Green Evolution

Green milk is a symbolically loaded concept. As a kid, it was an indicator of St. Patrick’s Day, offering an artificially festive hue to the same old swill peddled by overworked cafeteria staff everyday. To those in the Star Wars fandom or Disneyland devotes, it’s a novelty drink paying homage to the supposedly nutritious green-colored milk produced by female thala-sirens. In reality, that manifests as a non-dairy frozen beverage with tropical citrus notes.

Neither of these are the green milk that I have in mind. I can clearly remember my first encounter as a new resident of San Francisco when it stopped me in my tracks. Scrambling to find a reasonable meal between classes, I had just stepped off a sweaty, overcrowded BART ride and into the attached basement food court of the Westfield Mall. There, front and center, was the most magical elixir my young eyes had laid eyes on.

Pale pistachio in color, pouring as smooth and rich as liquid silk, every sip was like a hit of pure dopamine. Sweet but not sugary, creamy but not cloying, subtly seasoned but far from bland, it sang with the floral flavor of vanilla while silently packing in the potent nutrition of dark leafy greens. For a brief moment in time it was also offered in soft serve form which allowed additional toppings like sea salt, almond butter, and fresh raspberries (my personal favorite combination) to further enhance the experience.

While the former green milks still exist in this world, my previous Brazil nut-based green milk does not. Even more infuriating is the fact that nothing else even comes close to it. How hard is it to blend up greens and dates in that same ratio to make it taste like melted ice cream?

Not hard at all, especially if you do it yourself. Eight years later, it’s now abundantly clear that my beloved green milk is not coming back to Pressed Juicery, no matter how hard I beg and plead. Maybe it’s for the best; making my own yields bigger batches for MUCH less money, available any time the craving strikes. It’s also a snap to give it a spin in the ice cream machine for a secretly healthy frozen dessert.

What makes green milk so great?

Aside from the irresistible flavor, this unique blend of whole, plant-based ingredients has a whole lot of health benefits to offer:

  • Brazil nuts are particularly rich in selenium, providing well over the daily recommended value for adults in just one nut alone!
  • Dark leafy greens like kale and spinach are noted for their high iron, folate, calcium, and Vitamin C content, among many others key nutrients.
  • Dates are one of the best natural sweeteners around, boasting a low glycemic index, which makes them less likely to spike blood sugar levels in those who are sensitive.

Tips for success

If you’ve made nut milk from scratch before, you already know the drill. It’s easy to get excellent results without even trying, but there are a few tricks to making your best blend ever:

  • Soak the nuts overnight, whether you have a high-speed blender or not. You can skip this step to speed through the recipe, but it helps ensure a smoother texture while also making the nutrients more easily absorbed in your body.
  • Use a nut milk bag to strain the mixture. There’s nothing wrong with forgoing this procedure entirely to reap the full benefits of all that fiber, but it will create a thicker, grittier texture. A wire strainer lined with cheesecloth can also work for a more DIY rig.
  • Chill thoroughly for the best flavor. If you’re in a hurry, you can let it stand in the freezer for a bit to cool down quickly and/or serve over ice.

This drink will change your understanding of green milk forever. You might want to start buying Brazil nuts in bulk.

Continue reading “Green Evolution”

Pasta Gone Bananas

Following the success of my sweet banana flour experiments, I knew there was still more ground to cover. Since green bananas have more starch than sugar, being harvested and processed before they have time to ripen, the flavor inherently lends itself to more savory preparations.

Little did I know that banana pasta was a legitimate thing when I embarked on this mini project. Alas, I couldn’t find any hints about their formula, but it wasn’t too difficult to dissect. This was all before I got my trusty pasta maker, which makes it an excellent low-tech way to ease into gluten-free pasta making if you’re not ready for the full investment. I believe it could be adapted to the machine with a little tweaking of ratios; if you give that a shot, let me know!

Is Banana Flour Pasta Healthy?

Compared to whole wheat pasta, banana pasta is higher in protein, lower in fat and calories, and even cheaper to produce. As an added bonus, it’s keto– and paleo-friendly, too. This is a pasta everyone can enjoy, regardless of allergies, intolerances, and dietary restrictions.

What’s The Best Way to Serve Banana Flour Pasta?

  • As seen here, it doesn’t take much to dress up homemade pasta of any sort. I went with a generous handful of garlic sauteed in olive oil, with crisp green asparagus and snap peas thrown in at the very last minute. It’s simple, fresh, and full of flavor.
  • You can’t go wrong with a classic red sauce, vodka sauce, cheese sauce, alfredo, or pesto. Rich and creamy or light and bright; all flavors are complimentary to this fairly neutral base.
  • For those hot summer days, don’t forget pasta salad! Immediately shock the cooked pasta in ice water to stop the cooking, then toss with vegetables and your favorite vinaigrette for a picnic-ready side dish or entree.

Can Banana Flour Pasta Be Made In Advance?

  • You bet! You can store the prepared dough in the fridge, wrapped tightly in plastic, for up to 24 hours before rolling out.
  • Once shaped, you can freeze the pasta on a sheet pan, arranged in a single layer. Once solidly frozen, transfer the pieces to a zip top bag and store in the freezer for up to 1 year. Cook normally without thawing.

Honestly, the hardest part of this whole recipe is having the patience to cut and shape the pasta. You could always skip the bow ties and just cut straight spaghetti, fettuccine, or linguine to speed ahead to the good part: Dinner time!

