Nuts [insert inappropriate 'that's what she said' joke here]
So there's this nifty website called The Daring Kitchen, where different volunteers post a challenge each month and everyone makes the same recipe or uses the same technique to try to improve his or her cooking skills. I love a good challenge, so I signed up, and my first month's quest was to make my own nut butter and use it in a savory recipe. They gave us a few options, and since this was my first challenge and all I decided to try 2 of the 3 recipes.
They ask us to use a little blurb, so they can ensure their participants are truly participating:
'The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.'
Making nut butters is really a breeze, for those of us with food processors. I've had my food processor for maybe 8 months now, and along with the microplane zester and the immersion blender I do not know how I ever lived without this thing (Was I really living? I don't see how.). If you don't have a food processor, you can try a mini-processor (my handy Handy Chopper, another indispensable kitchen appliance) or a mortar and pestle (!). Just dump the nuts in the processor and process until smooth. With drier nuts (like almonds), you need to add a bit of oil. Even for cashews, a teaspoon or so of oil helped turn my powder into butter. I used peanut oil because it was so nutty, but vegetable oil or canola or any bland oil can be used. Generally, 1 cup of nuts will yield 1/2 cup of nut butter. I made cashew butter, almond-cashew butter, peanut butter, and macadamia butter.
Of course, you can also buy natural butters and use them in the nut butter recipes, but where's the fun in that?
The challenge was fun, because I got to try a few cuisines that I absolutely love but haven't ever tried preparing at home - Thai and Indian. Also, the cashew dressing for the Thai noodle salad was, like, the most delicious stuff EVAH.
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup (240 ml) cashews
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped*
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped*
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tbsp (45 ml) sugar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)
Noodle Salad (my version):
1/2 pound (225 g) soba noodles
1 large red (or green) bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil (actually, I didn't use this but it sounds good so I'm leaving it)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
Lime wedges (optional)
You can add shrimp or any other protein by heating a little oil in a pan and cooking some for a few minutes or just boiling something.
Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth.
Prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic*. The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. Taste and add your favorite hot sauce if desired. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator. [*From the notes of others who made it, this dressing is delish but pretty garlicky. I made myself some ginger-garlic paste which I used in this as well as in the butter chicken and just about everything else I cooked that week. Food process equal parts garlic cloves and ginger root, and add a bit of rice vinegar to preserve it. It stores for at least a few weeks in the fridge.]
Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.
Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, veggies, and basil in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (120 ml) cashew dressing; toss gently to coat. Add more cashew dressing as desired, using as much or as little as you’d like. If using, scatter shrimp on top. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired.
This dressing is lick-the-bowl good. We made some more and used it as a dip for crudites.
We made another dip-dressing-cream thingy with cashew butter. It was totally tasty and I would love to make it again and again. Annoyingly, I didn't bookmark it or copy and paste it or any of the reasonable things that a person who would like to find said recipe again does. I've found something similar on my extensive Google searching this evening, and here it is:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup of water (approximately)
juice of 1/2 lime
1 medium garlic clove
1/4 – 1/2 t. salt
a handful of cilantro
Toss it all in a blender and blend. Add water if it's too thick. Mine was.
My first attempt at Indian food was a (guarded) success. Not enough salt but overall a pretty good experience. I searched 3 different grocery stores till I found me some garam masala; everything else was pretty straightforward. We had ginger rice alongside - yet another use for that ginger-garlic sauce!
Yield: 4 servings
1 Tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1/2 tsp (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp (1 ml) black pepper
4 Tbsp (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste (or 2 garlic cloves, minced, and 1/4 inch ginger root, peeled, minced)
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond-cashew butter (1/3 cup of almonds, 1/3 cup of cashews, food-processed)
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
1 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)
Hot basmati rice (possibly ginger rice) for serving
Chopped parsley (optional garnish)
Sliced almonds (optional garnish)
Cook the chicken. If desired, pound chicken to ¼ inch (6 mm) thickness to promote even cooking. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tsp (5 ml) olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken; sauté 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Cook the chicken in 2 batches, adding more oil if needed for second batch. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside on clean plate and keep warm.
Spice blend: Stir garam masala, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook gently for several minutes to infuse the butter with onion flavor. Keep the heat low to avoid burning the butter; a little color is fine. Add the spice blend and garlic-ginger paste and cook for 1 minute or till fragrant, stirring constantly. Add the tomato sauce, stir well, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Whisk in almond-cashew butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. Return to a simmer. Add broth (or water) to sauce to reach desired consistency; return to simmer. Add more broth (or water) as needed to thin sauce as desired.
Remove onion from sauce and discard. Stir frozen peas (if using) into sauce. Transfer sliced chicken to sauce. Simmer gently for a few minutes until peas and chicken are heated through.
Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.
For ginger rice:
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in saucepan. Add 1 cup of basmati rice, rinsed, 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste. Cover and cook over low heat for about 12 minutes or until rice is tender and the water is nearly evaporated. Serve with the chicken.
It was a fun challenge. We also made some nice little macadamia nut butter mini cheesecakes and I used cashew butter in my favorite simple Noodles in Spicy Peanut Sauce (aka peanut butter spaghetti) and we included cashew-almond butter in the homemade crab ravioli for Joe's birthday and of course there was a sandwich or 2 along the way. I'm going to keep playing but I'm pretty excited that next month's challenge will be up tomorrow and mid-August I'll blog all about it.