Archive for November, 2013

November 17, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Cashew Butter

A little bit dangerous. That’s how all good recipes should be.

It starts with cashew butter. You know, like peanut butter, but with cashews, a nut which happens to come from a deadly fruit. But more on that later.

When I’m feeling ambitious I use my cuisinart food processor to make my own nut butter. The process itself is not difficult, but may cause hearing loss. When I think of the horrendous noise created in the first five seconds of grinding nuts,  I usually find myself at the bulk section of the co-op, using their machines to quietly place whatever quantity of peanut or almond butter I desire into my very own jar.

However, my partner Hannah and I just moved into a new apartment in Ashland, and the previous tenant (who we kind of knew) happened to leave some food items behind for us. The jar of kombucha I swiftly passed on to a more appreciative owner – I once consumed a bad kombucha and I don’t care to recount the experience, thank you.

The giant bag of cashews in the freezer was a happier discovery. First, I made a nice batch of cashew butter using just the cashews and a little salt. Like I said, easy in the cuisinart – just plug your ears until the ground nuts slowly begin to release their oils and turn into a paste. The longer you let it run, the creamier it becomes.

Hannah and I have a rule in the house – if someone cooks, the other person has to do the dishes. Exceptions are my special cooking projects, which have been known to dirty every dish in the kitchen without producing anything edible – like when I try to make bread.

Unfortunately, my dear sweetheart doesn’t have a particular fondness for cashews, buttered or not. Since the food processor is notoriously time-consuming and annoying to wash, I knew I had to make something more exciting in it to be able to convince Hannah to wash it for me.

Enter the eggplant. When the late-summer abundance of peppers, eggplants, tomatoes hits, and the daytime temperatures start dropping, I love tossing everything in olive oil and roasting it in the oven. Roasting is to vegetables what grinding in the food processor is to nuts!

This recipe happened when I threw roasted eggplant and some other veggies in with a new batch of cashew butter to make a sweet, spicy, creamy and delicious spread. Although the recipe is not exact, I have attempted to record what I did!

Roasted Eggplant Cashew Butter

for roasting:
1 eggplant
1 sweet pepper
1 spicy pepper
1 bulb garlic
olive oil

for the butter part:
1/2 c cashews1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced
1 T Spike (seasoning available at health food stores, or salt)
1 T cumin
3 branches of fresh oregano
1/2 bunch of parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Halve the eggplant and rub with olive oil. Place cut side down in a baking sheet or pan. Leave the peppers whole, rub with olive oil and add them to the pan. Remove the outer skin of the garlic bulb and chop off the very tips of the cloves. Roast the whole garlic bulbs in the pan or them wrap in foil.
Throw the roasting pan in the oven. Turn the peppers when blackened on the top side. Once all the skin is black, the cooled peppers can be easily skinned. Roast the eggplant until the insides are very soft – at least 20 minutes. The garlic will be ready after about 30 minutes.

When cooled, remove the skin and the seeds from the peppers. Remove the top from the eggplant. Squeeze the uncut end of the garlic to release the roasted garlic “meat”. Set the roasted veggies aside.

Put the cashews in the food processor and let ‘er rip. When the butter is creamy, stop. Add the lemon juice, Spike, herbs and cumin. Add the roasted vegetables.

Enjoy on crackers, as a sandwich spread, as a pasta sauce or by itself.

Cashew tree picture from somewhere on the internet

Cashew fruits on a cashew tree. The nuts are in the cashew-shaped appendage below the red fruits.

Sidebar: Cashews are a pretty weird nut. They grow on trees like walnuts or almonds, but the tree is actually considered a fruit tree. It grows in the tropics only – which is why all the cashews you can buy at the grocery store come from Brazil, India, Africa or Southeast Asia.

The stem of the cashew fruit grows to be larger than the fruit itself, and is actually edible. People in the tropics grow them for this part of the fruit and leave the nut part alone. In fact, they avoid it at all costs. Why?
The cashew-shaped fruit, which contains the seed which is the cashew nut we eat, is filled with a caustic liquid that can actually burn holes in your skin and – if you manage to eat it – your gut. Workers have to wear goggles, protective gloves and clothing to harvest the fruit and roast it, which must be done outdoors because the smoke created is also damaging to the lungs.
I can see why Hannah doesn’t like them. She did, however, love the eggplant-cashew butter. And the food processor was washed without protest.