Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July's Daring Cooks: Nut Butters

On the 18th, I opened the eagerly-anticipated challenge for July, and my first thought was "Ummmm...Nut butters? Huh?" 

Upon further exploration, however, I thought, "Genius!" I've been reading a lot about cold soba salads, and I had been wanting to try one. I had spent the afternoon craving sushi yet guilt tripping myself about the expense of my bi-weekly sushi habit; but it seemed that with the posting of the Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, my Asian craving would be satisfied in a cheaper manner. Instead I'd just guilt trip myself about how much fat might be in a Cashew Sauce. It's good fat, though, right?

Dishes like this one are frequently made with a peanut sauce, but I was intrigued by the cashew idea. That way I could also guilt trip myself about the fact that cashews are more expensive than peanuts. But they're cheaper than sushi, right?

The initial recipe suggested using linguine or thin rice noodles, but like I said, I've been reading a lot about soba noodles. It sounded like a yummy, more authentic alternative, and because they're made with whole wheat, they're relatively healthy. And it's another thing to guilt trip myself about--'Soba noodles are more expensive than pasta. Should you maybe just use some whole wheat pasta?'

Ultimately, though, this recipe made enough for at least 3 days of meals for me, so I'd say it's cost-effective, as well as delicious. If you make this, though, just be careful with the ginger and garlic--they can be quite potent.

I contemplated making the other nut butter recipes, but they seemed rather wintery. I have, however, posted the recipes below, because they sound delicious, and it might be a reminder to me to make them when the air gets a bit crisper.

Blog-checking lines: 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.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and julienned red peppers would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter.

Cashew Butter
  • 1 cup (240 ml) cashews (they can be roasted or unroasted)*
Cashew Dressing
  • 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional), Sriracha is a perfect choice if you have it
Noodle Salad:
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) soba, linguine, or thin rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and julienned
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) thinly sliced (julienned) fresh basil
  • 1/8 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)
Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. A cup of cashews will make about the 1/2 cup of butter needed for this recipe. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)

Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. When the noodles are about 3 minutes from being done, add the shrimp to the boiling water. Drain noodles and shrimp into a colander, rinse, and set aside.Meanwhile, 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. You might want to add half of the garlic and ginger, perform a taste test, and add the rest to taste.

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.

Combine the shrimp and noodles, carrots, cucumber, onions, cilantro (if using) 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. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired. Also sprinkle with red pepper flakes if you like spicy food.

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.

  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • 4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt to taste
Spice Blend:
  • 1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
  • 1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
  • 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 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 teaspoon (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.

Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, 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 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 butter and milk until thoroughly combined with tomato sauce. The almond butter is thick so it takes a while to make a smooth sauce. Return to 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.

Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms

Yield: 4 servings
Recipe notes: Substitute your favorite pasta or rice in place of the egg noodles. Use fresh rosemary or parsley in place of thyme if you prefer.

Pecan Cream
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • ¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed
  • ½ pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
  • 4 (6-ounce / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
  • ½ pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
  • Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)
Prepare pecan cream. Grind pecans in a food processor for about a minute or so until smooth, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed. Add water and 3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream. (*If starting with prepared pecan butter, blend ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (90 ml) pecan butter with the water and salt until smooth.)

Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

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 teaspoon (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. Set aside cooked chicken on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.

Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce to the top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.  

1 comment:

Audax said...

Your photographs are visually stunning so so beautiful the colours of the prawns and the black background really work together so well. Impressive work and don't guilt-trip yourself too much it's only you at the end. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.