Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice

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I’m pretty sure you all know that I’m not fond of food trends. I’ve probably mentioned this numerous times. So if something becomes popular and trendy, I completely ignore it.

Sure, I’m old(er) and old-fashioned, but it’s just my personality. I never wore white metallic lipstick in the 60’s, either.

The dumb thing is, sometimes when you’re too stubborn, you can really miss out. Like the bowl trend. Is there one on my blog? No! But they do look lovely.

And in the 80’s, when I really started cooking, I looked down my nose at both sun-dried tomatoes and basil pesto because they were everywhere. I have no idea how many years I lost not indulging in those two fabulous foods. I’ll never forgive myself for that.

Which leads me to… cauliflower rice. Nope.

Then, thanks to the lovely Serena from her blog, Domesticate Me, I saw a recipe that I couldn’t ignore. It was a cauliflower and carrot rice with almonds and golden raisins.

If you don’t know Serena, you must check her blog out and her just-published cookbook, The Dude Diet.

She’s a doll, she’s funny, and she swears. Oh, and she’s a professionally-trained chef. What’s not to love?!! But also, and this is important to me, if I comment, she responds to my comment.

Now this may seem a bit silly, but I will stop following blogs if the authors have no time for me. It’s not that I’m so great, it’s because the best thing about blogging in my four-plus years of doing so, is the interaction. It’s like this virtual, giant group of foodie friends that you get to know around the world.

Plus, on some of those fancy blogs, you can tell that the author responds to nobody’s comment. They’re just too important and busy. I just don’t get that.

Serena has been on her book tour around the U.S., but she is still responding to comments. And I know how much time it takes, because I follow many blogs. It’s just part of the dedication one should have to one’s blog. And Serena’s blog is also one of those fancy ones!

I promised Serena that I would make her “rice” dish because it really sounded lovely. She assured me it would not disappoint.

Golden Cauliflower and Carrot Rice
Adapted slightly from Domesticate Me!

1 medium head cauliflower, florets only, about 1 lb. 6 ounces
Baby carrots, 8 ounces
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped parsley leaves
½ cup golden raisins (I used figs)
½ cup chopped raw almonds (I used hazelnuts)
Lemon wedges for serving (optional)

Add about half of the cauliflower florets to a food processor and pulse until a “rice” forms. Place in a large bowl, then process the remaining cauliflower.

Process the carrots the same way, and add the riced carrots to the cauliflower.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the cauliflower and carrot rice, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, and a good pinch of salt.

Cook for 2-3 minutes until the rice is just tender.

Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice.


Fold in the parsley, dried fruits, and toasted nuts. Taste, and add salt if necessary.


I served this “rice” with some grilled chicken that was marinated in a garlic-parsley marinade.

What’s really fun is changing up the dried fruits and nuts according to your taste and the season. Imagine this dish with dried cranberries and pistachios in December!

Dried figs and hazelnuts are really more autumnal, but I had them on hand and I love them.

Okay, so am I glad I finally tried cauliflower rice? Of course! But I really liked what Serena did with the dish, adding carrots, seasoning, and the fruits and nuts. I can also see this as a salad with a vinaigrette, maybe with some orzo, or barley, or just like it is.

Serena’s actual name for this dish is Cauliflower and Carrot Golden “Rice,” and she serves it in a bowl, but it’s okay, cause I like her. I put mine on a plate. Maybe I can start a plate trend?!!

Bastila

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A Bastila is a savory Moroccan pie with a chicken filling that is cooked within crêpes. The preparation is a little involved in that both the filling and the crêpes need to be made first. But it’s not a difficult pie to make, and so worth it!

What makes this pie’s flavor unique is that traditional Moroccan mixture of almonds, cinnamon and sugar. If you’ve ever been to a Moroccan restaurant you are familiar with this seasoning mixture, as it seems to be in every dish!

