There are many reasons why July is an amazing month: summer vacations, beautiful weather, some of us have a birthday, glowing smiles. But, we are excited that it is July because it is our first month as part of The Daring Cooks, and our first challenge! From now on, once a month, we will be posting about the challenges set for us, and how we did. We will be happy to hear how you did, as you work through them at home!
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.
We made 2 types of nut butters and we will be sharing that experience with you. To make the proper nut butters, you really need a food processor, Matina does not have one, so she tried to convince her blender it had it in it to make amazingly smooth cashew butter. But alas it only made the cashews into a very fine powder, failing to in the end bind it all together as a smooth paste. (Pecans & walnuts are really much better to be used if working with a blender, but as you may have figured she was quite stubborn.) Nevertheless, the cashews were fine enough to produce an amazingly smooth sauce! (Blender did do the job in the end!!) Francine made almond butter with a a food processor and produced a really thick sauce for her chicken.
To make your own nut butters at home calculate that the volume of nuts will reduce to 1/2 the original amount, so make sure that you have enough nuts prior to converting them to amazingly rich butters. Also, you may want to add some oil while processing them, to make the butters a little more spreadable. You can experiment with different oil flavors (sesame, walnut, hazelnut, etc…). Just be aware they will bring in their own flavors, so for the first time you may want to just add plain canola oil until you understand the flavors you are working with. So go ahead and experiment in making your own nut butters… they will definitely be healthier as you are in control of what goes in them!
Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:
- Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
- Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
- Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
- Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
- Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
- Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
- Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
The cashew butter sauce is really something amazing. It is so flavorful thanks to the garlic, ginger, sesame oil and of course ample cashew butter. Pairing it with really crunchy and fresh vegetables really gives this dish a wonderful summery feel to it! If you don’t feel like making your own butters, you should absolutely use peanut butter, which would be AMAZING, just make sure you have plenty of crushed peanuts to add on top. ENJOY!!
Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Butter Dressing
Yield: 4 servings
1 cup (240 g) cashews*
- ½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- ½ cup (120 gr) cashew butter
- 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)
- 1/2 pound (225 g) thin rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
- Lime wedges (optional)
- Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)
- 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.
- Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.
- Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add shrimp to the pan and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until opaque throughout. Alternately, cook shrimp in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes or until done.
- Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, onions, 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. Scatter shrimp on top. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired.
The almond butter is thick so make sure that you measure your quantities depending on how you like your sauces. I personally love to drink my sauces once I am done with the “substance.” The sauce is thick, creamy, and savory, really something special. What gives the sauce the flavors are the almond butter combined with the garam masala, ginger powder, garlic, and the cinnamon. I did not have any garam masala at home when I prepared this dish so I used coriander powder instead. This dish is great during the summer months, as well as during the cold and rainy winter months! SAVOR and ENJOY!
Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- Salt to taste
- 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 (14.5-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) soy milk
- ½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) chicken broth or water, more as needed
- 1/2 cup (240 ml) frozen peas (optional)
- 1/2 cup (240 ml) snap peas
- 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.