Steve has been bringing home little gifts for me. Food gifts, like raw cashews. He knows I love ingredients to play with. The raw cashews have been especially welcome as I have been toying with the idea of trying cashew creams. Since switching to a plant-based diet nearly a year ago, I’ve become more and more creative with new plant-based recipes. But lately, I’ve been feeling a little, well, bored. So I was thinking that adding a new sauce would really perk things up, and that’s where the cashew cream comes in. I also love the idea of cashew cream because it’s easy to make, it’s made from whole foods and cashews contain antioxidants and minerals that are good for your health.
On a side note, cashews are a very interesting food. First of all, cashews are a seed, not a nut. Also, cashews are part of the overall fruit of the tree which includes a cashew apple. Steve says it looks like a squash poop. Read more about them here.
Anywho. I made my first cashew cream a week ago in place of the cheese sauce that they boys requested for their cauliflower. They both enjoy cauliflower already, but someone told them that some parents added cheese sauce to vegetables in order to get their kids to eat them, so they wanted to try that. Kinda backwards, I know. Anyway, I’m not at all keen on the idea of introducing cheese sauce in my kitchen, especially to smother vegetables that they already like, so I decided to try my hand at a cashew cream substitute. They didn’t go for it. Oh well, live and learn. I loved it though! It reminded me of hollandaise sauce, which is an even bigger win in my mind, because I love hollandaise sauce. I didn’t record the recipe or take a photo. I’ll have to recreate it later and write a post about it.
Since I got another box of raw cashews this week, and had a big bunch of fresh basil, I decided I wanted to make a basil cashew cream for my second attempt. It’s incredibly simple to make. All you need is a food processor or blender and a few ingredients that you may already have on hand. It’s really just a basic cashew cream recipe with pesto added. And basic cashew cream can be used as a dairy substitute in many dishes, which I hope to explore more over the next several months.
Once I made my basil cashew cream, I tossed it with whole grain spaghetti and roasted butternut squash. It was really delicious and was a fantastic alternative to something like fettuccine Alfredo or other creamy pastas. I had about 1/2 cup of the basil cashew cream leftover, which I plan to use for sandwiches this weekend.
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1 tbsp. good olive oil + 1/4 cup
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 7 oz. whole grain spaghetti or pasta of your choice
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained*
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
- 1/4 onion, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/4 water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel the butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and clean out seeds. Chop the squash into 1 inch cubes. Toss it in 1 tbsp. olive and season with salt and pepper. Roast the butternut squash for about 30 minutes or until just tender. Meanwhile, cook your pasta according to package instructions, being sure to save about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water for later.
Add the cashews, salt, nutritional yeast, onion, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice and basil leaves to a food processor. While the food processor is on, drizzle the 1/4 cup olive oil into the mixture. Then gradually add the water and blend until well combined and creamy, about 5 minutes. If it’s not really creamy and cohesive, it’s not blended enough.
Toss about two-thirds of the basil cashew cream with the hot pasta. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water if the pasta is too thick to coat evenly. Once the pasta is coated well, gently toss in the roasted butternut squash and serve.
*Soaking your cashews is simple. Just add the raw cashews to a bowl and cover them with water (I use boiled water from my kettle). Let them soak for at least two hours or overnight if you have time. It seems like the longer they soak, the creamier the end result. Then drain the cashews before adding them to the food processor.