Editors' Note: We're delighted to welcome Laura Wright to our team of bloggers for our newest blog, Good Food. Laura is the creator behind The First Mess, a blog that celebrates healthy, seasonal foods and the community that brings them to the table. She’s grown up around farms, loving food, studying nutritional culinary arts and working in local-food restaurants. She writes from her southern Ontario home, which is cozily nestled between a peach orchard and a vineyard. You can find her on Twitter (@laura_mess) or Facebook, and let us know if you try this recipe in the comments below!
The humidity has been rising in my little corner of the world and I couldn’t be happier. The warmth draws us outside for hours on end in the evenings and the early morning light literally makes me jump out of bed in the morning. More importantly, the local food bounty is ripe and fragrant all around. My home is surrounded by peach, plum, pear, apricot and cherry orchards, vineyards, rows of raspberry bushes and little outcrops of strawberries and blueberries. I'm grateful for the glut of it all.
The local provenance and sunshine also has me craving lighter, more raw-food fare. Perfectly ripe, local fruits enjoyed simply in their short season is one of my great pleasures- no need to turn on the stove in the sticky heat of the day to enjoy these beauties.
This dish started with a craving for a fresh, but slightly indulgent weekend breakfast. I looked to raw desserts as my inspiration. Traditionally, they incorporate the use of uncooked/non-adulterated fruits, nuts, seeds, extra virgin oils, coconut, and cacao (raw chocolate); all wholesome, health-supporting ingredients. These treats are naturally high in protein, healthy fats, and vitamins, making them well suited to the morning meal. By their very nature they contain no gluten, dairy, eggs, soy or refined sugars either, so they're fit for everyone.
Oh, and they’re also delicious! With this dish, I toss some ripe and juicy fruit (whatever kind is available in your area) with a bit of raw agave nectar and ground cinnamon, cover it with a rich crumble made from nuts and dates and top it all off with a decadent vanilla cream made very simply with almonds and filtered water. When I interned at a vegan restaurant in Toronto, we would layer a similar mix into a parfait for a sweet Sunday brunch treat.
Soaking the almonds prior to making the cream is essential. It softens them up and, more importantly, it unlocks their mega nutrient potential. While studying nutritional culinary arts, I learned that raw nuts in their dry state contain enzyme inhibitors, which block our digestive systems from breaking them down and soaking up all the goodness within. Simply soaking them in water for 4-8 hours starts that germination process (much like a seed) that makes them so much easier for the body to digest. Benefits include a bevvy of protein, vitamin E, heart healthy monounsaturated fats, and minerals including calcium, manganese, magnesium, and copper.
Notes: If you are using a food processor for the almond cream, pulse the soaked almonds until they’re about one stop short of becoming almond butter, then add the other ingredients and put it to high until the cream is as smooth as possible.
1 cup raw almonds, soaked overnight
1/2 cup water (+ extra, I needed another tbsp, but this could vary)
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1 tbsp raw agave nectar
seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean (or 1 tsp extract)
pinch of salt
1 cup nuts or seeds of your choice (I used a mix of pecans, walnuts, almonds, and hemp seeds)
3/4 cup pitted medjool dates
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of seeds from the vanilla bean (or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 cups of sliced/chopped fruit per person
maple syrup, agave nectar or raw honey
To make the almond cream: Place the soaked almonds and water in a blender. Turn the blender onto a low-medium speed to break up the nuts and stop when the pieces are starting to form a puree with the water. Add the coconut oil, agave nectar, vanilla bean seeds, salt, and more water if necessary. Turn the blender to high until the mixture is as creamy and smooth as possible. This took a couple minutes for me. Scrape almond cream into a container and chill thoroughly.
To make the crumble: Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the nuts become large crumbs and the mix holds together when you pinch it. Set aside or keep in the refrigerator if you’re making it ahead.
To assemble: Place sliced/chopped fruit into a bowl and drizzle lightly with agave nectar and cinnamon. Toss to combine. Spoon some crumble mix evenly on top of the fruit and top with a dollop of almond cream.