15 July 2010

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Butter--My first Daring Cooks' Challenge

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.

I just joined the Daring Kitchen (see the link to the left) recently and this is my first experience with their challenges.  Basically what they do is a monthly challenge recipe that all members have to make and then blog about if they are bloggers.  It isn't a competition, but more like a way to experiment with new dishes/ideas that are a little bit out of the ordinary, things that most people wouldn't think to make on a daily basis and share experiences.  It's a monthly challenge, so be on the lookout on the 14th of each month for my monthly challenge post (I do realize I'm a day late, I misread the directions).

The first key ingredient in nut butters (aside from the nuts themselves) is a really good blender or a food processor to grind the nuts up to a spreadable consistency (Thanks to my neighbor Marie for the use of her--I don't have a good one, yet).  They'll turn grainy and pasty first, but then will eventually (after 2-4 minutes) smooth out to a creamy consistency.  I like my butters a little more chunky, so that's just a matter of blending for a shorter amount of time.

Some other things to keep in mind:
  • You may need to add a little oil as well, but do so in small (1 tsp) increments so you don't end up with an oily mess.  You can use the corresponding oil, or something with neutral flavor like canola oil.
  • Nut butters can be made out of any nut, raw or roasted, salted or unsalted.  If you do use salted, make sure you account for it in your recipe, you don't want to have yourself a salt bomb instead of a creamy sauce.
  • You can roast the nuts yourself for 10 minutes in a 350F oven.  Just lay them out on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  • You'll get half the yield of butter as volume of nuts. So 1 cup of nuts will make 1/2 c of butter
  • I could go on and on, but click here for even more information on nut butters.
For this dish, you can customize it by adding your own favorite vegetables like shredded cabbage, bean sprouts or slivered carrots (I left out the cucumber mainly because I forgot to buy it at the store).  You can also omit or substitute the shrimp with the protein of your choice.  I used packaged, roasted and salted cashews, and that worked well.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing
Click here for a printable recipe 

Yield: 4 servings

Cashew Butter:
1 cup (240 ml) cashews*
Cashew Dressing:
½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
Hot sauce to taste (optional)

Noodle Salad:
1/2 pound (225 g) linguine or thin rice noodles
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/2 pound (225 g) 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 (60 ml) sliced green onions
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon (15 ml) 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.

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