Cooking Classes


A Drive in the Country #3

I had reason to travel to my home town, Carlyle,  this weekend.  I took a few pictures and I think I grew up in a beautiful place.  The countryside is verdant and alive.  There is a creek, Moose Mountain Creek, that wends its way through miles and miles of this land and with that are lovely ravines.

My father was a grain farmer and we lived on the land.  The crops have changed somewhat, canola and lentils are common.  But there are still the beautiful blue flowers of a flax field. 

I saw a donkey with the horses!  I first learned of this in Tennessee last year.  Donkeys abhor coyotes and as a result are a great protector for other livestock.

I visited the lake we went to every possible Sunday in the summer.  At that time it was a hub of activity with beautiful beaches, softball and hardball tournaments and church summer camps.  With the seasons of a lake and the weather, the lake has receded and the beaches have been replaced with meadows.

Driving through the reservation to the lake, I still find beaver lodges and tranquil ponds.

I appreciate more than ever my simple upbringing in rural Saskatchewan.


Hummingbird Cake

It is my Aunt Agnes' 80th birthday this weekend.  She is a very special aunt and spent a lot of time with me as a young girl.  My own mother was not well so she was always there to step in and help us.  

Her children are planning a tea.  This is a very small town Saskatchewan thing to do.  I love it!  I will be able to visit with all of my cousins, aunts and uncles at the same time without driving all over.  

As a birthday present I am baking a cake.  Can you think of a better birthday gift?  And, can you ever have too many birthday cakes?

My inspiration for this cake comes from my house sit experience in Tennessee last year.  It is a very Southern cake.  They love their layer cakes in the South.  I heard about this cake but had never tasted it and I really wanted to try it.


Hummingbird Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 can (8oz) crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups chopped firm ripe banana
 Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 pounds confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon together into mixing bowl several times. Add eggs and salad oil to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until ingredients are moistened. Stir in vanilla, pineapple and 1 cup pecans. Stir in the bananas. Spoon the batter into 3 well-greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes,or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
Combine cream cheese and butter; cream until smooth. Add powdered sugar, beating with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
Frost the tops of all 3 layers, stack and then frost sides. Sprinkle top evenly with the 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans.


Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

I almost opted out of this challenge for a couple of reasons.  I have been making a lot of ice cream lately.  And secondly, how would I ever eat all of this.  But it was looking like so much fun that I had to join in.  It is Roxanne's birthday, so I will take this to the office and share it.

I haven't made a jelly roll, or Swiss roll as it is called in this recipe, since I taught grade nine home economics.  This should be fun.  Also, I have kumquat ice cream in the freezer from an earlier time and I will use it.  I made a simple ice cream custard using my favourite recipe.  I had lots of chocolate mousse left over from the last challenge so I took it out of the freezer and added it to the custard after it had thickened.  After processing this chocolate custard in my ice cream maker, I chopped up all the chocolate pavlovas I had in the freezer and folded these crispy bits into my chocolate ice cream.  Then I put it in the freezer until I was ready to make the bombe.

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita's world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

The Swiss rolls

6 medium sized eggs
1 cup berry sugar + extra for rolling
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
5 tablespoons of natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted together
2 tablespoons boiling water
a little oil for brushing the pans

For the filling
2 cups whipping cream
1 vanilla pod, split and scraped to use seeds only (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
5 tablespoons caster sugar, berry sugar, superfine sugar or powdered sugar

    1. Preheat the oven at 400 deg F approximately. Brush the baking pans ( 11 inches by 9 inches ) with a little oil and line with greaseproof baking paper. If you have just one pan, bake one cake and then let the pan cool completely before using it for the next cake.
    2. In a large mixing bowl, add the eggs and sugar and beat until very thick; when the beaters are lifted, it should leave a trail on the surface for at least 10 seconds.
    3. Sift the cocoa powder with the flour.
    4. Add the flour mixture, in three batches and fold in gently with a spatula. Fold in the water.
    5. Divide the mixture among the two baking pans and spread it out evenly, into the corners of the pans.
    6. Place a pan in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes or till the centre is springy to the touch.
    7. Spread a kitchen towel on the counter and sprinkle a little caster sugar over it.
    8. Turn the cake on to the towel and peel away the baking paper. Trim any crisp edges.
    9. Starting from one of the shorter sides, start to make a roll with the towel going inside. Cool the wrapped roll on a rack, seam side down.
    10. Repeat the same for the next cake as well.
    11. Grind together the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod and sugar in a food processor until nicely mixed together. If you are using vanilla extract, just add the sugar and extract to the cream.
    12. In a large bowl, add the cream and vanilla-sugar mixture and beat until very thick.
    13. Divide the cream mixture between the completely cooled cakes.
    14. Open the rolls and spread the cream mixture, making sure it does not go right to the edges (a border of ½ an inch should be fine).
    15. Roll the cakes up again, this time without the towel. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge until needed, seam side down.


