In every F&W issue of 2013, this column will introduce a new pantry item to expand your repertoire.
The health benefits of almonds are myriad and well documented. They’re high in protein, vitamin E, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus and calcium (commercial almond milks are often fortified with extra calcium). There’s evidence that almond milk helps to lower LDL cholesterol and protect against heart disease. It is relatively low in calories and has zero saturated fats, making it a good choice for maintaining a healthy weight.
I like it because it tastes great and adds richness to lots of dishes. In F&W’s January “Handbook” section, I created a bunch of recipes that use almond milk—some sweet and some savory. Though the substitutions may not be universal, they are pretty wide and varied. On the sweet side, I created a dairy-free Banana-Almond Milk “Soft Serve” ice cream, using almond milk, frozen bananas (already pretty creamy), honey and crystallized ginger, all pureed in a food processor. Then, I topped it with a yummy, Warm Chocolate-Almond Sauce, made very much like a classic ganache, which is just chocolate and cream. But I subbed out the cream with almond milk and a drop of almond extract. Almond milk was also great in place of cow milk in my Almond-Milk Rice Pudding, in which I cooked sushi-rice risotto-style using almond milk and a bit of sugar. Since almonds and cherries are a classic pairing, I topped the pudding with sweet-tart cherry preserves. Divine!
On the savory side, I made a luscious Spicy Cauliflower Puree that’s as good as any mashed potato I’ve ever had, but practically calorie-free (well, not really). I simmered cauliflower in almond milk until soft, then drained and pureed it for a thick, silky mash. This also makes a lovely soup if it’s blended with all of the almond milk. In yet another recipe, Almond-Milk Creamed Spinach, I made a béchamel with almond milk, into which I folded wilted spinach and grated Parmesan (I never said dairy-free, though I suppose you could use soy cheese?), then topped it with panko and marcona almonds and baked it until it was bubbling and golden. Now that’s divine!
Almond milk is also great in place of dairy milk in French toast, bread pudding, mashed potatoes, creamy bisques or curries, ice cream (churned), baked goods and, of course, smoothies and “milk shakes.” Sign into F&W's improved community by following the steps below, and tell us, how do you like to use almond milk?