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