Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July 2010 Daring Cooks' - Nut Butters

I entered a local cooking competition using some of the ideas of this challenge and I won first place for my sardine recipe! The judges said they liked how I combined a humble fish with sophisticated nut butters, and the home-made noddles where a nice touch of creativity.

Crisp waterchestnut sardines stuffed with pinenut and macadamina nut butter served with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce on home-made seaweed noddles

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.

What exactly is the July challenge? The challenge is to make a fresh nut butter and to use it in one savoury recipe (i.e., not a sweet dessert). You choose the type of nut (e.g., peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, etc.). Then purée the nuts into a paste or butter. (Instructions for making nut butters are provided below.) Then use your fresh homemade nut butter in at least one savoury recipe. The nut butter challenge was inspired by the article “Better with Nut Butter” by Kathy Baruffi in Cooking Light magazine.

In addition to instructions for making nut butters, we have provided 4 challenge recipes from which to choose: Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms, Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing, Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce, and Walnut Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage.

Recipes Sources:
Homemade Nut Butters (including almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut, pecan, pistachio, & walnut): adapted from Better with Nut Butter article from Cooking Light magazine online
Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: adapted from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Noodle Salad: adapted from Thai Noodles with Peanut Sauce from Cooking Light, October 2002
Asian Cashew Dressing: adapted from “Chinese Peanut Dressing” recipe (p. 22) in Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds
Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: adapted from Butter Chicken recipe at Food Network online
Walnut & White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007

What a wonderful and inspiring challenge this was I can't remember a Daring Cooks' challenge where ALL the members raved so much about the recipes. Each was SUPERB and so tasty and also they are fast and easy. It is great to have a host of recipes that can be whipped up at a moment's notice and know that the results will be delicious and crowd pleasing. I have to admit I was very inspired by the use of nut butters.

I just loved the Asian noddle recipe the cashew sauce is to die for it is so pungent yet so so tasty. And the curried tomato with almonds is stunning. I do recommend to all readers try these simple yet delicious recipes (see the end of posting for the recipes) they are really worth the effort.

Thank you to our hosts Margie and Natashya for a most inspiring challenge and the most delicious recipes I have had for a long while.

The challenge recipe of Asian noodle salad with cashew dressing really caught my eye so I decided to do it – the only changes I did was to use additional finely sliced fennel, fresh Thai chillies, palm sugar, potato noodles, black sesame oil and instead of water I used half prawn stock and fish sauce. I used store brought cashew butter since I had some in the pantry and I don't have a food processor. The sauce is very very pungent I was very worried and apprehensive about the prescribed 8 cloves of garlic! and 3 tablespoons of toasted sesame oil!!! but when combined with all the other salad ingredients it was excellent so tasty and delicious a wonderful Thai style recipe; it really had a kick and the whole house smelt of garlic and sesame oil for a few hours afterwards. The sauce is wondrous on crisp vegetables without anything else, this recipe will certainly be on my monthly rotation from now on. The final dish tasted like an restaurant-style dish the contrast of the different ingredients was superb and the hot tangy sauce was the note that combined all the components into one harmonious recipe.

Some of the ingredients

Cooked potato noodles – I love how they are shiny and transparent and they really soak up the flavours of the sauce really well

The very pungent sauce – the sauce is wonderful in the dish though it is very very strong if just tasted without any ingredients
Unmixed sauce
Mixed (with a wand bender) sauce

Completed dish – a wonderful combination of crisp vegetables, pungent sauce, prawns and soft potato noodles

I really really liked this dish and the sauce will be a regular feature on my spicy recipe rotation. Remember to store the sauce in a glass container with a metal lid it is so pungent if not stored correctly it will cross-containment all the other ingredients in the fridge.

Baby Squid with pungent Asian cashew sauce
I liked the Asian cashew sauce so much from the noodle challenge recipe, I had to make another dish using some marinated baby squid I had in the fridge. I made up the sauce as per the recipe adding the zest of one lime but didn't add the cashew nut butter then slowly simmered the squid for an hour then I added the nut butter into the cooling sauce since I was worried that adding the nut butter at the beginning might make the sauce curdle. I tried to fry some of the noodle sauce to test it and it curdled badly but adding some coconut cream seemed to homogenise the sauce again. Fennel with its subtle anise (mild licorice) flavour and delicate celery texture is a great foil of the pungent sauce and the squid and other ingredients. I steamed a fennel bulb so it was soft and stayed white so I could use the individual leaves as bowls for the squid and noddles.

