Friday, July 16, 2010

Chicken and Zucchini Enchiladas with Almond Butter Mole

Forgive our immodesty… but this was awesome. Definitely making this one again. It looks as if there are way too many ingredients, but they all come together beautifully in a rich, complex sauce.


6 dried chile Negro
5 dried chile California
3 dried Morita chiles
1/3c sesame seeds
1/2c raisins, tossed in a little oil
1 roasted tomato
1 1/2c water
1/4 recipe almond butter
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground black pepper
1/4 t ground anise seeds
1/8 t ground clove
1oz Mexican chocolate
Zest and juice of 1 lime

Toast the dried chiles in a skillet until softened. Mix together all the ingredients in a blender, and liquidize until smooth. Transfer to a skillet and cook over a low-medium heat, stirring frequently, until the ingredients have turned into a thick, fragrant paste. Next, add back 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water and continue to cook/reduce for 45 minutes.

We served these with some simple but tasty chicken and zucchini enchiladas, topped with some crema:
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Veal cutlet with pistachio cream

To showcase our pistachio nut butter, we made sauteed veal chops and a pistachio cream sauce. The pistachio nut butter was a beautiful pale green color, and readily turned into a smooth sauce (no actual cream was involved!)

Pistachio cream Sauce

1 cup pistachio nuts, shelled
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup white wine

Grind the nuts to a smooth paste in a food processor, then gradually add water until a creamy consistency is achieved. Heat the cream in a saucepan and add the wine; cook until reduced, then add the lemon juice and season with salt to taste.

Veal cutlet

2 veal cutlets, pounded thin
3/4 c flour
1 tsp cornstarch
salt and pepper
cooking oil

Mix the flour and cornstarch together with the seasonings and dredge the veal cutlets in the mixture. Saute 2-3 minutes per side until cooked through and serve with the pistachio butter sauce.

Served on a bed of herbed spaetzle with zucchini:

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Baci di Dama (aka Ladies’ Kisses)

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These little cookies are decadent. Very buttery, perfectly crisp, not too sweet. The almond and chocolate flavors were beautifully balanced and delicious. I used my ancient garage-sale cookie press to form them so they were together in no time at all too.

Adapted from Joyce Goldstein’s cookbook Back to Square One. Oh my goodness – you can pick up a used copy via Amazon for $0.63 USD – that’s the deal of the century. I’d never part with mine. What is the world coming to?? But I digress...

12 Tbsp unsalted butter (yeah, it’s a lot of butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup almond butter
1 1/4 cup (about 6 oz by weight) flour
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp Amaretto (optional - I used it, but will probably skip it next time)
1 1/2 oz 85% dark chocolate

Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk, flavorings, and almond butter. Mix in the flour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Using a cookie press or piping bag if you’re more talented than me, pipe the dough onto the trays. Bake until very lightly browned, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.





Melt the chocolate – I used the microwave, though a double-boiler works great too. I also only melted half the chocolate, since it cools rapidly here in foggy San Francisco, then the other half later when I needed it.


Brush a thin layer of chocolate over the bottom of one cookie, then press another cookie to form a little sandwich. Repeat until all the cookies are paired.


Chicken Cooked in Almond Sauce

almond chicken

I clipped this recipe from the newspaper years ago, but the calorie count always dissuaded me from actually trying it. While preparing the dish, we lightened it up considerably and still felt that the result was very flavorful and satisfying. The almond butter gives the sauce body and the saffron and spices give it a floral character.

This recipe is also adapted to serve 2.

4 oz plain yogurt
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Anaheim or pasilla pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (note: mince 2 or ~ 1 tsp worth as you want more for the sauce below)
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated (note: again, you actually want to grate twice this amount and use half in the sauce)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
dash cayenne pepper
salt to taste
2 boneless chicken breast halves

2 Tbsp milk
pinch saffron
1/4 cup almond butter
1 small red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
seeds from 2 cardamom pods, ground or 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Vegetable oil for cooking

Marinate the chicken:
Combine the yogurt and all the spices in a glass container. Add the chicken breasts, turn to coat and marinate at least 2 hours.

Make the sauce: 
In a small dish heat the milk and the saffron until just warm – I warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds on medium heat. Let steep while you make the rest of the sauce.

Heat a Tbsp of oil or so in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until just starting to brown. Add the cardamom, garlic and ginger, then the almond butter. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken and its marinade. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked.


Stir in the saffron milk and cook one more minute.

Serve over rice.

The Daring Cooks go Nuts


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.

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We were specifically encouraged to use the nut butter in a savory recipe – an inspired direction as it really opened our eyes to how versatile nut butter is and also how many cultures use some variation of nut butter in their most classical dishes. For the challenge, Margie and Natashya shared recipes for an Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, an Indian-inspired Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce, and Italian Walnut & White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage. All these recipes as well as a deeper discussion and reference links for nut butters are available in this PDF.

True to our custom, we didn’t actually follow any of the challenge recipes, but I have to say that they looked fantastic. It was only because this has been a month beyond hectic that we did not try them as well as a few other variations that I still have floating in my head. The Asian noodle salad in particular looked gorgeous – cookbook beautiful in every single instance.

Our dishes were not cookbook beautiful. If you can have one complaint about nut butter, it might be that it is not particularly photogenic. But I do think that each of these dishes was delicious and of course is what matters.

We started with an almond butter. It was super easy to make in the food processor and we added only 1 Tbsp of oil to 2 cups of nuts, so it didn’t taste at all greasy. Because we had serious mole envy during the Stacked Enchilada challenge last May, we used some of our almond butter to make red mole served over chicken and zucchini enchiladas.


We also made an Indian-spiced chicken in almond sauce.

almond chicken

Having satisfied our savory requirement, we then made Baci di Dama, dainty almond butter cookies napped with chocolate.

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From the beginning, though, my interest was piqued by Nut Cream, which is just like nut butter, but with water added until you have a pistachio_creamcreamy consistency. We made a pistachio nut cream and then added wine an lemon to sauce a veal cutlet. It was so simple, rich and satisfying – we’ll definitely make this again.


Each of these dishes tasted completely different. The nuts added depth and richness in each case, but also showed different personalities in each of the dishes.