Used to be that cashews were just ordinary nuts, same as walnuts, almonds, peanuts and pecans. They were enjoyed roasted and salted, or chopped and added to cookies and granola. These days, cashews are taking the lead in innovative cooking, especially in dairy-free recipes. A perfect example is the mouth-watering slice of flourless chocolate cake I was recently served at a friend’s dinner party. It was topped with a healthy dollop of freshly whipped “cream” made from cashew nuts. Heaven on earth!
Cashews are a versatile, mildly sweet nut that comes from the cashew tree, a native of the northern regions of South America but cultivated today in many tropical climates. The nut is actually a seed that grows on the end of a cashew “apple,” a nutritious, edible fruit common to the tropics but virtually unknown in America and Europe as it is far too delicate and fragile to be transported.
There are many varieties of cashews, some are very large and others are quite small comparatively, but all having similar flavor. Raw cashews are mild and have a “milky” taste, making them perfect for smoothies and recipes that call for milk or dairy replacements. Roasting adds depth of flavor, perfectly complementing baked goods and cereals. Whether roasted or raw, cashews are a flavorful addition to appetizers, main dishes, side dishes, fruit salads and desserts.
Here are some traditional as well as contemporary cashew recipes and ideas you are sure to enjoy:
- Add cashews to hot or cold breakfast cereals, or blend with dried fruits such as apricots and goji berries, then garnish yogurt or fresh fruit salad. Here’s an outstanding breakfast of Sprouted French toast with Peaches and Cashews.
- Add to baked goods such as cookies, cakes, quick breads, muffins and scones.
- Add to stir-fries.
- Roast and add to whole grain dishes and pilafs. Enjoy this Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews.
- You’ll often find cashew nuts in savory and sweet Indian dishes. This classic Vegetable Biryani features cashews and curry, this Lentil Curry is made with fresh tomatoes and cashews nuts, and this Spicy Rice with Cashews is delicious with currants, ghee, coriander and cashews.
- Soak 1 cup cashews in 4 cups water for at least 4 hours, puree completely and strain for delicious cashew nut “milk.”
- Add roasted cashews to chicken or tofu salad. Try this Chicken and Grape Salad recipe. It has a cashew tarragon dressing.
- Chop and add to lentil loaf or veggie burgers.
- Make Crispy Cashew Rice Treats.
- Garnish soups and stews with roasted or raw chopped cashews.
- Add chopped roasted cashews to ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet, or any favorite non-dairy frozen dessert.
- Try this healthy Carrot Cashew Spread on crackers, bread or whole grain pita bread.
- Here’s a contemporary recipe for Cashew Sour Cream. Use just as you would the real thing.
- If you love Mac and Cheese but can’t do the dairy, try our version of Creamy Cashew Macaroni.
- This Cream Cheese and Cashew Dip is wonderful with fresh fruit and veggies.
- Having company? Beware: They’ll never leave if you serve them this Cashew Chocolate Pie.
- If you love nut butter, try delicious cashew butter in place of peanut or almond butter in cookies, spreads and other recipes.
Are you a simple but stable old-fashioned cashew lover, or part of the contemporary cashew culture? I prefer to be both. Got a recipe? Let me know.