Marinated baby squid using the Asian noddle sauce (without the nut butter) as the marinade

Slowly simmered cooked baby squid

Completed dish

Simmering the sauce makes for a milder (though it is still strong) version of the Asian sauce and adding the nut butter at the end makes the sauce very creamy and thick. I liked the fennel it went perfectly with the other ingredients. I used the uncooked sauce I had made previously on the fresh capsicum and cucumber for a slight taste contrast.

I just love gado-gado (Indonesian for mix-mix) thanks for the suggestion fragiletiger it is a concoction of hard-boiled quail eggs (and optional seafood) with snake beans, shredded green and red cabbage, lettuce, stir-fired mixed vegetables, bean sprouts and prawn crackers all combined with a very hot peanut, coconut milk and chilli sauce. It is usually eaten as an entrée but I decided to do a main course size of luncheon. It is totally delicious yum yum. The sauce is so good and well suited for the ingredients used.

In Australian restaurants gado-gado is usually served in lettuce leaf parcels in small bite sized portions but in Indonesia it is a main meal.

Gado-gado siram sauce (siram means peanut in Indonesian)
10 cloves garlic, stir fried/fried/roasted
300 g roasted/fried peanuts (or 1 cup of organic crunchy peanut butter)
1000 ml coconut milk
10 red chillies, discard the seed and stir fried/fried (I used about 20 at the end)
1 tsp terasi (dried shrimp paste), toasted
1 block of coconut sugar (about 65 grams)
2-3 tbsp rice flour dissolve in a small amount of water
1. Process garlic, peanuts/peanut butter, a half part of coconut milk, red chillies, terasi, coconut sugar in a food processor or blender.
2. In a sauce pot, combine processed mixture with the rest of coconut milk, stir and turn on the stove at low-medium heat. Stir occasionally.
3. Cook sauce until boiled, the volume reduced and the sauce surface looks a bit oily. Add rice flour mixture. Keep stirring until bubbling about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

I was surprised how different this sauce tasted as compared to the Asian Noddle sauce (see above) the coconut milk, coconut sugar, terasi, the many chillies and the simmering really adds a whole new dimension to the sauce.

Gado-gado siran suace

Ingredients for the gado-gado meal
Completed dish

Pecan and garlic nut butter chicken sandwiches
I made up some pecan nut butter using a mortar and pestle (see pictures below) it takes about 5 minutes and adding some oil makes for an almost smooth butter. I then experimented a little and found that fried garlic is superb with the pecan nut butter so I decided to make a garlic/pecan nut butter I combined about one head of fried garlic with the pecan nut butter. I then made some fried chicken thighs (since they have more flavour than the fillets) and smothered them with the garlic/pecan nut butter and put them under the griller. I also made some filled quail eggs I removed the cooked yolks added some pecan/garlic butter with the yolks and pipped that mixture back into the cooked whites. I garnished with caramelised onions and tomatoes and a used a herb (parsley, rosemary and sage) burnt butter sauce as the base for the multi-grain sandwich slices. I just loved this garlic and pecan nut butter it is so savoury and sweet at the same time.

Pecan nut butter process
Completed garlic and pecan nut butter - so delicious!

Completed dish

Macadamia and pomegranate molasses quail with macadamia cauliflower purée
I couldn't do this challenge and not use the fantastic macadamia nut which is indigenous to Australia. Macadamia nuts are ivory white, rich in oil and have a massive flavour profile with a wonderful texture. Macadamias nuts (shelled) are reasonably priced at $13/kg in Australia. I got 8 fresh quails (very cheap $1 each) from a friend of mine who raises them. I couldn't find any good recipes on the internet so had to make the following recipes. I de-boned (my first time de-boning after 4 of them I was quite quick) the quails (see here for details), then stuffed them with a filling made of macadamia nut butter, pomegranate molasses, fresh breadcrumbs, a touch of chilli oyster sauce, some palm sugar and whole hard-boiled quail eggs – this was so yummy itself. Surprisingly pomegranate molasses is tart this worked well with the flavoursome creamy macadamia nut butter. Roast the quails for 25mins at 200C. Then I made up some cauliflower purée combined with a ½ cup of macadamia nut butter – this combination is superb so rich, creamy and thick it has quite an amazing taste I would of been very happy with the purée by itself since it has such an exquisite taste. Remember to make soup stock with the quail bones and off cuts. I will be making something with the quail soup and nut butter tomorrow.

