Picking up the challenge this month was not in the least bit traumatic - especially when compared to last month. Nothing seemed complicated or out of our skill set, and not even out of our comfort zone - and we do own a food processor. But we've never made our own Nut Butter, probably never even considered it. Therefore, we decided to try all the suggested recipes through out the month and see if there's any reason to add Nut Butter to our regularly scheduled programming.
Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage
The first time we've ever turned nuts into 'butter'!
The hardest part was being patient enough waiting for the food processor to do it's magic. As useful and correct as the instructions provided are, it was still unsettling to watch our nuts turn into a crumble and stay that way for what seemed like way too long. But, they eventually stopped being crumbs and turned into the 'butter' we were looking for. If we may quote Alton Brown, "our patience was rewarded" - although tried for just a little while...
Once we got passed the hurdle of understanding how long it takes to turn nuts into 'butter' the rest of the process was very easy. The first pulse of having everything in the bowl together was perhaps a little unsettling, but it all comes together in seconds ready to be sampled. We liked our sample and broke out some salted pita chips and crunchy toast pieces.
We can definitely put this one out for guests. It looked like we expected. It tasted great. although designed as a grazing dish as your guests arrive for dinner, it turned out to be a great appetizer course and very hard to stop eating - we may have eaten too much... Definitely got the rosemary, but the sage was very very subtle - perhaps just need to up the quantity if subtle wasn't the goal?
Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
Second time turning nuts into 'butter'...
We were much more comfortable watching our nuts go through the crumb stage. Our patience was again rewarded... Turning the 'butter' into the sauce was a little frightening at first as it thinned down a lot once the water joined in. The shallots made at least one of us cry - but are they ever not worth the tears? The mushrooms sizzled and the sauce thickened up nicely once added to the pan. Put it all together and our one pot dish (you can't count the noodle water pot!) came together nicely and quite quickly.
To be honest not our favorite food color. But we do know that the tastiest stuff doesn't have to be the best colors. This fell into that category nicely, although it was quite rich. Too rich? Probably not, but we had just eaten arguably (well, you wouldn't have to argue very hard...) too much yummy dip... Definitely a dish we could whip up again, but we'd lean towards something a little more pretty when friends are over and keep this for the just got back from a workout evenings.
Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing
Third time's a charm! We didn't panic at any stage over anything!
There's a lot of goodies to make the Dressing and when all hanging around in the Blender before getting whizzed up it looks kinda bleh. But after a good whizzing it looks and tastes great.
Although we've eaten Rice Noodles before, we've never actually prepared (keeping in mind that prepared means opening the packet and following the directions on the back) our own. Apparently there's a trick we're not yet privy too. We just couldn't get them to separate and although nicely coated in the dressing, the rest of the goodies sort of kind of just hung out in the bottom of the bowl after we attempted to toss it.
A conundrum. We liked this 'sauce' much more than the one above - we thought we got much more of the nuttiness coming through. But, over all we liked the other dish more - probably due to our rice noodles issues. Not the end of the world for us, but not a great way to serve it up to friends. We'll almost certainly try this again, perhaps with 'normal' pasta or even a rice unless we discover the trick to Rice Noodles
Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
We don't really do curries. Not because of the flavors, but because of the heat - one of us doesn't do well with the hot spicy things. But, we claimed this as us being daring and blasted away.
The hardest part of this recipe was figuring out which aisle in the store hosts garam masala. Turns out it's the spice section which was the last place we looked, and we almost missed it after staring at the little bottles for about the same length of time it took to round up all the other ingredients...
It's a good thing we did this one last. Of the four 'butters' we whipped up this one took the longest to come together by a long way. We weren't prepared for this length of time, but we had enough confidence to keep on going.
The menu strongly suggested removing the onions from the sauce before finishing it. We like the texture as well as the flavor of our onions and it just seemed like to much work to try get them out - no regrets and probably would always skip this suggestion no matter what we were preparing.
Not hot at all. Something new and different spice wise in the sauce we didn't quite 'understand', but pleasant all the same. We did not get any of the almond flavor come through in the sauce. If some how it's the almonds that helps thicken the sauce that's great and it worked wonderfully, but by having the almond butter as the 'featured' ingredient we expected to at least get a hint of it come through. Not a deal breaker, just unexpected.
Recipes & Destructions Instructions
It's kind of sad that we've never thought to make Nut Butters before, especially since we use nuts a bit more than occasionally. They're so easy to make - what were we thinking? Even if we never make one of these specific dishes again (although it's hard to think we won't have a use for the dip) we'll at least have the knowledge of how to make use of a Nut Butter to our benefit.
We're pretty much in consensus that of the 3 dinner dishes the Cashew Dressing was our favorite sauce, but the Curried Dish as a whole was our favorite. All 3 dishes could easily appear on our weekly menu again and all could be shared with friends without reservation.
The dip will reappear and definitely for friends.
All in all some a new skill was tried and enjoyed (and found to be very uncomplicated) and produced dishes that leave plenty of room for us to experiment with in the future.
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.