a mineral most people, women in particular, are deficient in. Ensuring adequate intake can help alleviate symptoms of PMS and insomnia, and headaches.
They are perhaps the richest food source of selenium providing approximately 777% of your daily needs. (No, that’s not a typo.) Selenium is important for DNA synthesis and prevention of cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers; is an antioxidant nutrient, like vitamin E; and promotes thyroid and reproductive health. Studies have shown selenium is essential for a healthy sperm count, improved sperm quality and fertility…
Despite their name Brazil nuts are not predominantly grown in Brazil, but Bolivia, harvested from ridiculously tall trees that help form the Amazon rain forests’ canopy. These tree nuts have their own physics principle as well. You can’t get much cooler than that.
Add into smoothies, pancake and waffle batter or other baking recipes, pour over cereal, splash into iced coffee, hot tea or a creamy cocktail, enjoy straight from the container. Brazil nut milk is the dreamiest one to hit our kitchen yet… and perhaps yours soon as well.
If nothing else, you now have a recipe to use up the lonely passed over nuts at the bottom of the bowl after a dinner party.
Recipe Type: Alternative milk, dairy-free, soy-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, raw
Makes: 3 to 4 cups
1 cup raw brazil nuts
4 cups water, plus more to soak
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp sea salt
Place brazil nuts in a bowl or large measuring cup and cover with water just to cover. Refrigerate uncovered at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
When you're ready to blend, drain and rinse the nuts thoroughly, and dump them into a high-powered blender. Add 2 cups of the water, vanilla and salt. Run the blender at a low setting for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and run until the nuts are blitzed up well. Stop the blender, add another 1 cup of the water, and run on high for another 1 to 2 minutes.
Stop the blender again and check the consistency. At this point, you may want to stop if you like a thicker, richer milk, say for use as a coffee creamer. [If that's the case, move ahead to the next step.] If you like a thinner, more "drinking-friendly" milk, add as much of the final 1 cup water (or more) as you wish until the desired consistency is achieved.
Now it's time to strain. Place a small sieve over a 4-cup measuring cup or large bowl, and line it with a nut milk bag, a jelly bag (which is what I use), a couple layers of fine cheesecloth/kitchen muslin, or even a clean tea towel. [If you use one of the latter two, leave a good amount hanging over the sides.]
Pour the blitzed nut mixture into your lined sieve, and walk away for about 10 minutes to allow the liquid to drain from the solid pulp. [This would be a good time to make a cup of coffee in which to add your fresh milk!]
When the nut pulp looks dry, gather the sides of your bag or cloth to squeeze, wring, and gently coax out all of the remaining liquid. This might take a minute.
Set aside the sieve and pulp (see HGN Notes), and transfer your pure white brazil nut milk into a tightly sealing bottle or jar. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 5 to 7 days. Shake or swirl the container before using, as the mixture will naturally separate upon sitting.
Homemade milks are easy work for high-powered blenders like the Ninja (what we have) or Vitamix. Don't have one? Don't panic! I started out successfully making ours with a basic KitchenAid blender. No difference other than perhaps blending for an extra minute or two.
The recipe is easy to halve or double, depending on your needs and the size of your blender. But don't let it go to waste! If you can't use your milk within the recommended 5 to 7 days storage time, freeze extra in ice cube trays and store in a zipper-top bag or tightly-sealing container in the freezer. This is a great way to add creaminess and nutrition to your smoothies, and to make iced coffee extra cold and flavorful!
Leftover nut pulp can be re-purposed by dehydrating it into "flour" in the oven, or a dehydrator, if you have one. For quicker, simpler use, add the wet pulp to porridge, baked goods, or smoothies for a boost of protein, healthy fat and satiating fiber.
MORE IDEAS + Most store-bought alternative milks made from nuts, seeds, grains or soy are fortified with calcium. To boost the calcium content of your homemade milks, blend in 1 to 2 Tbsp tahini (sesame seed paste). + Give it a protein, iron and antioxidant bump (+ a fun blue hue) with 1 to 2 tsp spirulina powder. I promise it won't make your milk taste like seaweed. + Sweeten your milk: Add 1 to 2 Tbsp honey, maple syrup, agave or coconut sugar; or 2 to 3 fresh dates that soaked for 5 minutes in a bowl of hot water (you could also soak them overnight with the nuts/seeds).