Friday, June 21, 2013

Making Almond Milk -- Utterly Easy

Fresh-made almond milk is amazing and incredibly easy to make. It is very customizable and avoids all the thickeners and additives commercial almond milk has. (Although it doesn't have the fortified vitamins or calcium, either.)  I like to pour it in my cereal or drink it plain or flavored with chocolate syrup.  It is a good base for recipes calling for non-dairy milks.  It works okay in coffee if you drink it right away. (It separates out when left sitting, so you'll need to give your hot drink a stir if you linger.)
It lasts for 3-4 days in the refrigerator, just shake before using if it separates out.
This recipe makes a slightly creamy, nutty flavored milk.  Add agave syrup or other sweetener to taste if you'd like afterwards. (I skip that.)  A bit of vanilla or cinnamon would also be nice additions. 

Almond Milk
Makes slightly more than 2 cups
Once your nuts have soaked, this recipe takes longer to describe than do.  (If your tap water doesn't have a nice, clean taste use filtered or bottled water.)
Equipment notes -- You'll need a nut milk bag -- a reusable, closely woven mesh bag available from Whole Foods and other natural foods retailers -- to strain and squeeze the milk through.  If this is not available, line a colander or strainer with several thickness of cheesecloth, leaving enough cloth overlapping the sides that you can gather the ends together, twist it tight and squeeze the milk out.
You'll also need a blender -- I used a regular home blender with a pretty strong motor.  You can use one less or more powerful, just watch for when the nuts are totally pulverized.
1 cup shelled raw almonds (with skins - no need to blanch or rub off the skins)
Water to cover
2 1/2 cups water
Cover almonds with water and let sit overnight (8-10 hours).  Drain and discard water.  Rinse almonds several times.  Put in blender jar with 2 1/2 cups water.  Blend until almonds are totally pulverized and only infinitesimal bits.  Pour into nut milk bag that is propped up in a large bowl or a 4-cup measuring cup. (Make sure it is big enough to catch the almond milk that will soon be flowing through the bag.) Scrape out all the liquid and solids that remain behind into the bag.
Lift nut bag up out and over the bowl and squeeze (as if you were milking a cow if you like that analogy) until all possible liquid is squeezed out of the pulverized nuts.  Transfer to storage container, stir in any sweeteners or flavoring, cap/cover and store in refrigerator.  Shake well if milk separates.
If you like yours creamier or thinner, use more or less water. 
You can discard the leftover bits of almond or reuse.  Reusing seems like a great idea, but I never seem to do that.  Maybe next time I'll use in a cake or stew.
 Update:  Added the nut meal to a soup.  It gave it a creamy texture with a pleasant grit, plus it amped up the protein.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Something Fishy -- Gravlax from a Box (Well the Recipe)

The box!
I'm been remiss in keeping up with Blog Appetit, and for that you have my apologies.  What finally prompted me to get back to posting is a gift of fish, this time from our friend Chris who caught and fileted a mighty salmon from San Francisco Bay.

He dropped off the fish and I offered to make my husband some cold-cured salmon, known as gravlax.  Well, I've written about this before, but it was a fancy shamancy recipe and truth be told I just usually use the recipe from the back of an old box of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt. (It's been empty for years, but I keep it around for a combination of sentiment and practicality -- this way I always know where the recipe is.)

Diamond Crystal's Gravlax
Note: This recipe can take 2-3 days so start with really fresh fish and leave enough time.

About 3 lbs. salmon (two boneless filets)
1 bunch fresh dill

Gravlax from a previous batch
1/4 kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. crushed black peppercorns

I like to slice off the silvery skin, but you can leave it on it you want.

Place one filet skin side down in deep glass baking dish, scatter dill on top.  Combine salt, sugar and peppercorns.  Sprinkle on top of dill.  Place remaining filet in baking dish on top of this, skin side up.
Cover with plastic wrap.  Place weights on top to evenly compress.  The salt box recommends bricks or cans of food.  I cover with a small cutting board to evening distribute the weight and then use 1 lb. tubs of tofu or cans.  Every 12 hours, turn the fish and baste it with the accumulated juices, including between the 2 layers of fish.  Continue to refrigerate and baste for 2-3 days until the fish seems "cured" to your taste. (The flesh should be firmed up.) Well wrapped, refrigerated leftovers will last for a few days.

I've made the recipe with as little as a pound of fresh salmon filets -- just adjust the seasoning.

To serve, scrape off dill and seasonings.  Slice individual filets (skin side down) into thin slices.  Serve as you would lox or smoked salmon or try with a mustard dill sauce.

The Diamond Crystal website has a wonderful looking Asian Fusion Gravlax recipe by Joyce Goldstein on its site -- I might incorporate some of these seasonings next time.  I was already thinking on my own about adding some crushed juniper berries to the seasoning mix.