This post was inspired by Nuts.com an amazing family-owned company out of New Jersey selling high-quality and tasty ingredients since 1929. Since I cook with almonds and snack on them all the time, they asked if I would help spread the word about the nutritional value and versatility of almonds. I was excited by the prospect of doing something new (well, new for me) with almonds. Check out all the nutritional information about almonds on their site. This post is unsponsored. All opinions contained herein are my own.
I’ve been drinking a lot of horchata in Mexico City. I go to a place called “Que Bo!” on my lunch break where I alternate between getting spicy Mexican hot chocolate and horchata. It’s hot there now, calling for chilled refreshing drinks, but here in New York, the weather is just perfect. The coy spring keeps the temperature crisp. Hints of sunlight melt winter woes. This almond milk recipe is befitting this time of year not only in its flavor profile, but in its meaning as well. It’s basically the horchata without the rice or sugar. It is straight up almond milk–water filtered through ground almonds–kissed with cinnamon, a touch of salt and vanilla (all optional). An earthy and refreshing concoction that’s so easy to make, I have no idea why I haven’t done it before.
Drinking from the fruit of the almond tree, a refreshment brought to life through the addition of water, is a symbol of spring and our relationship to the seasons. It’s a microcosm of the cycle of our mortal coil. While almond milk seems like a new-agey, hippie thing to make, cultures have been making it since the beginning of time. It’s old world, steeped in the history of everything. We met an old man in Spain on our honeymoon a few years ago whose family has been making horchata in a tiny store in front of ancient Visigothic ruins for generations. When we told him that we found him through the internet, he called his son over to show him that he was famous. “Mira, hijo. Soy famoso!” He couldn’t believe that his store would be written about on the internet machine.
In our culture almond milk is an alternative, in other cultures it’s a thing. It always has been. For all these reasons it lends itself to mindful savoring, something we all could use a little more of in life, though it tastes so good that it’s hard to sip slowly sometimes. The best part about making almond milk is that you are left with the ground almonds full of flavor, which this week I used to bake a flourless banana almond cake. I’ll share when I perfect the recipe.
Spring’s ephemeral nature is what makes it so precious. All things dormant assault the senses, sun on the skin, flowers in your nose, honey on the lips. I want to hold onto spring because it makes me feel that the good times are all ahead. It’s like savoring the first sip of a familiar, but forgotten drink, knowing that there’s more, but the first sip is always the best. The dead leaves in the dark corners remind me of old troubles, which also renew themselves, like nature around them. They linger as a reminder, but they’re less powerful now because of the buds and the blooms. It’s a cycle and we’re all in it, whether we’re making an ancient drink new, discovering an old city or holding the daily worries in our minds that millions of people before us had in their minds too. We’re in good company.
I hope you all have a great week and get outside just a bit! Happy Earth Day!
VANILLA ALMOND MILK
- 1 cup raw almonds, soaked in water (for an hour or ideally 8-12 hours)
- 3.5 cups filtered water
- 2-4 pitted Medjool dates, to taste (I used 2 large)
- 1 whole vanilla bean, chopped or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- small pinch of fine grain sea salt, to enhance the flavor
Place almonds in a bowl and cover with water. It’s preferred to soak them overnight (for 8-12 hours) in the water, but you can get away with soaking for 1-2 hours in a pinch.
Rinse and drain the almonds and place into a blender along with filtered water, pitted dates, and chopped vanilla bean. Note; I don’t have a blender so I did this in batches with my food processor.
Blend on highest speed for 1 minute or so or grind for a about a minute.
Place a two layers of cheese cloth over a large bowl. You can also use a milk nut bag (yes, these things exist) and slowly pour the almond milk mixture over the cheese cloth being careful not to let any of the grains fall into the bowl. Gently squeeze the bottom of the cloth to release the milk. Don’t be shy about squeezing for a while.
If you want you can repeat this step, pouring from this bowl to another if you let too many nuts slip through (total metaphor for life here, btw).
Ladle or pour the milk into a jar. Add the cinnamon and pinch of sea salt and stir to combine.
Store in the fridge for up to 3-5 days. Shake jar very well before using as the mixture separates when sitting. This milk is incredible on its own but it also pairs so well with cereal or granola.