I wish I could tell you a lovely story about how I came about this recipe, but I can’t. I know I tore the recipe out of a soft-backed cookbook of international recipes. At one point in my cooking life I felt it beneath me to keep anything but beautiful, hard-back cookbooks. I’ll never toss a cookbook again. But at least I was smart enough to save the recipes I loved!
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Bastila

1 – 3 pound chicken
4 ounces butter
2 onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads
6 eggs
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup whole almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Butter, approximately 4 ounces, at room temperature
18 crêpes, at room temperature
Powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Begin by poaching the chicken with onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley, peppercorns, and a little salt. You can do this the day before.

About 2 1/2 to 3 hours is sufficient to get moist, succulent chicken. Let the chicken cool, then remove the bones and skin and place the chicken in a bowl and set aside. I shredded the chicken more than cut it up into pieces.

Add the butter to a large Dutch oven and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for about 5-6 minutes. Then add the parsley, ginger, and all of the spices.

Break the eggs and place them in a medium-sized bowl, along with the egg yolks. Whisk them well.

After the onion and spice mixture has cooked a minute longer, pour the eggs into the onions. Make sure the heat is low. Gently stir the eggs into the onion mixture until they are completely cooked.

Add the chicken to the onion-egg mixture and stir well. Add a little broth if the chicken mixture seems dry. Also taste for salt.
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Using a dry blender, blend the almonds, sugar, and cinnamon together. If you have a few pieces of almond, that’s okay. Set aside.
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To prepare the Bastila, use a large skillet, preferably with rounded sides. Generously butter the skillet.

Begin by layering approximately 8 crêpes around the side of the skillet, followed by 4 more covering the center bottom.


Add the ground almond mixture to the bottom of the skillet and spread it around. Then add the chicken filling. It shouldn’t be over the top of the skillet, preferably.
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Then fold the side crêpes over the filling. Use the remaining 6 crêpes to cover the top of the pie, buttering them first on the bottom side. Spread a little soft butter on the top of the pie as well.
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To cook, begin at medium-high heat. You will see the butter bubbling.
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After about 8 minutes, I lowered the heat to ensure that the crêpes sealed themselves, and to heat the inside of the pie.

Have a cookie sheet and large spatula on hand for the next step.

When you feel that the pie bottom has browned sufficiently, place the cookie sheet over the skillet, and using oven mitts flip the skillet over so that the pie is on the cookie sheet.

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Then gently coax the pie back in to the skillet, and cook the bottom side in a similar fashion.
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The cooked Bastila makes a beautiful presentation.

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When I made this pie before, I prepared and served it in an iron skillet. But you have to be able to cut into your skillet. If you cannot, simply slide the pie out gently onto a serving platter.

The final step is to mix powdered sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it on the top of the warm Bastila.

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In this photo you can see the crêpes wrapping around the spiced chicken filling that is topped with the ground almond mixture. Heavenly!
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Almond Herb Pesto

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We love a good pesto in our family. Of course there’s the popular Genovese pesto made with baby basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and Parmesan, which is divine. You can find this traditional recipe in any Italian cookbook. But it’s also fun to create different pesto varieties. If you want to stick with the authentic version, I understand, but you’re missing out on many wonderful flavor sensations!

My pestos always contain olive oil, Parmesan and garlic, but I love to play with the nuts and the greens. You can substitute any nut or seed in pestos, and for the basil, you can substitute anything green, from cilantro to spinach.
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Today’s Almond Herb Pesto was inspired by our love of almonds. We order all of our almonds from Nuts.com*, and they’re always fresh. Many varieties are available but I typically purchase plain whole almonds with the skins intact.
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For the green part of today’s pesto, I’m using a combination of half basil and half parsley. Basil provides a unique flavor, and parsley provides a distinct freshness. Fortunately, my basil and parsley are still surviving in the garden in spite of our rainy spring.

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The wonderful thing about home-made pesto is how versatile it is. Pesto on pasta? Of course! That’s what I’m doing today. But what about pesto slathered on chicken breasts or salmon steaks? Or topping grilled asparagus or roasted tomatoes? Yes!



Almond Herb Pesto
Makes 12 ounces of pesto

4 ounces extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, or less
2 ounces Parmesan, coarsely chopped
Herbs, in this case parsley and basil
4 ounces plain, whole almonds

I’m taking different steps to make this pesto because I want the almond to be in chunky bits, not completely puréed. Therefore, I’m starting with olive oil in the blender and adding the garlic and Parmesan.



