Sunday, March 27, 2011

And then there was cashew butter

Katerina was one of my best friends in elementary school. We used to sit next to each other in class and giggle incessantly over inane and silly things, acting our age. We'd chew pink bubble gum until our jaws hurt and blow huge pink bubbles that would then explode and stick all over our faces, making our teacher furious and wishing he'd taught at an all-boys school.






We would make fun of the little boys who tried to grab our attention by playing football right in front of us in the schoolyard during recess, scoring goals and doing victory laps all proud and self-important, like all elementary school boys do.






We would spent countless hours playing with our Barbies and reading comic books or preparing for Saturday afternoon birthday parties. She'd teach me how to ride a bike while I'd teach her how to fall off of one, and we'd spy on her older brother who was so cute every girl had a crush on him.



Raw cashews



Katerina was a sweet blonde girl, taller than any of the other girls in our class or rather in our whole school and feeling awkward about it, but in the end got her revenge on everyone when she became the hot, tall, blonde teenager every guy in high school wanted to date.



Roasted cashews



Katerina's mom was American and even though she'd hate to admit it, she was different. She would speak English at home when all of her schoolmates spoke Greek at theirs; she would have slumber parties where I was the only one who attended them since everyone else's mother was like, "What? A slumber party? What's that?"; she would celebrate a strange holiday called Halloween when all the members of her family would wear spooky costumes and scare each other to bits; she would have peanut butter sandwiches in the mornings instead of milk, crusty bread and sugar (don't ask).






And at this point, the subject swiftly switches from my friend Katerina, to peanut butter. The first time I ever went to her house and her mom opened the huge, double-door American refrigerator that I've never seen anything like before and which I later found out was shipped from the US, was the first time I ever laid eyes on and tasted the glorious peanut butter. Surely, I have eaten peanuts before but what was that creamy, rich, thick, peanut-y spread right here? Where did it come from? Why haven't I known of this before? The gates have opened. And my mom, oh my mom, was in for a heck of a ride.






I'd pester her with unending questions as to when she was going to buy that miracle spread for me. I was urging her to go into stores where I thought I'd spotted a jar. I nagged her every time she'd ask me what I wanted to have for breakfast, lunch, dinner. She'd be bombarded with constant complaints about my peanut butter-less life.







Needless to say, the only chance I had of ever tasting it again was if I went over to Katerina's house and in all fairness to my mom, peanut butter was not easily found in Greece during that time. You could only find it in some specialty food stores in downtown Athens and she wasn't going to search for it.






Sure, it became widely available after a few years and it was in every super market, grocery store, even in my mom's own pantry (!) but what I realized a while back was that I can actually make this stuff all on my own. No additives, no preservatives, no extra salt and a hundred other unidentifiable ingredients, so I did. And I loved it. And then I realized that I can make the same thing with cashews because, let's face it, cashews just taste a whole lot better and they are my favorite kind of nut.






Listen, I can go and on about how spectacularly good cashew butter tastes slathered on a piece of bread; how it melts in your mouth and makes your tongue stick to your palate, making you produce inarticulate sounds for a couple of moments after you've tasted it; how you start spooning it straight from the jar after a while, standing in front of your open fridge, and watching it disappear right before your eyes, because who are we kidding here, we all end up doing exactly that.






So, long story short; cashew butter, I love you. You make my heart beat faster and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And, dear readers, if you've had any reservations on whether you should try making your own cashew butter, I'm sure this declaration of love was enough to persuade you.












Homemade Cashew Butter

Before I came up with this exact recipe, I tried every combination imaginable. Raw cashews with sea salt, unsalted cashews with oil, roasted cashews with honey and salt (the honey made it too thick, it was like stucco), roasted cashews with sugar and oil. Needless to say, numerous jars of cashew butter accumulated on the shelves of my small refrigerator until I finally got the recipe just the way I wanted it.

So, what you'll need? Raw, unsalted cashews, sunflower oil, a little sea salt and a little sugar. Once you roast the nuts for a few minutes in the oven, have your food processor at hand ( I used my brand new beast) and just process the heck out of them. You'll end up with cashew butter that is creamy but has a slight crunch, just the way I like it, and is not too thick. Once you refrigerate it, its consistency will change somewhat and become more dense.

Spread it on your favorite type of bread or use it in your favorite stir-fry or curry dish or even in a sauce to accompany a chicken satay.






Makes 1 heaped cup

Ingredients
250 g raw, unsalted cashews
30 ml (2 Tbsp) sunflower oil (or other mild-flavored vegetable oil)
½ tsp sea salt flakes (I used Maldon) or ½ tsp regular sea salt
½ tsp superfine sugar

Special equipment: food processor


Preparation
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking paper and spread the cashews on top. Place the sheet on the middle rack of the oven and roast them for 7-8 minutes, stirring them halfway through so they roast evenly on both sides. Keep an eye on them so they don't catch on top.

Let them cool and then place them in a food processor. Process them until quite fine and add the sunflower oil. Grind the cashews until they release their oil and become creamy, for about 3 minutes (they shall be slightly grainy but if you want, you can process them until they liquefy which will take more time, about 5-6 minutes in total). Scrape down the sides of the bowl of the food processor halfway through with a rubber spatula.

Add the sea salt flakes and sugar and process for 1 more minute.

In case you like your nut butter crunchy, add a few more cashews at the end of processing.

