Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Daring Cooks: July 2010

It's that time again!! I have to say that this month was a lot of fun. Let's get down to it.

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.

There were four recipes provided for us to try using several different types of nut butters. I made three of the four recipes.

I was a bit intimidated at first because I've never made nut butters from scratch. But learning that it just takes a good food processor and a little patience, I was able to conquer nut butter! One thing to remember when making nut butter is to have double as many nuts as you want nut butter. For example, if you want half a cup of almond butter, use a whole cup of almonds. Here's the breakdown of the recipes:

The first recipe was chicken with pecan cream and mushrooms. Well, I didn't really do that. When I looked at the picture of the chicken with pecan cream and mushrooms it reminded me a bit of beef stroganoff. So I ran with that idea. I made instead: beef tips with walnut cream over spaetzle.

Here's the recipe:

Beef Tips with Walnut Cream and Spaetzle

Walnut Cream:
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, more as needed
  • ½ pound spaetzle
  • 1 1/2 pound beef tips or stew meat
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, more as needed
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1 Teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)
  1. Prepare walnut cream. Grind walnuts 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 salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside walnut cream.
  2. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.
  3. Sprinkle beef with a bit of salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef; sauté 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until cooked to desired doneness. Set aside cooked beef on a clean plate, cover to keep warm.
  4. Add deglazing liquid to pan if using and stir up any browned bits. If needed, add another teaspoon of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots. Sauté the shallots over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes. Add thyme to the pan. Stir in walnut cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.
  5. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Top with beef. Add a scoop of the walnut sauce on top of noodles. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped walnuts if desired.

The next recipe I tried: 

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 (6 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt to taste
Spice Blend:
  • 1.5 tablespoons garam masala seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • ⅓ cup almond butter
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • ½ to ¾ cup 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)
  1. 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.
  2. Prepare spice blend. Stir garam masala, ginger, cinnamon, and pepper together in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve chicken and sauce over rice. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or sliced almonds if desired.

And finally:

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing


Cashew Butter:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) cashews*
Cashew Dressing:
  • ½ inch slice of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
  • ½ cup cashew butter
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon water
  • Hot sauce to taste (optional)
Noodle Salad:
  • 1/2 pound linguine or thin rice noodles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cashews (optional garnish)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  1. Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)
  2. 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.
  3. Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Out of all of these recipes the beef tips with walnut cream sauce was amazing! I plan on working that into our regular rotation. However, the dish is extremely heavy and would probably do better in the colder months.

The chicken with curried tomato almond sauce was a big hit with The Hubble. I thought it was good, it just didn't have the "wow" factor the beef tips with walnut cream sauce had.

Then there's the Asian noodle salad with cashew dressing. I thought for sure this dish would knock my socks off. Sadly, I couldn't even finish it. I didn't like it. At all. I ended up tossing mine and having left over burgers instead. However, The Hubble thought it was great. He ate all of his, but he didn't keep the leftovers. This dish made me sad because I really had high hopes for it.

This was definitely a fun experience. Making my own nut butter is definitely something I probably never would have done without the Daring Cooks. There were links to make our own fruit butter too but I never got around to those.

All in all I would say that this was a successful second Daring Cooks challenge for me. I found a super amazing recipe and another one that The Hubble really loved. Not too shabby!

If you are interested in seeing how my fellow Daring Cooks did, hop on over to the blogroll to check them out. The pictures of the dishes are also in a type of slide show on The Daring Kitchen main page for a while too. Enjoy!
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