Fresh quails

De-boned quail

Macadamia nuts being processed

Macadamia cauliflower purée – this had the most astounding taste and texture so so creamy and luscious. I would have been happy just with this.

Macadamina pomegranate molasses quail with macadamina cauliflower purée

The crisp quail was the perfect counterpoint to the macadamina and pomegranate molasses filling - it is so nice to have quail without the bones the de-boning is well worth the five minutes it takes.

Crisp waterchestnut sardines stuffed with pinenut and macadamina nut butter served with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce on home-made seaweed noddles
Since I couldn't really find any recipes on the internet I had to make this dish from scratch (both nut butter recipes were created on the spot) I went to the fish markets and since sardines were on special at $2/kg I couldn't resist. I used waterchestnut starch to coat the fish and stuffed them with macadamina nut butter, pinenut nut butter and fried onions. Then I made up a Green Thai cashew sauce; ½ cup cashew nut butter, 3 tbls fried Thai green curry paste, 2 tbls ginger mayonnaise, 1 bunch each of coriander, parsley, holy basil, 1 head of roasted garlic, zest of 1 lime and a 10 red Thai chillies (de-seeded and de-veined) – blended to a smooth purée. I then cooked up some home-made seaweed noddles (I have been doing a noddle making class still a couple more weeks till it ends) to serve with the Green Thai cashew nut sauce.

The waterchestnut starch adds a wondrous crispy coating to the fish – I will never use normal flour or corn flour again it was so crisp yet the coating was almost transparent a lovely result.

This was fantastic the sardines tasted so sweet! the combination of the macadamina/pinenut/onion filling and waterchestnut coating really bought out the natural sweetness of the fish so so tasty and with the tangy and fresh tasting Green Thai cashew sauce on the umami (seaweed) noddles everything was delightful a rainbow of flavours and textures in each bite extra yummy.

I submitted this recipe into a cooking competition that is being held at the fish markets – who would of guessed you could make sardines taste sweet. I won first place!!!

Waterchestnut starch – 80 cents per 250 gm pack!

Waterchestnut starch (left) and the filling of macadamina nut butter, pine nut butter & fried onions (on the right)

Sardines – notice how fresh they are the eyes are so bright and shiny only $2/kg

Sardines stuffed with macadamina nut butter, pine nut butter and fried onions

Sardines coated with waterchestnut starch

Home-made seaweed noddles with Green Thai cashew nut butter sauce

Fried sardines – notice how crispy the fish is and yet the coating is transparent

Completed dish – garnished with chives and hot red chilli sauce

Baked Mullet with Green Thai Cashew Nut Sauce
I liked the Green Thai cashew sauce so much I thought I would do baked mullet with it, I smothered the cleaned mullet with the sauce and filled the fish with lemon slices and slivered almonds. Baking time is roughly 30 mins at 180ºC. I was so juicy and tangy a nice use of the sauce on an undervalued fish.


Three Favourite Winter Recipes Remade with Nut and Seed Butters
Sydney is experiencing its coldest winter for sixty years at the moment so I thought I would do make-overs of my all time favourite winter recipes using nut and seed butters.

Australian Blue Puy Lentil, fox nut and lotus nut soup
Australian Blue Puy are a small slate-green lentil with a delicate blue marbling. These lentils are considered by many to be the best lentil because of their unique peppery flavour and the fact they hold their shape during cooking. While fox nuts are the starchy seed of a water lily which tastes like nutty mushrooms. Lotus nuts are the starchy seed of the lotus plant and taste like a cross between buttered popcorn and almond there are very tasty. I thought these nuts with lentils would a great basis for a winter recipe that is yummy and filling. The final dish was so filling and tasted like winter warmth – peppery, mushroomy and very buttery a great dish I really liked it a lot. I used quail stock which I had frozen from making the de-boned crisp quails, quail stock is much more strongly flavoured and much richer in mouth feel than normal chicken stock.

Fox nut (on the right) and Lotus flower nuts (on the left)

Australian Puy lentils

Completed soup

Walnut and hazelnut Beef bourguignon with new potatoes
One of my all time favourite winter dishes is beef bourguignon (beef braised in red wine) with new potatoes I used hazelnut and walnut nut butter instead of the normal roux in the recipe this was a real winner the nuts go so very well with the red wine, beef but especially well with new potatoes.

