In the last year or so, my cooking has slowly gravitated towards staple-making. I like the idea of preparing the things that Jon and I eat super regularly, that form a sort of foundation from which we can assemble other dishes. Nothing super complicated.
I credit the origin of this idea to a few years back, when I read Tamar Adler’s Everlasting Meal. She writes, “Cooking is both simpler and more necessary than we imagine. It has in recent years come to seem a complication to juggle against other complications, instead of what it can be – a clear path through them.” Though I’ve loved food for a long time, reading this is one of only a small handful of moments that I can credit with changing my approach to cooking entirely.
Around here, staples include almond butter, milk & cheese; various salsas, tomato sauces, pestos, aioli, hummus, etc.; granola bars and granola; roasted and puréed vegetables; brown rice, soba noodle, or quinoa salads; and always something sweet- chocolate chip cookies and almond butter cups are the most popular. The process of staple-making has taken me through a rhythm of refining, adventuring out with new flavors & combinations, and returning to old favorites. These are the things I enjoy making the most and, time willing, will continue to make.
So, here is my process for making almond milk. Since almonds can be pretty expensive, even more so now that I’m not living in California, I’ve switched to a 50-50 cashew almond blend, which I find to be even creamier than straight almond milk.
Makes 2 quarts
1 cup cashews (unsalted)
1 cup almonds (unsalted)
8 cups Filtered water
4 Medjool or 8 deglet noor dates, split between two batches
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
Tools you’ll need: a high-power blender, and nut milk bag or tight-woven linen cloth
Place the cashews and almonds in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak for at least 24 hours, but up to 48-72 hours if time allows.
After soaking, pour the nut mixture into a strainer and rinse under cold water, stirring with your hand, until the water runs clear.
Combine 1/2 of the soaked nuts with 4 cups water, 2 (or 4, depending on the variety) dates, 1/4 tsp. salt & 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Blend on high for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, take a clean bowl or wide-mouthed pitcher and line with the towel or nut milk bag. Pour the blended milk into the bowl, being careful not to let it spill over the edge. Gather the ends of the towel and, working slowly, squeeze to filter the milk out of the pulp.
Once you have a roughly 1/2-3/4 pulp remaining in the towel, you should be done. Pour the milk into an air-tight storage container and repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.
Store the almond milk in the fridge. I find it tastes best when consumed in the first 4-5 days. Since there isn’t a preservative other than the salt, it will start to turn around then, but if it does and you haven’t used it all, it can still be used in place of a buttermilk in baking.
A few other notes:
C O F F E E : I drink this almond-cashew milk almost every day in my coffee. It froths really well (maybe best 1-2 days after making it). Some separation happens after it sits in the coffee for a bit, but you can quickly stir to recombine and it tastes exactly the same.
D A I R Y S U B S T I T U T E S: If I know I’ll be using this almond-cashew milk as a substitute for milk in a savory recipe, I’ll just use a little salt and leave out the dates. If you make it this way, it’s worth removing the skins (from the almonds) and using the pulp to make cheese. Season with lemon juice, salt, nutritional yeast & chili flakes and it makes a pretty convincing goat cheese substitute- especially if left out to ferment for a few days at room temperature.
V S . S T O R E B O U G H T : This is definitely a recipe that is worth every bit of time and effort. Those of you who have already made almond milk at home may not need convincing, but homemade has been a total game changer for me. The best store-bought version I’ve found is Marin Living Foods, which, to my knowledge, is only available in the Bay Area. Until I find something that compares, I will be making my own!
V A R I A T I O N S : Cocoa Almond Milk – blend 1 cup of this cashew-almond milk with 2 tsp. coconut butter, 2 tsp. dutch process cocoa powder & 1 date
Please email me with questions! I’ve been making this once a week for the last year (ore more!), so am happy to help however I can.