The Swaptastics, Part Two: Nut-Based ‘Cream’ Sauce

 

Welcome back! When we last met, the subject was béchamel sauce and subsequent cheese sauce, along with a recipe, some suggested uses, pricing and nutrition information. In this section, I explore the basic creamy nut-based sauces using walnuts, almonds, and cashews in the same light. Above, you see a cashew ‘cream’ served over orecchiette pasta and topped with smoky roasted mushrooms.

Why did I go in this direction? As a teacher, I occasionally had students interested in vegetarian and vegan cooking, but without using soy. In addition to research, I started trying foods at restaurants where nuts act in a variety of forms, from fillings to sauces. I was delightfully surprised at how easily nuts could be turned into their dairy counterparts, and started playing around on my own.

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Basic Nut-based Creamy Sauce

Inactive prep time: 8 hours or overnight (soaking the nuts)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

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INGREDIENTS
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1 pound bag of Unsalted Walnuts, Almonds or Cashews (or a combination of the three)
Salt and pepper* to taste
1/2 teaspoon Onion powder, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon Garlic powder, plus more to taste

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STEPS
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1. In a container with a secure lid, place the nuts you’ve selected as well as enough water to cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. This ensures a much smoother consistency, but if you want to skip this step, I’ve had luck bringing the same ratio of water and nuts to a boil for about 10 minutes. The mixture isn’t as smooth but it’s still delicious!

2. When ready to make your creamy sauce, drain and rinse off the nuts whichever method above you used above. Place in a food processor or blender with one cup cold water. Blend or process until smooth, adding in more water if necessary.

3. Pour the contents into a small sauce pan and add in pinches of the salt and white pepper along with the 1/2 teaspoons of garlic and onion powder. Warm as you mix the spices into the nut purée, taste and adjust the seasonings.

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NOTES and NUTRITION

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~ The price for making the nut-based sauce is overall more expensive than for the cheese sauce. To make the sauce costs between $9-11. For another $1 you can get a pound of pasta, cook half and toss with the sauce, serving 2-3 people with another half pound of pasta leftover for another time. For another $2 instead, make veggie noodles from a couple of zucchini and toss with the sauce and also serve 2-3 people.

The price for purchasing all ingredients for the first time is between $11-13, depending on which nut you choose.

Walnuts 1 pound bag: $8
Almonds 1 pound bag: $9
Cashews 1 pound bag: $10
Salt: $1
White pepper: $1
Onion powder: $1
Garlic powder: $1

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~ as mentioned previously, white pepper has a much stronger flavor and aroma than black pepper. However, for cream-based sauces and mashed cauliflower, celery root, or potatoes, restaurants opt for white pepper because it blends seamlessly and is not visible. I’m more a fan of black pepper’s flavor so when cooking at home that’s what I use. If you prefer white pepper, start with pinches (1/8th teaspoon) and adjust after tasting.

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Nutrition information is a catch-22. Nuts are cholesterol-free, rich in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, potassium and even calcium, but on the flip side they are also high in fat and calories. This is a flavorful sauce base, and I’ve used them for numerous items including cheese sauce, spicy garlic sauce and enchilada sauce, but it’s best to eat them in moderation.

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Based on a 1/4 cup (two ounce) serving of the sauce
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Walnut Sauce
366 calories
8 grams carbohydrates (4 grams fiber)
36 grams fat
3.4 grams Saturated
5 grams Monounsaturated
26 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 8.6 grams
Potassium 246 mg
Omega 3 fatty acids 5,130 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 21,442 mg
Calcium 54 grams
Magnesium 88 mg

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Almond Sauce
326 calories
12 grams carbohydrates (7 grams fiber)
28 grams fat
2 grams Saturated
7 grams Monounsaturated
18 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 12 grams
Potassium 400 mg
Omega 3 fatty acids 3 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 6816 mg
Calcium 150 grams
Magnesium 152 mg

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Cashew Sauce
310 calories
18.4 grams carbohydrates (2 grams fiber)
24.6 grams fat
4.4 grams Saturated
13.4 grams Monounsaturated
4.4 grams Polyunsaturated
Protein 10 grams
Potassium 370 mg
Omega 3 fatty acids 35 mg
Omega 6 fatty acids 4362 mg
Calcium 21 grams
Magnesium 164 mg

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Nutrition facts gathered from purchased product labels and supplemented with information supplied by http://nutritiondata.self.com.

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