September 14, 2022 2 Comments
I stopped drinking milk or eating heavy cream over three decades ago. I didn't feel great eating it. I discovered I had an intolerance to lactose and so had to be careful with my consumption of dairy products. What I also found after I stopped reaching for easy flavor adds is that you can find a plant-based solution to most non-plant-based ingredients. Now, you may not want to and that's perfectly fine. But, if you indeed need to or have someone in your family that eats this way, these tips can be life altering. Cashew cream is one such amazing little find that I've been making for years. It's very simple to create in your own kitchen and is the perfect addition to any dish, soup, or dessert that requires heavy cream or half-and-half like my butter tofu 'chicken' recipe. A cashew cream is sometimes preferred in certain dishes over coconut milk or other options that have more distinct taste profiles. Keep in mind, however, that cashews are naturally sweet, so when you add them to a dish you'll likely need to offset that sweet note with added spice or salt or remove or pull back the sugar already required in a recipe. It's what I needed to do with my butter tofu 'chicken' dish, because with the cashew cream and the small amount of brown sugar the sweet profile was too strong. I've even added cashew cream to Italian sauces like Alfredo by just adding Italian spices. Keep in mind, however, that cashews do have natural healthy fat in them (about 12 grams of fat in 1 ounce), so I would not go overboard. But, a little will go a long way to not only help keep your dish plant-based but also satisfy that foodie in all of us.
Yield: 1 cup
1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1 cup water, for blending
1. Soak the cashews in ample water for 20 minutes to overnight. The longer the soak time the silkier the cashew cream later, but even just 20 minutes will work. For shorter soak times, I use hot, boiling water rather than room temperature water - it speeds up the soaking process. Save money by purchasing broken cashew pieces rather than whole cashews, which believe it or not do cost more.
2. Drain the cashews, discard this soaking water, and place them in a high-powered blender. I use a Vita Mix. Add the water and blend on the highest speed until smooth and silky. Pour into (ideally) a glass container and refrigerate for up to one week or freeze in ice-cube trays to use later or in smaller amounts. This is great for adding to tea or coffee - thank you Cindy! A high-powered blender works best to create a smooth and silky finish. It's also important to have enough product to cover your blades. If you don't, just add a little more water and/or double this recipe.
Note: To really enhance your cashew cream, add 2 teaspoons of any spice mix including an Indian garam masala, an Italian spice blend, and so on. A 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt will offset the sweet profile as well. To make cashew milk simply add more water. The general rule is one part cashews and 4 parts water, so in this recipe you'll need 2 cups of water to your 1/2 cup cashews.
WATCH ME MAKE IT: Watch me make cashew cream in my own kitchen on Facebook Live by clicking here.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: If you have my cookbooks, this recipe is on page 65 of my second book, Vegan Indian Cooking, where I talk about my first time eating a pasta with cashew cream at a raw food restaurant on Halsted Ave. in Chicago owned by local raw food celebrity Karyn Calabrese. I still remember how delicious the pasta was - I just had to know how the made it so creamy. I now often use a few spoons of cashew cream in a regular red pasta sauce as well.
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