Wonders of Cookin’ with Cashews: Creamy Cashew-Pepper Penne

For my very first Green Grub post (ZOMG), I decided my grand debut recipe must be vegan, of course, and this thought naturally led to the decision to make one of the main ingredients this, a staple of vegan cuisine – cashews.

Cashews, if you folks didn’t know, are one of the Seven Wonders of Vegan Food World. Yes, they are like the Great Pyramid of Giza of said Plant-Based Wonderland.

Cashews are hardy just as this last remaining Wonder of the Ancient World is. As most know, the appreciable amount of protein packed into this nutritious nut (I was this close to going for the NUTritious gag…phew!) makes it both a healthy and filling snack. You may also know that the high antioxidant content means it is good for your heart as well, reinforcing this idea of cashews being… HEART-y. It is possibly lesser known that magnesium is just as important for bones as is calcium and that our wondernut is an excellent source of this. Thus, these HARD-y cashews also help to… HARD-en our bones! [LAUGH TRACK]

I’ve got a million of these.

Beyond that, well, I can’t really think of any other similarities between the Great Pyramid of Giza and the seeds stuck to the bottom of cashew apples. I’ll have to work on my analogies.

But what makes the cashew worthy of being positioned on this pedestal alongside a 481-foot-tall man-made Egyptian pyramid, you ask? Let me tell you about the wonder factor. Cashews are so vegan-versatile that they can be used to make milk, cheese, cheesecake, whipped cream, creamy sauces (that’s us!), and so much more.

Furthermore, extracts of various parts of the cashew tree can be seen in traditional medicine – as an aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, antidysenteric, and antihemorrhagic. Whether it is effective as such cannot be confirmed in any of these cases except the aphrodisiac. I mean, what’s more attractive than not having inflamed, hemorrhaging dysentery? Not much, my friends… not much.

On that note, I hope you’re hungry. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 pound of penne
1 cup of raw, unsalted cashews
2 red bell peppers
1 onion
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of paprika
Your favorite vegetables for steaming (or whatever you have in your CSA box – I used asparagus and spinach)
Salt and pepper (optional)

Steps:

1. Soak your cashews in water, either overnight if you’re organized enough to plan that far ahead, or for 15 minutes if you’re a normal human being.

2. Bake the red peppers at 425°F for 15-20 minutes, or until the skins begin to blacken. Allow them to cool enough to handle them, then peel off the skins and slice open to remove the seeds. CAUTION: Before removing the skin, hold the pepper upright to pull off the green stem and pour out the juice inside! You don’t want to spray pepper juice in anyone’s eyeballs. (This is a kitchen, not a peaceful protest.)

3. Get your soaked cashews into a blender, add water barely to the top of the cashews, and blend to reach a smooth, creamy consistency. Feel free to add extra water if necessary.

4. Dice the onion and sauté it in the olive oil until the color becomes translucent. Then throw in the peppers and cashew cream and let this mixture simmer (to cook over low heat) for 8-10 minutes. Remember to stir frequently!

5. When finished cooking, toss in the paprika, as well as the salt and pepper, if you’re one to salt things. Mix and let cool.

6. While the sauce is cooling, there will likely be some multitasking happening in the background. Boil some water, get your penne in, salt the pasta, and cook until al dente. You can follow any instructions that may have come with your pasta.

7. This would also be the time to steam those veggies!

Side Note:  There do exist fancy kitchen devices designed specifically for this purpose – they call these steamers. However, I, like my food god Alton Brown, try to avoid single-use/single-function apparatuses as they’re not very sustainable. Therefore, grab a pot and a colander – two common enough cooking tools – stick the colander inside the pot so it barely fits inside, fill the pot with just enough water so that the water doesn’t actually touch the colander, and BAM! Instant homemade steamer, y’all. Give yourself a well-earned pat on the back.

Side note aside, let’s continue with this steaming process. Turn on the heat and when the water’s boiling, throw in your vegetables and put a lid on it. Cooking time will vary from crop to crop, but may range anywhere from about 4-10 minutes. You can decide on your own when it’s soft enough to chew without your jaw locking up, and when it’s basically mush. Somewhere in between would be groovy.

8. Once the cashew sauce is cooled, blend it until smooth. Drain your al dente penne. Pull out your steamed goods. Now mix it all together… and voilà! Enjoy with 4-6 fine friends.

Food, friends, and fun in the sun... Life is good.

Posted in California Student Sustainability Coalition Magazine, Green Grub.