Batter Licker

November 8, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 11 (cashew bacon brittle)

Until the wedding, I had never made a brittle that wasn’t chock full of peanuts. I also had never been married, and had never had such beautiful signage for my dessert bar designed and made by my dear peanut-allergic friend CB of Darts Meet Heart.

So when I saw Irvin’s bacon peanut brittle pictures on Eat the Love, and subsequently became obsessed with it despite not being a bacon freak, I knew I had to find a way to include it in the dessert bar without causing CB’s cheeks to puff up.

Luckily, CB gets along just fine with cashews, and after a quick Twitter affirmation from Irvin that yes, cashews should substitute just fine, I proceeded to pull out cashews, bacon and sugar. Little did I know how much trouble the sugar would later cause me.

But diced up a heck of a lot of bacon, refilling my cutting board with uncut strips of fatty pork about 6 times.

Then I fried the bacon until super crispy, but not burnt.

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Getting the bacon crisp initially took much more time than I thought, so I quickened the process by draining the bacon fat from the pan a few times.

Per usual, I strained the bacon while removing it from the pan, and scooped it atop paper towels to absorb the excess fat. Rinse and repeat for the several remaining batches.

In retrospect, this bacon-crisping process would have been much easier, faster and cleaner in the oven, given that I was making enough for wedding full of guests.

Bacon aside, it became cashew time. (more…)

October 7, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 7 (chili lime peanuts)

The nut parade continues with chili lime peanuts because, in my opinion, variety always makes things a little more fun.

While the curried cashews and brown sugar, rosemary, bourbon-brined almonds were fairly easy to manage, these peanuts manage to be even simpler.

I threw peanuts into a bowl, but on a lazier day, I strongly believe these nuts could mix up quite nicely with the spices directly on a rimmed baking sheet. That’s right. One less thing to clean up.

But I didn’t think of that until after the peanuts had already made their way into the bowl. So I went ahead and zested a lime straight in there.

These limes were particularly attached to their juices. After rolling them around, halving them, and squeezing with all my strength, I yielded maybe a drop or two. Things were not looking good.

March 1, 2011

pea shoots, daikon radish and grated sweet potato salad with spicy sesame peanut dressing

On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.

Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.

Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.

I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand. (more…)

August 25, 2010

peanut butter

Filed under: nuts, seeds,vegan — Tags: , — Kristen @ 6:07 pm

I can’t decide who I pity more: people with nut allergies or those with lactose intolerance. Ice cream or peanut butter? Cheese or salted cashews?

On the one hand, ice cream heals bad days. However, peanut butter on a spoon dipped in raspberry jam (repeat x 10 while studying for the bar exam, when it’s depressingly foggy during July, when it’s too hot to make anything during August, or just because it’s one of those days) is one of my favorite mid-afternoon snacks.

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Thankfully, I fall into neither category, although my seasonal allergies more than make up for my lack of food allergies. (It’s not uncommon for close friends to joke that I’m allergic to the outdoors, but I love golfing, hiking, and walking. I might as well be a bee who’s allergic to pollen and honey.)

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I stumbled upon the idea of making my own peanut butter when I ran out of the pre-made store-bought stuff. My strong need to instantly gratify my PB urge led me to stare at a bag of roasted, unsalted peanuts for a few minutes, hoping that my mind would churn them into a butter-like texture.

Not having any luck mastering that skill, I sulked back to the couch. A few minutes later, I returned to the kitchen, stared at peanuts, and sulked back to the couch again. Finally, the elevator dinged and a brilliant idea arrived: pour peanuts in food processor, add salty and sweet flavors, and blend the hell out of them.

The end result was a smidgen coarser than store-bought natural PB but even more delicious, thanks to the honey, and perfectly salted to my taste. In fact, it didn’t even need to be dipped in raspberry jam. But you know what? I did that a few times anyway. Sometimes I just can’t help being devilish.

Peanut Butter

You can buy pre-toasted peanuts or toast raw Spanish peanuts yourself in a 350F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. This recipe is fairly versatile when it comes to sweetness, so you can add more honey to make it more dessert-like or leave it out altogether. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion this would work equally well with almonds if you’d prefer to make almond butter.

To make this vegan, use agave nectar instead of honey, but I would start with about half the amount since agave nectar tastes much sweeter to my taste buds.

1/2 c. peanuts, unsalted and roasted
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil or peanut oil

In a food processor, chop peanuts until very fine.

Add honey, salt and oil, and blend for 3 to 5 minutes (maybe less or more time, depending on your food processor; if your food processor is old and clunky like mine, you might want to give it a breather every minute and a half so it doesn’t overheat) until mixture sticks together in a ball and develops a texture similar to natural peanut butter (texture will be more coarse than Jif, Skippy, and other corn syrup-filled PB impostors). Taste, and if desired, add more salt or honey.

Scrape some PB out with a spoon, dip into raspberry jam, and enjoy PB&J on a spoon!

Store remaining PB in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

May 7, 2010

slaw with thai peanut sauce

When I was a kid, I loved cabbage – roasted or boiled, slathered in melty butter, and sprinkled with salt. (I still enjoy that sort of cabbage now, but reserve it for St. Patrick’s Day.) However, as much as I liked cabbage itself, I never understood slaw.

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Most of the slaws I’ve tasted over the years have been more or less drowned in mayonnaise, and you see, mayonnaise and I aren’t quite best friends. I’m a mustard gal at heart, though I’ve learned to enjoy artichoke leaves dipped in a bit of mayo. But I never acquired that same taste for mayo when it came to cabbage salads. Peanut butter, on the other hand, I have always been able to eat by the spoonful (maybe even dipped in a little raspberry jam for some tart sweetness – yum! and yes, that is a “dessert” that I’ve eaten on multiple occasions.).

So when I first dipped chicken (and lamb!) satay – or even grilled sweet potatoes (seriously delicious with this sauce) – into spicy-sweet Thai peanut sauce, it was basically a dream come true. And at some point, probably after I dumped the leftover mango salsa and a dollop of pink chipotle mayonnaise on the extra cabbage from fish tacos, I had one of those light bulb moments where everything in the background fades out and a bright idea emerges: (more…)

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