Next I added a handful of basil leaves and a handful of parsley leaves. I used both curly leaf and Italian flat leaf parsley. Blend until smooth.
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Lastly, add the almonds to the mixture and blend only until you have chunky almond bits.

For my pasta today, I chose bucatini, but any spaghetti-type pasta will work well. Toss the cooked and well-drained pasta with the pesto until it’s evenly distributed. Don’t cook your pasta al dente because there’s not enough moisture in the pesto for the pasta to absorb and cook more.

Serve the pasta hot.
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You can always add more grated Parmesan if you wish.
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If the pasta dries up a little, add a little olive oil or cream and toss gently.
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* If you need a good resource for nuts, seeds, dried fruits and more, check out Nuts.com! We’ve used them forever and they have great customer service, which is important to me. I store all of these pantry staples in the refrigerator.
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note: If you plan on slathering the pesto onto something that will be baked, like salmon, for example, I would omit the Parmesan completely in the pesto. Or just use the pesto as is after the baking is complete.

Asparagus Pesto

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    Do any of you ever dream up recipes? Well this is one of those for me. I remember seeing a plate of salmon steaks topped with a green pesto, but that’s not far fetched for me because I spread basil pesto on just about everything. It’s really good on chicken. But my husband would probably eat shoe soles if they were schmeared with any of my home-made pestos.

    But this one was different, because in my dream I realized that it was a pesto made with asparagus. I woke up and realized that this pesto was something I’d really have to follow through on, because it sounded so unique. It helps, of course, if you love asparagus.

    I tend to serve fresh, springtime asparagus either steamed or roasted. I don’t get too carried away with fancied up recipes, because I really like treating something like asparagus, at its peak of ripe perfection, very simply. It’s my same attitude I have with fresh fish. If it’s really good quality fish, I do very little to it. I just really want to taste the fish.

    But back to asparagus, the idea of the asparagus pesto really stuck with me. Here’s the recipe I created:

    Asparagus Pesto
    Makes about 12 ounces

    1/2 cup whole almonds, about 2 1/2 ounces
    6 ounces asparagus
    1/3 cup olive oil
    5 cloves garlic
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon lemon juice

    Toast the almonds in a cast-iron skillet. I think a little toasting adds more of the almond flavor. Set them aside to cool.
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    Meanwhile, remove the ends of the asparagus spears and place the 6 ounces of asparagus in a steamer basket.
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    Steam until tender, about 5-6 minutes over boiling water. Then place them on paper towels to drip dry.
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    Don’t throw away the asparagus ends. If you want a really enriched asparagus soup, use the ends to make an asparagus stock, that you then can use it in the asparagus soup. I have a recipe here that describes the process.

    In a blender jar, place the cooled almonds, the olive oil, and garlic.
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    Blend until smooth. Add a little more olive oil if necessary, but you don’t want your pesto too thin.

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    Add the asparagus, salt, and lemon juice. Notice I didn’t include Parmesan in the recipe.

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    Process until the pesto is smooth.
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    So just like in my dream, I spread some of the delicious pesto on two salmon steaks and baked them.
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    The pesto is fairly mild, but it baked up beautifully and held its shape. It was really good with the salmon.
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    But just wait! Tomorrow I have another recipe using the asparagus pesto!

Florentine Truffles

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I love to share recipes. I’m not one of those who hides them away, not revealing the “secret” ingredient in my sauce or cookie recipe. Which is good, actually, since I have a blog. It would be odd to have a cooking blog with no recipes.

But oddly enough, this is one recipe that I’ve held dear to my heart, and I have no idea why. It’s not for sentimental reasons. I copied the original recipe on an index card when I was young, from a recipe in my mother’s collection. The original recipe was actually an Italian cake recipe – Segretto della Dama. I will make it one day for the blog, because it’s delicious and quite unique, in that the cake requires no cooking.

One day about a million years ago I decided to turn the cake recipe into rum balls. I made this recipe twist specifically for a Chocolate and Champagne gala in my town. Being a local cateress, I was asked to participate, and I was happy to oblige. (I was also on the board of this particular arts council!) I ended up winning a beautiful silver platter for these Florentine truffles. They were definitely a big hit.

