Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Daring Cooks: Nut Butter!

I mentioned a few weeks ago (when I posted about the chocolate pavlova) that I have joined the Daring Kitchen community.

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.

This means that I have been eating rather more nuts than usual. The recipes they gave us to work with can be found here. There are four recipes - I have made (variations on) three of them:

Asian Cashew Salad
I followed the recipe for the cashew dressing almost exactly (I added a jalapeno instead of hot sauce) and it was amazing. For the rest of that recipe, I kept the spirit of rice noodles, meat and raw veggies, but didn't pay much attention to the specifics. I used chicken as the meat and red bell pepper, zucchini, and bean sprouts as the vegetables. It is good cold and makes for a very refreshing meal in the summer heat!

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
I debated for quite a while whether or not I was going to try this one since I'm not generally big on mushrooms. However, I have been getting better about that and figure that part of the point of joining the daring cooks is to convince me to try things I would not otherwise decide to go for. My conclusion is that this is not something that I am likely to make if I am just cooking for myself, but it was not bad and I would be happy to eat it again. I will certainly keep it in mind as a way to make something strongly reminiscent of stroganoff that manages to be completely dairy free. Personally, I think the sour cream in stroganoff is amazing, but there are times when it would be nice to be able to avoid it (and the pecan sauce really is wonderfully creamy).

Tomato Almond Curry
This dinner was inspired by the fact that I realized I had a couple of potatoes that really ought to be used soon. I finely diced an onion and pealed and chopped the potatoes and put them in my frying pan with some butter to start cooking and started a pot of rice. While they were cooking I made the almond butter. The cashew and pecan butters both came out beautifully, but the almonds seemed to want to remain as finely ground almond rather than as as butter. I went ahead and added the 1/3 cup of milk that the recipe called for and continued processing. The result was a thick but smooth almond cream. By the time I got that sorted out the potatoes and onions were cooked, so I added the spices (increasing the quantities of everything but the cinnamon and adding a dash of cayenne) and garlic and then went to find the tomato sauce. I had thought I had a large can, but it turned out that I had 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes and one 8 oz can of tomato sauce... I decided to just add one can of tomatoes and the can of sauce (and enough water to rinse the cans). Once everything came to a gentle boil I dumped in the almond cream and added about half of a 16 oz bag of frozen chopped spinach. The result was fantastic. I am afraid I do not have any pictures of this one for you - I was hungry and wanted dinner, so I was focused on cooking rather than taking pictures. It really does come together quite quickly though!

On a non-food-related note, the Phantom of the Opera is currently at the Fox Theater! Photography is naturally not allowed during the performance, but I got this picture of the chandelier and part of the beautiful Paris Oprah House set during intermission :-)


Marisa said...

Congrats on your first challenge, and kudos on attempting more than one too! The salad looks delicious.

DM said...

This looks like a really cool thing. I'm thinking of signing up -- is it free?

Sarah said...

Thanks Marisa!

DM - it *is* a really cool thing, and yes :-)

David and Stacy said...

Ah.. To eat or to photograph? A quandary if ever there was one. We err heavily on the side of eating...

What we can see looks like you had great successes so no doubt so was your curry - we named our curry the favorite complete dish of the 3.

We also did the dip which we recommend you have a go at. Surprisingly good, especially for the one of us who is low on the bean enjoyment scale.

Well done!