Continue reading “Pasta Gone Bananas”

Straight Fire

I’m not crazy about kale. This might be my most controversial unpopular opinion given the meteoric rise in popularity its seen over the years. When it comes to dark leafy greens, kale is hard to beat; it can be eaten raw or cooked, comes in a variety of colors and shapes, offers a potential array of vitamins and minerals, and is readily available at a reasonable price, even if you splurge on organic. That’s an incredible claim to fame for a vegetable previously used only as decoration in deli cases.

Despite all that, kale is never the first type of greenery I’ll reach for in the produce section, or the second, or even the third. I don’t outright dislike it, but I feel like so many other options just suit particular dishes better. Arugula gives me the peppery bitterness I crave in a salad. Collard greens melt into tender ribbons in stews and braises. Spinach is better for adding green color to baked goods since it has a fairly neutral flavor. Boston or Bibb lettuce are ideal on burgers or sandwiches for a juicy crunch. Given such a wealth of choices, kale tends to fall towards the bottom of my list.

Obviously, I’m not an arbiter of taste. Kale remains king on menus across the US, from fast food to five-star, low brow to high end. I can’t fully understand it but don’t begrudge kale’s success one bit. If anything, that repeated exposure has proven its value in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. Case in point: The Fire Kale Salad from Daily Juice.

It lingered in my memory long after my first visit to Austin despite being a rushed grab-and-go meal at the time. Prepacked in a plastic clam shell, it fit the bill for something fresh and healthy after days of indulging, as one does while traveling. While I quietly wished it was made with romaine or mesclun or just about anything else, I forgot about the kale entirely after one bite.

This kale was tender but still held up to the creamy cashew dressing, standing firm where other weaker greens would have wilted into a watery lump. The whole thing glows red from a final dusting of paprika on top so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The warm heat from blended jalapeños is apparent up front, growing stronger and brighter over time. Crisp cucumbers provide a cooling foil, a refreshing relief right when it’s needed most. That added layer of crunchy texture harmonizes beautifully with the handful of toasted cashews tumbling between the frilly leaves. Such a simple combination simply works.

Normally, I’d rattle off a list of alternate greens to swap in, but kale is really the one for the job here. You could go with purple kale instead of plain green, but that’s about it. Everything that usually disqualifies it from my other recipes is exactly what makes it perfect in this one. Whether you love it or hate it, this kale salad is straight fire.

Continue reading “Straight Fire”

Macha, Macha, Wo/Man

I distinctly remember my first encounter with salsa macha because it was a completely confounding experience. Staring at this strange, violently red jar of oily seeds, it was introduced to me as “seed salsa.” Up to that point, “salsa” had only been used to describe mixtures of finely minced vegetables, sometimes fruits, accompanying Mexican food. Usually tomato-based, fresh and punchy, I couldn’t connect the dots between that condiment and this one.

Taking the tiniest spoonful to test the waters, I watched rivulets of glistening toasted seeds ooze down my plate, soaking into everything it touched. One bite, and I was hooked. Instantly regretting that timid serving, I bellied up to the bar again and again, dousing my entire meal until my lips tingled and my nose turned red from the heat. It’s the good kind of pain the unlocks all sorts of endorphins, creating an undeniably addictive experience.

The allure owes something about the combination of textures and tastes, with toothsome, crunchy seeds tumbled together in this slick miasma of fiery, nutty, tangy oil. It doesn’t sound like it should work on paper, but it exceeds all expectations in real life. Suspend doubt long enough to give it a try, stop trying to put it to words; you’ll understand in an instant.

What is salsa macha?

Consider it Mexican chili crisp; spicy, savory, and impossibly addictive. Salsa macha is an oil-based condiment that goes with just about everything. It was born in the Mexican states of Veracruz and Oaxaca. As one might guess, the name is derived from the feminine version of “macho,” resulting in gender ambiguity, and its base recipe is ripe for tweaking.

Naturally, I had to take my rendition in a completely inauthentic direction that most people would say has gone off the rails. Sorry, not sorry. It all started with an extra bottle of everything bagel seasoning, when I realized that half the ingredients I needed were all neatly bundled together within. Why not take that idea and run with it? Thus, Everything Bagel Salsa Macha was born.

Most salsa macha recipes are at least slightly blended after cooking, but I wanted mine totally chunky and extra crunchy. You could always pulse the mixture briefly in the food processor to break it down a bit, or completely puree it for a smoother sauce. Make it your own! The only rules for salsa macha is that it must contain chilies, seeds, nuts, and oil. Everything else is up for interpretation.

How can you use salsa macha?

Basically, anything edible is a viable canvas for this chunky, seedy salsa. A few of my favorites and top suggestions for this particular variation include:

  • Bagel with cream cheese
  • Avocado toast
  • Tofu scramble
  • Hummus
  • Pizza
  • Pasta
  • Rice pilaf
  • Grilled or roasted vegetables

Like some of the best things in life, the flavors in salsa macha continue to develop and deepen over time. It’s fantastic right away, enjoyed while still warm, but continues to improve over the coming days. Don’t try to keep it too long, though; the garlic and seeds prevent it from keeping longer than 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge without turning rancid. Of course, that deadline is unlikely to pose a problem. I can barely keep a jar around for more than three days.

Continue reading “Macha, Macha, Wo/Man”