Truffles, real ones, are made from chocolate and cream. They are actually named after the fungus known as truffles because of their physical similarity. Sort of lumpy spheres. Rum balls, on the other hand, have a crushed cookie or cake mixed in with the other ingredients. They’re much less delicate, but that doesn’t make them less yummy. The reason I named this confectionery truffles is because they actually look like real truffles, even thought they can be categorized as rum balls.

I decided to make these “truffles” for my wedding anniversary last month, sort of at the last minute. I didn’t want to make a giant cake for just the two of us, but I knew we’d both enjoy a little sweet treat after dinner.

Normally, these rum balls are made with lady fingers – the soft kind – not Savoirdi biscuits, which are the only kind I can find locally. In the past, I’ve actually made lady fingers just for this cake recipe because it’s that good. I never pipe out the actual fingers, I just put the batter in a pan and baked it. You see, you end up crumbling and processing the lady fingers for this recipe anyway.

But without lady fingers of any kind, I decided to cheat a little, even though it’s really not like me to take some major shortcuts in the kitchen. So forgive me, but what I did was pick up a pound cake at the store. I trimmed the sides and weighed it.

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So here’s the recipe for my rum balls, or cognac balls, to be exact. I think you’ll find them exquisite, in spite of the purchased pound cake!

Florentine Truffles
This recipe makes about 2 dozen balls

1/2 cup of whole almonds, approximately 2 1/2 ounces or 70 grams
8 ounces pound cake, broken up
4 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

First, toast the almonds in a skillet on the stove. Let them cool.

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Place them in the jar of your food processor and process them until finely ground.
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Add the pieces of pound cake and process again.
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You want the cake and the almonds to end up the same consistency.
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Add the tablespoon of cognac. If you want these to taste strongly of cognac, add more. I didn’t.
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Then add the butter, chocolate, and powdered sugar.

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Process until a “dough” is formed.
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Place the dough in a bowl, cover it, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
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Meanwhile, make up a mixture of 2 parts cocoa powder and 1 part powdered sugar in a small bowl. You will only need about a total of 3-4 tablespoons total for this batch of truffles. Alternatively, use a high-quality cocoa mix. I actually used Ghirardelli brand hot cocoa mix. Hmmm. Another shortcut. The cocoa powder and powdered sugar is much prettier.

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Roll teaspoon-sized balls of the dough with your hands,
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and them place them in the cocoa mixture.
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You can actually roll quite a few balls, and then toss them around in the cocoa mixture at the same time; it saves your hands from getting too chocolatey.

I like to toss the balls in the cocoa mixture, and then also roll them again between my hands, because I feel that way they look more like truffles. But you can leave them nice and powdery if you prefer.
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The only problem with these truffles is that they’re not stable at room temperature for long. I wouldn’t serve them at a party that lasted hours, unless I kept replenishing chilled ones. The butter just makes them too soft.
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Also, these truffles freeze really well. I’ve made multiple batches of them for the holidays, and just pull them out of the freezer before company is coming over. They’re a nice little treat.
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I just freeze them in sealable plastic bags. I also toss some of the leftover cocoa mixture over the top so they don’t end up sticking together.
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What you taste when you eat one of these is buttery chocolatey goodness, along with some almond and cognac flavor. They’re quite lovely! And also, what I like, is that they’re little bites.

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note: Do not adjust the ingredients in this recipe. If you add too much cake or too many almonds, there will not be enough butter to keep the rum balls soft and moist, and you’ll be disappointed in the texture. Weigh out the almonds to keep the ingredients at the proper ratio.

Mughlai Kabobs

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Yesterday I made a creamy sauce called sas, made with pistachios, cashews, and almonds. And today I’m making curried lamb kabobs that go perfectly with the sauce.

From Indian Food Forever, a website devoted to Indian recipes, “Mughlai food is known for its richness. It is famous for the exotic use of spices, dried fruit and nuts. The Mughals did everything in style and splendour.”

