Thursday, July 15, 2010

Daring Cooks' Nut Butter & Taiwanese Cold Noodles

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.

This months' challenge was revealed 2 days before my flight back to Taiwan. When i found out that we had to make nut butters using food processors, i knew i had to act quickly and finish the challenge before i went back to TW where i would be lacking in all sorts of kitchen appliances. But with all the packing, moving, and world cup games going on, nut butter was the last thing on my mind. I wasn't reminded of my challenge until i got to unplugging the food processor cord from the wall... so with 30 minutes left before leaving for the airport, i quickly grounded some sliced almonds, packed it up, threw it in my check-in bag and said good-bye to my room!

So after a few days of rest, i finally dragged my lazy ass off the couch and made Taiwanese Cold Noodles (涼麵) with the Almond butter that flew back with me. I replaced the traditionally used oil noodles with no-carb, no-calorie Shirataki / Konjac noodles and topped it off with bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, eggs, and chicken breasts. This makes a very light and refreshing meal, perfect to combat the fiery summer heat of Taiwan. Thanks for the challenge, Margie & Natashya!

Homemade Nut Butters
  • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor [picture 1]. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits [picture 2], then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter [picture 3, 4]. 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. 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.
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.
Taiwanese Cold Noodles with Almond Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon finely shredded garlic (making a paste)
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (or to taste)
  • Water, adjust to desired consistency

  • For the COLD NOODLES:
  • Chinese egg noodles /oil noodles, cooked and drained
  • Chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • Fresh bean sprouts and Chinese chives, boiled and drained
  • Fresh carrots, julienned
  • Fresh cucumbers, julienned
  • Pan-fried egg omelettes, sliced into thin strips.
  1. Combine all dressing ingredients together in a large bow and mix until well blended. Adjust the consistency by adding more water or more almond butter. Set Aside.
  2. Place the cooked noodles onto a plate and top with shredded chicken breasts, bean sprouts, carrots, cucumbers, and egg. Drizzle with desired amount of almond dressing, gently toss and enjoy.
Taiwanese Cold Noodles