Final beef bourguignon

Meat loaf with chicory
I just love meat loaf this dish is rare and very exotic in most Australian homes I make it for sandwiches. I have a much loved recipe that I have developed over the last year (I use grated sweet potato, apple, Vegemite and soup seaweed in it also with veal, pork and beef minced meats and the other normal ingredients) and I thought chicory nuts would be an excellent addition instead of the normal breadcrumbs I used chicory nut butter which tastes like mild coffee and bitter chocolate with a touch of heat. This was a fantastic remake chicory really adds a wonder depth of flavour to the meatloaf and also it makes the loaf slice very cleanly and improves the overall flavour profile. All I can say is yum yum.

Chicory nuts

Meat loaf with chicory

Overall I was very pleased with the remakes they were all major improvements to my favourites winter recipes. I have to admit this challenge is really bringing out my creative juices.

  • We had best results making nut butters in a food processor rather than a blender. My basic two-speed, household blender worked fine for soft nuts like pecans and walnuts, but was unable to blend harder nuts like almonds & macadamias. Unless you have one of those high-powered blenders guaranteed to puree almost anything, we recommend using a food processor.

  • The four challenge recipes include instructions for making the appropriate amount of nut butter for the particular recipe. If you made the nut butter in advance, substitute the appropriate volume of nut butter for the nuts.

  • The yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup (240 ml) nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup (120 ml) nut butter.

  • We have provided recipes for unsweetened nut butters since the challenge is to use the nut butter in a savory recipe. You may sweeten the nut butters as desired for use as a spread or in dessert recipes.

  • Despite the name, there is no dairy butter in nut butters. They are essentially pureed nuts, also called nut pastes.

  • To use nut butters in sauces as a substitute for heavy cream, first make a nut cream. Whisk the nut butter with about twice the volume of water, adding more water until you reach your desired consistency. For example, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) nut butter with ½ cup (120 ml) water; add more water as needed.

Simple Suggestions for Using Nut Butters:
  • sauce for grilled meat or fish

  • topping for pancakes or French toast

  • dip with apples or celery

  • spread for toast or sandwiches


  • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.

  • You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.

  • The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.

  • Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.

  • It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.

  • The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.

  • Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling.

  • See links at bottom of post for additional information about making nut butters at home.

What variations are allowed:

  • We tested the challenge recipes below with particular types of nut butters as indicated in the ingredient list. You are free to experiment with other types of nuts. For example, you may want to substitute walnut butter in the Chicken with Pecan Cream and Mushrooms. You may also substitute the chicken or shrimp in the challenge recipes with your protein of choice.

  • If you are unable to eat nuts due to allergies or other dietary restrictions, we suggest you consider making a seed butter (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, etc) and use it in a savory recipe of your choice. Making seed butters is very similar to making nut butters. We have provided links at the bottom of this post with information on seed butters and recipes. You’re also welcome to use other alternates as discussed in next bullet point.

  • If you are unable to eat nuts or seeds, you might consider making a fruit butter and then using it in a sweet or savory recipe. (Fruit butters are fruit cooked to form a paste, see links at bottom of post for recipes.) We are also open to other ideas for those with allergies or food restrictions. For example, pureed beans or pureed roasted vegetables could be used in a variety of savory soups, stews, or sauces.

  • If you do not own a food processor or high-powered blender to make your own nut butter, you may complete the challenge with store-bought nut butter.

  • Vegans, vegetarians, and those with food restrictions may substitute accordingly in the challenge recipes.

Preparation time:
  • Homemade Nut Butters: 10 minutes (optional) roasting, 5 minutes preparation

  • Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms: approximately 30 minutes

  • Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing: approximately 30 minutes

  • Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce: approximately 30 minutes

  • Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage: approximately 10 minutes

Approximate Processing Times in Food Processor for Nut Butters:

  • Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter

  • Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing

  • Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter

  • Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes

  • Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes

  • Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

  • Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor

  • Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.

Equipment required:
  • Food processor or high-powered blender

  • Rubber spatula

  • Large non-stick frying pan

  • Sauce pan, stock-pot, or Dutch oven for cooking noodles

  • Strainer

  • Baking sheet or roasting pan for oven-roasting nuts

  • Assorted mixing bowls

  • Assorted plates

  • Tongs or spatula

  • Whisk

  • Wooden spoons

  • Cutting board

  • Kitchen knife

Chicken with Pecan Cream & Mushrooms
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute your favorite pasta or rice in place of the egg noodles. Use fresh rosemary or parsley in place of thyme if you prefer.