Empty the cashew butter in a clean, airtight, glass container/jar.

You can store it in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.








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24 comments:

  1. My beast of choice is my Vitamix here in the U.S and I make my peanut butter in it!
    Sandhya.

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  2. Magda, this looks delicious and I know my children will love it as they love peanut butter.

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  3. Cashews are ridiculously good. This looks like a great recipe. I can never pass up a snack that is both gooey and healthy :)

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  4. This looks like a fabulous idea. I am American and do enjoy some things peanut butter but have a special spot in my heart for cashew nuts, so it will be interesting to try...once I get a food processor...

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  5. I like this memory very much...and the cashew butter. Glad to see you back in this space :)

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  6. So delicious - it even sounds "softer" than peanut butter! Thanks!
    David

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  7. OMG how delish!!!

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  8. Hi!
    Just discovered your blog! Nice!
    You're from the Netherlands? I'm a neighbour: from Belgium!

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  9. Yummy! (mouth watering)
    I have the same 'beast', and I'm not all that impressed!
    Have you tried grinding spices yet? It just doesn't work, the spices fly in all directions and what hasn't escaped still need finishing off with the mortar and pestle!

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  10. Your fondness of your friend and those wonderful reminiscenes are so touching and I always love recipes with a personal story behind them. It's funny but I'd never thought of making cashew butter, in spite of my craze for the peanut stuff. The new beast looks impressive and I'm sure you'll put it to good use! Wonderful photos too.

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  11. Sandhya — we all have our beasts huh? :)

    Ivy — if they love peanut butter they are going to adoooore this.

    Nicole — if all snacks were like that. Ah, a girl can dream, right?

    Nuts about food — you can try making it in a smaller food processor, if you have, you know, like the ones you chop onions in. It need not be like my beast. Although, it needs to be powerful enough to stand 3-4 minutes of constant processing.

    Tracy — thank you :)

    David — I don't know if it's softer but it is tastier.

    Anonymous — thanks

    Tine — Hi neighbor! Thanks for dropping by.

    A Dutch Brit — No, I haven't tried grinding spices but I have tried everything else like pureeing, blending, slicing, you name it and it works like a dream. I think it is probably too big for grinding spices. I suppose they need a smaller container.

    Emily Vanessa — Oh, I already have :)

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  12. Loved reading your story and the peanut butter discovery is too cute; I feel for your mom though, when my daughter or son want something they are like a rabid dogs holding on to a bone
    Good to know cashew butter is a nice and easy alternative to peanut butter; I will make it someday, I am intrigued by the possibilities

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  13. I've had peanut and almond butters, but not cashew. Wonderful idea. Wonderful memory too.

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  14. Haha, nut butters are, indeed, addictive. Peanut or cashew - lovely! I made mt own peanut nutter when I lived in France years ago and couldn;t find it in my local market. But I have yet to make cashew butter myself - I'll have to give it a try!

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  15. i'm not particularly fond of peanut butter even tho i lived in a country that was raised on similar kinds of 'alternative' spreads (vegemite) - it all depends on what you're brought up with - but i love cashews; this must be a great alternative to peanut butter

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  16. Oh your absolutely right there. Nothing., absolutely nothing like freshly made cashew peanut butter. Love it & discovered it way back too. Thanks for sharing the good memories :)

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  17. I think that peanut butter is what sustained me as a picky-eater-kid!
    But homemade cashew butter? Yes, Your post has persuaded me! Terrific photographs, and I enjoyed reading about your exploits with Katerina.

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  18. Χαίρομαι που βρεθήκαμε Μάγδα... υπέροχη η συνταγή σου και το μπλογκ σου... Ελπίζω να τα λέμε συχνά. Εγώ πάντως σου αφήνω το εικονίδιό μου στους φίλους σου... αν θέλεις άσε μου κι εσύ το εικονίδιό σου για να έχω και εύκολη πρόσβαση σε σένα... Φιλιά! Ελπίζω να κεράστηκες μηλόπιτα!!!

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  19. This looks so good. I'm not a peanut butter fan but cashew that's a horse of a different color!

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  20. I love, love, love peanut butter! And I'm in London so can get it quite easily but my favorite brands don't exist here so I still pack some in my suitcase when I go home.
    Homemade cashew butter sounds so good - cashews are one of my favorite nuts and I never thought to enjoy them as a spread.
    Yours looks so creamy - I can just imagine it melting into the cracks of just toasted bread.

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  21. Funny, my sons grew up being the odd foreign kids and it was funny watching the adoration and awe with which the other kids watched them. And my sons' utter embarrassment! Lovely story, lovely post and WOW what cashew butter! Your images have tempted and titillated and now I want to make some! I have always been nuts (yeah) about peanut butter and this sounds fabulous!

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  22. What a great story. It's funny how it didn't take long for globalization to take effect. Your cashew butter looks wonderful. I've never thought of making it but since I love cashews the idea is divine.

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  23. This looks great! Been wanting to try making my own nut butters for a long time. And maybe even homemade Nutella too.

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  24. I stumbled upon this recipie while looking for a yummy way to find a cashew butter like my grandmother makes for me. I'm American but just moved to Korea where I can't find this comfort food! Also grew up on butters made from almonds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds. Yuuum...Pumpkin and apple butters are also pretty amazing and super simple to make!

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