Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Almond-Apricot Granola (featuring the wonderous noyaux!)


I've become an obsessive granola maker. I've never been one for a daily eggy breakfast.  (That said, my Friday morning yoga class taught by Heather Murray followed by veggie eggs benedict at Cafe This Way is a much missed part of my life now that I am in California.) But I digress. As a child my mom had to fight me to put something in my belly before school. I wasn't ever hungry in the morning but she insisted. "Brain food" she called it. Finally, in my early 20s, I realized how important a meal breakfast is. It's like fueling your car. It jump starts your metabolism. It does wake your brain up. And what you choose for your first meal can really shape your food choices for the remainder of the day. Personally, I am drawn to grains in the morning, but find store bought cereals to be lacking in flavor, nutritional value, and staying power. And while I love oatmeal, I don't always have the time or inclination to start my day at the stove. I want something easy, delicious, and energy packed in the morning.


Granola is such a great food in part for its adaptability. It can be made raw with a dehydrator, slow baked or not so slow baked, with fruit or without, with many different grains or with plain old every day oats. You can vary the fats and sweeteners you use and combine any number of nuts, seeds, and natural nutritional boosters. I guarantee, no matter what combination you choose, your home made granola is bound to be more nutritionally valuable and far more delicious than nearly any cereal you can buy in a store.

As you know from my last post, I have been on a big stone fruit kick. While reading about the origins and benefits of apricots I discovered that the kernel inside the pit of the apricot--the noyaux--has culinary benefits as well.
The noyaux is an almond-shaped kernel encased in the apricot pit. I saved my apricot pits after making these and stored them in a ziploc in the freezer so I can use them over the coming weeks and months. To get at the noyaux I used the flat side of a large cleaver, but a mortar and pestle would work, as would a hammer or a good size rock. It is from this small kernel--not the nut for which the two are named-- that amaretto and almond extract are made. You can steep the noyaux in cream for a sweet almond scent, or place it on top of halved apricots before baking or poaching them. I added mine to an almond granola to accentuate the nuttiness.  Overall, I can't say that it added TONS of extra almond-ness, but every once in a while I would get a bite with a piece of noyaux and a piece of oven-toasted almond, and, let me tell you, it was almond to the nth degree. 

The noyaux contains a nitriloside, (mimicked in a synthetic form it is referred to as B17) which is claimed to have anti-cancerous and fat-flushing properties.  The little kernel also contains traces of cyanide, so you don't want to eat handfuls of them raw. Cooking the kernel will get rid of any cyanide traces. If you are nervous about it, enjoy the noyaux as we should most good things; in moderation. 


Almond-Apricot Granola
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1.5 cups raw almonds, roughly chopped
4 noyaux, chopped
4 T raw virgin coconut oil
1/4 cup raw light agave or honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
pinch of salt
spices of choice (eg, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl combine the oats,almonds, noyaux, salt, and any other desired spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, etc). 

In a small saucepan heat the coconut oil and sweetener over low heat until the coconut oil melts. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. I usually taste a small bite at this point to check that the salt and spice levels are where I want them.

Pour the mix in an even layer onto a un greased cookie sheet. If you want to shorten the cooking time a bit you can split the batch between two trays.

Cook for fifteen minutes then stir. Cook another 30-45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes so the granola browns evenly. I like my granola to get pretty toasty and crunchy. This is definitely a personal preference. The granola is "done" whenever it is your desired level of toastiness. 

Let the granola cool, then return it to the large mixing bowl. Stir in the apricots, chia seeds and any other raw nutritional boosters (hemp seed, flax seed, etc)

I like to eat my granola with fresh fruit and either goat yogurt or homemade almond milk. It is also delicious sprinkled on top of a simple salad of spinach or spicy greens tossed with vinaigrette.

Other ideas for oils, sweeteners, grains & add-ins
*olive oil & maple syrup with cayenne pepper for a warming, winter morning granola
*replace some or all of the oats with quinoa or amaranth flakes for a gluten free, high protein cereal
*add a splash of rosewater to the mix before baking
*use hemp seeds, flax seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or all of the above for added nutritional boost
*heat your milk or nut milk or coconut milk before pouring it over your granola
*grapefruit zest & thyme for a anti-oxidant and C packed granola

Sources:
http://blog.goodeggs.com/post/24415957107/all-about-apricots-5-essentials-to-know
http://campaignfortruth.com/Eclub/230204/CTM%20-%20nitrilosides.htm
http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=3

1 comment:

Emily Pfeiffer said...

YUM! I just made this excellent granola recipe. I didn't have any dried apricots, but I did have three apricot pits, which I thoroughly enjoyed smashing with a hammer to get to the noyaux. I used 3 cups of rolled oats and 1 cup of quinoa. As far as spices go, I added cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Raisins went in after the cooking. Everything else was as Jen's recipe stated. THANKS Jen! I'm so looking forward to my almond milk and granola this week.