Cooking with cashews

 creamy tomato soup

Have you ever had an “aha” moment with an ingredient that made you want to want to try every recipe that used it? It’s happened to me a few times, but none more memorable than when I made the Cashew chicken with a cilantro sauce (Dhania murghi) from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iver. I’d enjoyed eating cashews as a snack, but had never before used them to make a sauce. It was a revelation, and I began to investigate the many ways to use cashews in cooking. 

The soft and buttery nut (technically, cashews are seeds and not nuts) lends itself to many preparations. I found that cashews show up frequently in vegan recipes, often used as part of a sauce like the one I made, or as a dairy substitute to make things like vegan cream cheese, an ice cream base, or the Hurry up Alfredo from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm. 

Cashews aren’t just for vegans, though. They can be used in more traditional nut-like ways such as making pesto or adding textural interest to loads of dishes like the ubiquitous (but still delicious) cashew chicken. Cashews are also frequently used to thicken soups like the Creamy roasted tomato soup from River Cottage Light & Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall pictured left. 

Many recipes call for raw cashews, but note that the “raw” cashews you can buy in stores are not exactly raw, but instead are steamed. That is because the double shell surrounding the seed contains  urushiol, similar to the substance found in poison ivy. It can cause rashes  and can be toxic when ingested. So in the unlikely circumstance you happen upon a cashew tree, don’t munch on the fruit or its seed without cooking it first. 

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