Pecan Cream:
3/4 cup (180 ml) coarsely chopped pecans*, toasted
1 cup (240 ml) water
¾ teaspoon (3 ml) salt, more as needed

½ pound (225 g) egg noodles or pasta
4 (6-ounce / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon (15 ml) deglazing liquid (water, broth, wine; optional)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) olive oil, more as needed
1/4 cup (60 ml) finely chopped shallots
½ pound (225 g) mushrooms, sliced
1 Tablespoon (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves
Chopped pecans, (optional garnish)


  1. Prepare pecan cream. Grind pecans 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 (3 ml) salt; process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Set aside pecan cream. (*If starting with prepared pecan butter, blend ¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (90 ml) pecan butter with the water and salt until smooth.)

  2. Cook noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Drain, rinse, and keep warm.

  3. 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. Set aside cooked chicken 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 (5 ml) of oil (or more) to pan for sautéing the shallots and mushrooms. Sauté the shallots and mushrooms over medium heat for 4 to 6 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and starting to brown. Add fresh thyme to the pan. Stir in pecan cream; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 minutes till reduced slightly.

  5. Slice chicken into thin strips. Divide the noodles among serving plates. Add a scoop of the mushroom pecan sauce on top of noodles. Lay sliced chicken on top. Garnish with fresh thyme and/or a pinch of chopped pecans if desired.

Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and slivered carrots would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter. We tested the dressing with nut butters made from salted cashews & peanuts with good results.


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.

Chicken with Curried Tomato Almond Sauce
Yield: 4 servings

Recipe notes: Substitute the protein of your choice for the chicken. This is a smooth sauce, so the onion is removed before serving. If you prefer, dice the onion and leave it in the sauce or substitute a bit of onion powder.


1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
4 (6 oz / 170 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Salt to taste

Spice Blend:
1.5 tablespoons (20 ml) garam masala seasoning
1 teaspoon (5 ml) ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper

4 tablespoons (60 ml) butter
1 large onion, cut in half pole to pole
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce/425 g) can tomato sauce
⅓ cup (80 ml) almond butter
⅓ cup (80 ml) milk
½ to ¾ cup (120 to 180 ml) 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.

Walnut White Bean Dip with Rosemary & Sage

Recipe notes: Canned beans tend to be salty, so you may not need additional salt. Taste the dip after blending and add salt as needed.


½ cup (120 ml) walnuts*
1 (15.8 oz/448g) can Great Northern, Cannellini, or other white beans, drained and rinsed 1 garlic clove, chopped 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh rosemary, chopped
2 teaspoons (10 ml) fresh sage, chopped
¼ teaspoon (1 ml) lemon zest (optional) ¼ teaspoon (1 ml) black pepper salt to taste


  1. Make walnut butter by grinding ½ cup (120 ml) walnuts in food processor for about a minute until it forms a nut butter or paste. (*Alternately, start with ¼ cup (60 ml) prepared walnut butter.) Add beans, garlic, lemon juice, rosemary, sage, lemon zest (if using), and black pepper to the walnut butter in the food processor. Process the mixture to a smooth consistency. Taste and add salt as desired. Garnish dip with chopped walnuts and/or chopped fresh rosemary or sage, if desired. Serve dip with pita wedges, crostini, or assorted vegetables.

Additional Information:

  • Click here for a summary of nut nutrition from the University of Nebraska extension. Scroll down the page for a helpful chart comparing nutrition facts for both peanuts and tree nuts.

  • Click here for a detailed table of nutrition facts for a variety of tree nuts from the International Tree Nut Council. Click here for a detailed table of nutrition facts for dry roasted peanuts from The Peanut Institute.

  • Here’s a helpful video on making peanut butter at home in a food processor.

  • Here’s a helpful video on making macadamia nut butter at home in a food processor.

  • We tested this recipe for homemade toasted sesame seed butter (or Tahini) from this website featuring Middle Eastern cuisine. It was definitely not as smooth as commercial Tahini, but tasted fresh and intensely nutty. If you’re looking for a good recipe in which to use your homemade Tahini, we recommend Mollie Katzen’s recipe for Tahini Lemon Sauce.

