Firstly, here are a few photos of my hood: The Berkshires of New York. The colours at the moment are absolutely outrageous. My eyes are outraged by all this beauty.
Maybe it’s planetary or the fact that Halloween, hearty soups and pumpkin pie are imminent, but fall always gives me a feeling like something huge is happening in the world. It could be that nature’s insane peacock display of beauty is so overwhelming. Either way, I can practically taste the colours. I love the smell of cold that lingers on you after a crisp walk and the chill that draws us closer to others for warmth. What a super cool time of year. How lucky am I? So lucky.
Sometimes, to find inspiration when experimenting in the kitchen, I just set several different ingredients out on a table and see what feels right. Looking at the ingredients, I imagine their flavours and textures and see if they could be paired. On this particular occasion I chose cashews as my base.
Cashews have impressed me so many times with their transformative flavour personalities. The vegan movement has spurred on some pretty ingenious ideas (as well as some truly awful ones) and cashews have been a champion in this process. Anyone who has had cream of broccoli soup with creamed cashews to replace dairy cream will know just how wonderful and surprising they can be. Not only did I not notice that it wasn’t dairy when I tried it, but I remarked on how complex and nuanced the soup was. Cashews are light, delicate and creamy and they combine very well with many flavours.
I futzed around with different ingredients (including a nauseating licorice and smoked salt combo) for a while until I found the winning team. Dried cranberries, Indian curry powder and garden fresh pineapple mint also happened to be on my ingredients table. The results were superbly balanced and sophisticated. No one flavour overpowered the other. The cashews saw to it that every player got along with the rest and played fairly. The sweetness of the dried cranberries, the earthy and spicy qualities of the curry powder and the vigor of the mint blended with the cashews in a glorious way. Imagine that.
Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter
- 1/3 cup cashews
- 2 tbsp dried cranberries
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped mint (I used pineapple mint but spearmint or apple mint will do. I do not recommend peppermint.)
- 1 tsp Indian curry powder
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil
- a pinch of salt
Blend all ingredients until creamy. Add more olive oil for a smoother consistency.
Try the spread on a piece of toast with some fresh pesto.
Store in the refrigerator.