My bags are packed. I’m ready to go. There’s just a tiny bit of room left in the carry-on before I venture to a balmy deserted island for who knows how long… Just me and copious amounts of kale, garlic, figs, and olives. You know, when I put it like that, it doesn’t sound too bad. With a tiny bit of room remaining, it’s time to add my top five nuts and seeds.
1. Like the rebel that I am, I’m starting with peanuts. “But,” you say, “that’s actually a legume!” Oh, yeah. That’s how I roll. I’m not afraid to be a rebel and bring a legume disguised as a nut. Humble peanuts may not be as prized as other more expensive nuts and seeds, but they’re deliciously tasty, fatty, and heart healthy. They’re a fun added crunch in Thai noodle stir-fries or topped on kale or green beans in a peanut sauce. Peanuts in butter form are a great sandwich to mention when people say, “Vegan? What do you eat?” Just point to the PB&J. ”See? You’ve eaten ‘vegan food’ for years. You just didn’t call it that.” Peanut butter is wonderful in smoothies, slathered onto bananas and apples, dotted into pancake batter and cookie dough, or spread onto celery sticks old school-style and dotted with raisins. Yes, vegans can eat “ants on a log.” I checked the rule book.
2. Cashews are probably my favorite nut. Their flavor is a deliciously mild surprise. I enjoy them by the handful, of course, as a good tide-me-over snack. They also add heartiness to pineapple fried rice. Raw cashews make a wonderful cashew salad dressing, sour cream, creamy sauces, and macaroni and cashew cheese. They can also make a dense and creamy onion dip. With raw cashews, raw cheesecake can be made, and Sunpower in Studio City makes a very crave-able kale shake with raw cashews that I’ll try to recreate on the island if anyone is willing to give me a Vitamix as a going away present. (Hello? Hello? Sigh…)
3. Next on the list, sesame seeds. Yes, I can dot the seeds over cucumber slices in soy sauce and rice vinegar. I can scatter them on soba noodles and homemade bread. However, the main reason they have a place on my list is because of their place in hummus as tahini (sesame seed paste). Tahini gives oomph and creaminess to hummus, and can also be used for sauces, spreads, and dressings.
4. Has anyone else noticed how crazy expensive pine nuts have been lately? But if I’m going away for months on end with no access to my favorite vegan restaurants, I suppose I can splurge on pine nuts for the trip. Although I use other nuts like walnuts and almonds when I’m making pesto, pine nuts are the standard. I also like to add them to sautéed kale, collards, and sautéed spinach with dried cranberries. They add a lovely crunch to salads, wraps, sandwiches, pasta and rice dishes.
5. Finally, flax seeds are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. To make them bioavailable, they need to be ground first. I just use my coffee grinder and grind them in small batches as needed. Ground flax seeds add health, thickness, and viscosity to smoothies. They can also be used in place of eggs in recipes – just one tablespoon of ground flaxseed with three tablespoons of water, whipped until thick and gelatinous, and you’re good to go.
So now I’m ready. I have all my “nuts in a row,” if you will. Sorry to almonds and pistachios, which didn’t quite make the cut. I need room for my toothbrush and lip balm. A girl has got to have her priorities, you know?