  • Click here for a recipe for sunflower seed butter from Gourmet Sleuth online. Please note, we did not test this recipe.

  • If you are interested in fruit butters, check out the Pear Butter and Apple Butter recipes at the Simply Recipes food blog.

  • For inspiration on cooking with nut and seed butters, check out these recipes from Futters Nut Butters, a company that sells a variety of jarred nut and seed butters.


Kat said...

Dang, Audax. Your work is as breathtaking as a national park. I don't know what nation you would be a monument in, but I think any nation would be glad for the addition.

I've never seen such yummy looking sardines. Ever.

J.Sterling said...

Congratulations on winning that cooking contest!! This all looks so delicious

Lo said...

You've done it again -- what a stunning array of nut butter recipes! I have to admit, though, the one thing I'm truly drooling over is that cauliflower puree... sounds so good!

And those sardines! Definitely worth a prize.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on both your effort and the contest, you've just boggled my mind with your combinations again. I want to try that Macadamia and pomegranate molasses quail immediately! I reckon the Husband would like the Sardines too...me not so much, but amazing as always!

Asha @ FSK said...

CONGRATULATIONS on winning the cooking contest!!!! :))

And, hats off to you again Audax! Fabulous creations. I especially love the chicory meat loaf. I wish I could taste it!!

TaGa_Luto said...



Eat4Fun said...

Congrats on your first place victory! All your dishes look terrific and I bet you could have entered any of those dishes and still placed first.

shelley c. said...

Congratulations on your win! While your efforts are always amazing, you seem to have been extra inspired by this challenge, which is an absolute delight to read about. I am also intrigued by the variety of ingredients you incorporated into your dishes. Really great work.

Margie said...

Everything looks fabulous. Your sardine dish is a stunner, congrats on your first place finish! I've got macadamia butter in the fridge; can't wait to try your cauliflower puree. The stuffed eggs were such a creative flourish to your quail dish. I was chuckling about meatloaf being rare & exotic until I realized just how truly rare & exotic your your meatloaf is. The chicory sounds divine.

twistedkitchen said...

Wow! Your post is awesome!

Jo said...

Audax, I am totally speechless. This is good enough for a published cookbook. Bravo!

Marisa said...

You astound me every time with your energy and the fervour with which you embrace the challenges every month. Those sardines look mouthwatering - can see why you won a prize with them.

showfoodchef said...

WOW, just WOW! You went Nuts for the Nut Butter and it all looks DELISH! Those Sardines made my taste buds dance! Did you MAKE the noodles? I'd love to do that. Fab job and post!

Simones Kitchen said...

Congratulations on the win with your fabulous looking sardines Audax! After reading about your success with the salad I am so gonna be making that very soon! Love all the dishes you made. Perfect as always!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You did so much with such a simple concept! Well done. Can't wait to see more from you!

Sara @ thelittlebite.wordpress.com

Unknown said...

Congratulations for winning with those beautiful looking sardines! I have to say that that recipe looks like it would be fantastic.

I also really enjoyed the photos of the baby squid. That sounds sooo good with the cashew sauce!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on winning the contest! All of your recipes look amazing - I'm so envious of all the wonderful and different nuts you were able to use!

Denise said...

Audax - YOU are the inspiring one, with your cookbook of nut butter recipes! I'll be back to read all the way through later. If I start now, I'll never make it to work! Beautiful!

tariqata said...

Well as usual, what can I say but "Wow!!!!!" The gado gado in particular looks fab.

Congratulations on winning the cooking contest! (Not that I'm surprised. :P)

Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz said...

Well i am hardly surprised you won. Wow what an invention. Beyond creative and complex and simple. Congrats.

Never saw chikory nuts, great something else I have to try that we don't have anywhere probably.

Love the squid in fennel presentation. Amazing challenge results.

The Maiden Metallurgist said...

Everything looks amazing- but those sardines piqued my intrest the most. I love sardines, and this looks like a very interesting preparation. Excellent!

Julie M. said...

congratulations on winning the cooking competition! I'm not surprised you won though, your dishes are always amazing! You really went all out on this one. I LOVE that quail dish. And that cauliflower puree looks "plate lickable" to me. Nice work as always!

FabFrugalFood said...

Stunning! As always, you are an inspiration to us all.

Donna @ Fab Frugal Food

pammyh said...

