Ok, so not peanut sauce. But close. For those who don't know Martin and I suffer from a bit of an ironic food pairing. I am an avowed vegetarian (though not a vegan) and, in turn, has a deathly allergy when it comes to peanuts and soy protein (though fortunately not things like tamari/soy sauce which have no protein in them). This means my deep fondness for tofu-y goodness is often only fulfilled at dinners out or when he is not around for dinner (on those nights I will often lovingly cradle a bowl of baked tofu and brown rice in my hands and indulge like a kid in a chocolate factory). I ate a lot of tofu before we moved in together, and much less of it now, though I certainly manage to get my fix when necessary. Peanuts I had quite fortunately abandoned a few years prior in favour of almonds and other nuts. Once you've tried almond butter you're not likely to go back to its lower rent cousin peanut butter, though it does inflate the grocery bill a bit. The one place where I would still indulge in the humble peanut was peanut sauce. I love peanut sauce. In particular a version from the Rebar cookbook that includes cilantro, lime and a bit of sambal oelek for heat. But, given the severity of Martin's peanut allergy, which is more severe than his soy protein allergy and peanuts are more insidious when it comes to cross contamination in the kitchen, we have not had hide nor hair of a peanut in this house since we moved in.
But oh how I have missed the peanut sauciness.
Last night I was making dinner for our current house guests -- my darling god-daughter Djuna, her mom (my dear childhood friend), dad and her new baby brother -- as well as a friend who was joining us and I wanted a sauce to tie together some steamed veggies, brown rice and (depending on which side of the veggie vs. protein allergy spectrum you fall on) coconut prawns/baked tofu. Peanut sauce would have done the job very nicely and I've been meaning to spend some time trying out some alternative nuts to make a similar sauce, so last night I gave it a whirl with cashews and, my peanut eschewing friends: we have a winner.
Here's the recipe (again, I don't use much in the way of exact measurements for these things, so pardon the loose directions).
Emira's Recipe for Cashew (NOT Peanut) Sauce:
- 1 cup of toasted unsalted cashews (I toasted these in a 250 oven for 20 min)
- nearly a whole can of coconut milk
- one 1" piece of ginger peeled and grated
- one large clove of garlic chopped
- about 2 or 3 tbps tamari
- generous handful of cilantro chopped
- juice of one lime
- chili peppers/sambal oelek to taste
Start by toasting your cashews if they aren't already. Then place them in a food processor/cuisinart until they start to turn to cashew butter. This took maybe 4 or 5 minutes? I kept commenting to Kate that they weren't turning to butter then PRESTO they did. So have patience.
Open your can of coconut milk and add about half to the food processor. You can keep adding it afterwards depending on the taste and how coconuty you want it in the end. Add the tamari (start with about 2 tbsp and taste for saltiness to suit your preferences), ginger, garlic and the lime juice. Blend it for a few second until mixed. Wash and chop your cilantro (or leave this out if you're one of those cilantro haters) and add it to the food processor with some sambal oelek for heat. To be honest, I left this out last night as Martin's peanut allergy presents itself as a tingling heat on his tongue, so I didn't want him to freak out. Next time, I'll add about 1 tsp now that he knows this sauce doesn't kill him. Turn it on to mix again and then taste. Adjust by adding more coconut and or tamari as you like. Of course you can also add more of the ginger, garlic, spice or cilantro too.
Transfer to a small pot and gently heat. You're not really cooking this, just warming it to go on your food. I suppose you could microwave it, but we don't have one of those.
And ta da. Perfect with baked tofu, coconut prawns (apparently), brown rice and steamed veggie goodness like broccolis, snow peas, etc. etc.