Going nuts yet?


Tamorlan/wickimedia commons Crunchy cashew nuts are the star of the show when you serve delicious cashew chicken for dinner.

Sometimes I get ideas for food columns that come about in an amusing way. Like this week for example.

I was sitting at my desk, wondering what food items were interesting enough to feature, when I noticed I was snacking on some really good, lightly-salted cashews. It’s a good thing I bought a large container of them, because they were originally intended for use in some of my favorite recipes. But there I sat, seemingly unable to stop eating them one by one. You know how it goes with salted, roasted nuts.

I did manage to put the darn things away before I gobbled them all up, so I could have them for my recipes. Then I thought, “Hey, why not share some cashew recipes?” I did once before, but it has been more than six years. I might pick one recipe to repeat, but the others will be new.

As usual, I hope you are all staying safe from any and all of the crazy things going on right now, from fires and riots to COVID-19 and extreme heat. The heat is really something; I have dined on plenty of tomato sandwiches and corn on the cob just to avoid turning on the oven.

For a while I was living on soup, pudding and gelatin cups, due to an eight-hour dental visit where I received one root canal and three crowns all in one day. What a year this has been, but through it all, I am always happy to be able to share my love for cooking with all my kitchen buddies. Take care.

Cashew chicken

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/2 cup sherry

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cubed

3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 cup thinly sliced scraped carrots

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/3 cup soy sauce

1/3 cup hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon ground ginger (I cut it back to 2 teaspoons)

1 cup roasted, salted cashews, or more if you prefer

Hot cooked rice

1. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sesame oil, sherry and garlic powder. Pour half into a large resealable plastic bag; add chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

2. Discard marinade from chicken. In a wok or large skillet, stir-fry chicken in oil for 2 to 3 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. With a slotted spoon, remove chicken and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, stir-fry broccoli and carrots for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Combine the cornstarch, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger and reserved marinade until smooth; gradually stir into vegetables. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Stir in cashews and chicken; heat through. Serve with rice. Makes 6 servings.

Cashew ginger chicken salad

If you have a favorite homemade marinade or even a bottled one, feel free to use that if the ingredients here sound a bit iffy to you.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup molasses

1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger root

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt, optional

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)

For the salad:

10 cups fresh baby spinach leaves (about 8 ounces)

1 can (11 ounces) Mandarin orange segments, drained

1 cup shredded red cabbage

2 medium carrots, scraped and shredded

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 cups crispy chow mein noodles

3/4 cup salted roasted cashews

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

1. In a small bowl, whisk the first 7 ingredients until well blended. Pour 3/4 cup marinade into a large, shallow dish. Add chicken and turn to coat both sides. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

2. Preheat broiler. Drain chicken pieces and discard the marinade in the dish. Place chicken in a 15-by-10-by-1-inch broil-proof baking pan. Broil 4 to 6 inches from heat for about 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. Remove chicken and cut it into strips.

3. Place spinach on a serving platter. Arrange chicken, orange segments, cabbage, carrots and green onions on top. Sprinkle with the chow mein noodles, cashews and sesame seeds. Stir the reserved molasses mixture, drizzle over salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Thai cashew noodles

1/2 pound udon wheat noodles (thick ones)

For sauce mix:

1 tablespoon sriracha hot sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 teaspoons sweet chili sauce (often found in Asian food section of grocery stores)

1 cup whole salted and roasted cashews

2 teaspoons additional sesame oil

1-inch piece of fresh peeled ginger, grated

3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed

3 green onions, chopped

1/4 cup shredded, scraped carrot

6 ounces button mushrooms, sliced

Salt, as needed

1. Cook noodles as directed on package. Add a bit of oil to the noodles and toss so they won’t stick together.

2. In a mixing bowl, add sriracha, brown sugar, sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce.

3. In a pan, add the additional sesame oil; when heated add ginger and garlic. Add shredded carrots and sliced mushrooms and toss well. Add sriracha mixture and salt. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are cooked.

4. Add cooked noodles and cashews. Toss mixture until well coated. Add chopped green onions. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Cashew cookies

For the cookies:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup softened butter

2 teaspoons milk

1 large egg yolk

2 cups flour

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 cup cashews, finely chopped

For brown sugar filling:

3/4 cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and butter and beat well. Mix in the milk.

2. Add egg yolk and beat until completely combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

3. Add flour and cornstarch. (If using a stand mixer, switch to dough hook. Otherwise, you will need to stir by hand with a sturdy spoon; this is a very thick dough.) Stir or knead in the chopped cashews.

4. Using 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, roll into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, 1 1/2 inches apart. Firmly press the top of each cookie with your thumb. Repair any large cracks around the edge of the cookie.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookie bottoms are lightly browned. Move to a cooling rack.

6. For brown sugar filling: In a medium pan, combine the brown sugar, butter and milk. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Once boiling, cook for 2 minutes.

7. Remove from heat. Whisk in vanilla and confectioners’ sugar until mixture is smooth.

8. Carefully pour into depressions on cookies. The icing sets quickly, so if you are adding cashews on top, pour 8 cookies at a time and add the cashews. Repeat until all cookies are filled. If the icing gets too thick to pour, briefly place it back on the stove at low heat, stirring constantly.

9. Allow cookies to cool thoroughly before serving. Store in airtight container. Makes about 40 cookies.

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