You are a machine! I can't believe you cooked this much food! It all looks and sounds amazing.

Adriana said...

Great job, as always simply amazing! My favorite is the Asian noodle salad I'm getting hungry just looking at it.

Chantel Beauregard said...

Wow! Very impressive Audax, they all look delicious!

chef_d said...

Wow Audax!! Congratulations on winning the competition! I love all your dishes but my favorite would have to be the baby squid, looks very tasty and the colors are amazing :)

Sarah said...

Macadamia and cauliflower sound like such an intriguing combination. So unexpected, but it strikes me as very tasty indeed. Thanks for all the inspiration.

pigpigscorner said...

Congrats! The sardine dish does look and sound amazing!

Angelica said...

CONGRATS, AUDAX on winning the competition! The 1st prize for the nut butter stuffed sardines is well deserved. love your creativity and even made a meatloaf using nut butter! Keep up the awesome work!

Anita said...

Congratulations on winning 1st place. Well deserved. Your cooking is always so creative....I hear Masterchef calling you...

Anonymous said...

Audax, you made so many diffrent things with nut butter. Congratulations, you`re a cooking genius!

Barbara Bakes said...

Congratulations on your win! Once again, so creative on this challenge.

Unknown said...

Hi Audax - Your sardines and other recipes and photos are amazing. Congratulations. Thanks also for visiting Eye For A Recipe and posting a comment. I've only been blogging for about two months and am really enjoying it. All the best from Almonte, Ontario Canada.

Recipe Sleuth (aka Susan)

Kelly said...

Congratulations on your win. I have no doubt that it was deserved. Your recipes are truly amazing! I can't wait to see what you make next month.

Linders said...

garlic pecan nut butter chicken sandwich are u kidding me Audax? That is a fantastic idea!!! I think I need to try this out. :)

Valérie said...

Audax, everytime I come to see your challenges, I expect a bunch of different dishes, and a lot of creative ingredients... but you defied my expectations this time! There's so much here, it's impossible to take in!

Congratulations on winning the contest!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the contest!!! You always make such above and beyond creations with every challenge, and this nutty challenge (ha..ha..) is no exception! :) awesome..

Sarah said...

You had so much fun with this challenge! So many variations. I have not yet eaten fresh sardines and will at my next opportunity...which means I will be outside North America. Bravo.

Sarah said...

Congrats on the much deserved win! And darn you for making me want to try sardines all over again. I forced myself to eat some on a salad last week since they are so nutritious and their fishiness really killed me. Great work as usual, Audax.

Memória said...

First of all, congratulations on winning that competition! You deserve all the accolades and prizes bestowed upon you.

Secondly, looking at all your work tires me, yet fills me with much awe. You're amazing!! I love how you made so many different variations.

I've never heard of potato noodles. They look like cellophane noodles. I made homemade pasta, too. I just didn't include nut butters.

Anyway, congrats again!!

Monkeyshines in the Kitchen said...

Just fabulous stuff, Audax - once again you have outdone yourself! Congratulations on a well-deserved win in the cooking contest!

Suz said...

Goodness, those sardines look to die for. I'm not surprised you won with a dish like that. Congratulations! Such a wonderful array of dishes - so creative!

Have a great holiday!

Toni said...

good work, i couldn´t imagine such a differente kind of dishes about the nuts butters, congratulations, i will complete better my recipe after looking your blog,
by From Spain.

Lovlie said...

Congratulations on winning the first place! All your dishes looks spectacular! Did you spend the entire month on this challenge?! The Asian salad looks great too!

Lisa said...

Aud, you always leave the sweetest comments *hugs* I love how you combined nuts in some of the nut butters for your preparations. Love the macadamia and pine nut combo and those chicken sandwiches.,.yum!! Those would go great on one of your stunning and gorgeous focaccia's above. I'm truly awed! I need to get into the next BBD round!

Simona Carini said...

A splendid array of dishes: it would be very hard to choose one. Your sardine recipe is certainly brilliant and I congratulate you on winning the competition. I can imagine how the judges were blown away.

LittleRed said...

What a wonderfully creative assortment of uses for nut butters. i really enjoyed how much this challenge made everyone think, and I've seen so many recipes I'd like to try. Well done:)

Talia said...

Oh Audax: I saw your comment on my fish talk post and headed right over to find your post. I'm now sitting at my desk at work drooling. What a lot of delicious recipes: the sardines look so scrumptious!

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