These kabobs are so easy to make – it’s as simple as putting a meat loaf together, and forming elongated meatballs over skewers! If you don’t want to mess with the skewers, just make them meatballs!

Mughlai Kabobs

1 pound of ground lamb, I used a mixture of beef and lamb*
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup ground chick-pea flour, or besan
1/3 cup sliced almonds, pulverized in a blender
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
2 teaspoons salt

In a very large bowl, add all of the ingredients.

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Mix everything together well. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes for the flavors to meld.

After time has passed, create the kabobs by forming the dough over the end of your skewers – I’m using bamboo skewers. I didn’t soak them because they really weren’t going to be over direct heat. Try to make the meat cylinders of uniform thickness so they will cook evenly.

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Meanwhile, start up a grill outside. You could also cook the kabobs inside under the broiler, but I used these kabobs as an excuse to try out a Cuisinart indoor-outdoor electric grill that I bought but have never used…. yet.

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So I plugged the “griddler,” as it’s called, outside in the shade. Then I turned the dial to the highest position, which is 400 degrees. Then I put the kabobs on and really, nothing happened. Then I realized that the plug wasn’t pushed in all the way, but after another 15 minutes or so, still nothing was happening.

Then lo and behold, I discovered I was using the dial incorrectly. Inadvertently, when I thought the dial was on 400 degrees, I had turned it to OFF.

I have wasted more time in my life with dials. Especially in hotel bathrooms where I can’t figure out which way to point the shower dial. There’s always a pointy thing, or a lever of sorts, but there’s never a corresponding line to match up with. I wish I could design these things. Although, I might be the only person who has this problem.

And so, I started up the griddler again, this time with the dial actually on 400 degrees. And it actually heated up really fast.
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I cooked the kabobs on three sides, then turned down the temperature to 350 degrees, put the lid on, and finished them for another 15 minutes. I wanted them still a little teeny pink on the inside.

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Then I served them just off the grill, with some of the beautiful creamy nut sauce, and a curried spinach and mushroom side dish. Scrumptious!!!!!

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* Because my husband thinks he doesn’t like lamb, I used the mixture of beef and lamb.

verdict: I’ve made these and the sauce before, and I will continue to make these throughout my life. This is fabulous Indian food fit for a fancy meal or a pool party!

Creamy Nut Sauce

20 Comments

The actual name of this sauce is sas. It’s Indian in origin, and the recipe I’m basing this on is out of the Foods of the World – The Cooking of India cookbook.

The sauce is made essentially with nuts and cream and is served with various kababs. Tomorrow I’ll be posting a recipe for Mughlai kababs, which are grilled, ground-lamb skewers. The kababs and the sauce together are pure heaven.

My most favorite dishes to order in Indian restaurants are the kormas – meats in creamy sauces made from nuts, although you’d never know it. The sauces are very delicate in flavor, yet scream decadence because of their richness.

So today I’m making this sauce, and tomorrow I’ll post the kababs.

Sas, or Creamy Nut Sauce

Pinch of saffron
1 tablespoon boiling water
1/3 cup pistachios
1/3 cup mixed almonds and cashews, blanched
Seeds of 4 cardamom pods
1 cup milk
1 tablespoons ghee
1 cup half and half
1 teaspoon salt

Place the saffron in a small bowl and add one tablespoon of boiling water; set the bowl aside. Given time, the hot water will leach the beautiful color and flavor of the saffron, which you can see as it changes color.

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I happened to have green cardamom pods, so I peeled off the outer shell to reveal the actual spice pods. (There are also white cardamom pods.). Below I show the difference between the whole pods, the cardamom itself as it occurs naturally inside the pods, lower right, and some ground cardamom, upper right. If you own ground cardamom, you definitely don’t need to buy the pods. Just try to use the equivalent of ground.

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Place all of the nuts, the cardamom pods and one cup of milk in a blender jar and blend until smooth.
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Then place the ghee in a saucepan and melt it over medium heat. Pour in the nut and cream mixture and cook it for a couple of minutes.
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Add the saffron and the water, the half and half and salt, and cook the mixture until it coats the back of a spoon.

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Store the sauce and refrigerate until needed. Stay tuned tomorrow!