Visualizing the Flavour Pairing of Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

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.

Black and orangemisty treesorange treered leaf

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.

cashew butter plate

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.cashew butter2

cashew mintbutter

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.

cashew butter3

Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

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.

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The Short Reign of the Zataar Tomato and Balsamic Reduction with Mushrooms

Happy Fall everyone! Fall in New England is glorious. It’s been years since I’ve experienced autumn in New York and I’m feeling very lucky to be here now. I like when things change, even if I’m not really ready for it. Part of me misses summer already, but part of me is ready to get snuggled up with winter.

Balsamic Zataar reduction

Making this zataar tomato and balsamic reduction with mushrooms gave me a real cozy feeling. It brought many different flavors together and filled my kitchen with a sweet and warm smell. Making a reduction is easy and very satisfying. It is done by rapidly boiling a liquid in an uncovered saucepan. Keeping it uncovered is important, that way the vapors escape thus thickening the liquid and intensifying the flavor. Sauces, glazes and gravies are traditionally made this way.

Zataar is a Middle Eastern mixture of dried savory herbs, sesame seeds and salt. It’s typically sprinkled on top of hummus or mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread. The very cheap zataar shop I went to in Montreal during my university years pretty much saved my life, so I have fond associations with zataar. There I would get a flatbread covered with zataar and filled with vegetables and yummy sauce.

Balsamic Zataar reduction
Savory, I had, but this reduction needed some sweetness. Tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar stepped up for the challenge, and boy did they work it out.
It’s got a slightly sweet and tangy flavor making it a perfect accompaniment to savory or meaty foods. Being a reduction sauce, it is rather bold. It has it’s own ideas about life and where it belongs. It much prefers being placed loftily atop a piece of meat or a bed of couscous than trivialized by many other flavors. It will not be eclipsed and will happily sabotage your meal if you try anything funny. Somehow, I survived my first attempt at using this reduction in a soup (but just barely). The soup was a hearty blended thing that was nice and mild on it’s own, and needed an extra kick to be interesting. I should’ve known better. The reduction does not accept such insolence. The soup was ruined. It was too complex and in the end my taste buds were retching.

Respect. That’s all the reduction wants. To be recognized for the zing that it brings to a meal. All it asks is to be complimented for complimenting so well. So, respect it received.  On top of beef burger it went, as if it were on a meaty throne. The reduction reigned mightily… also briefly as I ate it.

Zataar Tomato and Balsamic Reduction with Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 large (or 2 medium) tomato, chopped
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup chopped yellow onions
  • ½ cup sliced mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp zataar
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

Directions

Heat a saucepan on medium high heat and add some cooking oil.

Lightly brown the onions. Then add the tomato, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Once simmering, add the mushrooms.

Reduce heat to medium low when the mushrooms have released their juices (you will know that this has happened when suddenly it looks more like a sauce).

Let the sauce simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Eat and love.