      Saskatoon Berry Tarte

      Saskatoon berries are unique to western Canada and northwestern United States and are a personal favourite.  I went to a U-Pick this week and brought home a gallon of fresh berries.  If you are not familiar with saskatoons, they are similar to a blueberry but with more fibre.  Usually they are made into pies or crisps or canned as fruit in a water bath to have during the winter.  I am trying them in a few new recipes.

      I also found a saskatoon U-Pick in France!  They have a very interesting farm, Ferme Moonriver.
      This tarte would be a hit in France and was a regular at Eiffel Tower bakery when it was open in Calgary.

      Saskatoon Berry Tarte

      For the pâte sablée crust:
      - 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
      - 9 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
      - 1/2 cup icing sugar
      - 1/4 cup ground almonds
      - 1 large egg yolk
      - 1/4 teaspoon salt

      For the filling:
      - 2 1/2 cups Saskatoon berries, fresh or frozen
      - 1/4 cup almond meal (almonds ground to a fine powder)
      - 2 tablespoons sugar
      - 1 egg
      - 1/4 cup whipping cream or double cream

      Preheat the oven to 360°F and lightly grease a shallow 11-inch tart pan, preferably one with a removable bottom.
      Place the sugar, flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times. Add in the butter and mix briefly, just until the dough forms coarse crumbs. The mixture will not come together into a ball and will remain crumb-like, but it should clump if you pinch it with your fingers.

      Pour the mixture into the tart pan and spread it evenly to cover the surface of the pan. Pat it down to pack it gently, creating a low rim all around. Don't worry too much about the shape or evenness of it; it's more important not to overwork the dough. Put in the oven to blind-bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is set and very lightly golden around the edges.

      In the meantime, toss the berries (no need to thaw if frozen) with the sugar and the powdered almonds. Remove the pan from the oven, pour in the berry mixture evenly in the crust shell, leaving a small margin all around, and return to the oven for 15 minutes (18 minutes if the berries were frozen).
      Remove the pan from the oven. Whisk the egg and cream together in a small bowl and pour evenly over the berries. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

      Transfer to a rack and let cool completely before serving.


      Saskatoon Berry Clafouti

      I have never made a clafouti and have been curious after seeing so many on Foodgawker and Tastespotting and reading the interesting recipes.  I have not seen one with saskatoons so I just made adaptations and came up with this.  It is an alternative to making a pie or a crisp which is what most people do with saskatoons.

      I promise not to bore you to tears with saskatoon berries like I must have with rhubarb!  I just love to use local products and create new ways to cook with them.

      Clafouti is a rustic, simple French dessert that's a cross between a pancake and a custard. Cherries are traditional but you can use other fruits successfully.  

      Saskatoon Berry Clafouti

      • 1/2 cup almond flour
      • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
      • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
      • 2 cups of saskatoon berries
      • 3 large eggs, room temperature
      • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
      • Pinch of salt
      • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
      • Powdered sugar

      Add milk and bring to the a simmer with the almond flour. Remove from heat; let steep 30 minutes. Pour through fine strainer, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids in strainer.
      Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter glass pie dish; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Scatter saskatoons evenly over bottom of dish.
      Using electric mixer, beat eggs, almond extract, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in medium bowl until well blended. Add strained almond milk and beat to blend. Sift flour into egg mixture and beat until smooth. Pour mixture over saskatoons. Bake until set and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
      Can be made 6 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Lightly dust clafouti with powdered sugar and serve. 


      Oh, Sweet Pea, Won't You Be My Girl

      Sweet Pea          by  Tommy Roe
      Oh, Sweet Pea
      Come on and dance with me
      Come on, come on, come on and dance with me
      Oh, Sweet Pea
      Won't you be my girl
      Won't you, won't you, won't you be my girl

      I went to a dance just the other night
      I saw a girl there she was out of sight
      I asked a friend of mine who she could be
      He said that her friends just call her Sweet Pea

      Oh, Sweet Pea
      Come on and dance with me
      Come on, come on, come on and dance with me
      Oh, Sweet Pea
      Won't you be my girl
      Won't you, won't you, won't you be my girl

      I was a teenager when this song was a hit.  I have sweet peas in my garden for the first time in many, many years.  I just love them!  They brought this song to mind.  Click here to listen to it.


      Chicken Under a Brick

      I haven't made this in a couple of years.  But then I was on the road for a year!  So now it is time.  This afternoon my neighbour and I drove out to the Webb Hutterite colony and bought chickens.  Their chickens are by far the best I can buy here in my little town.

      My usual treatment is to cut the chicken into pieces and cook the piece I am in the mood for.  I live alone so a whole chicken can take a little longer to eat than I would like.  I prefer not to freeze cooked chicken because I feel that the texture and the flavour is diminished.

      But I just have to make the grilled Chicken Under a Brick.  I'm sure you have all done this and it is no big secret but I love it.  At the moment I only have my little Weber charcoal bbq and to roast a whole chicken would take more time and attention that I feel like spending.  But if you spatchcock the chicken....then it is very do-able.

      Don't you love that word 'spatchcock'?  It is a weird word.  The basic drill is to cut down both sides of the back bone and remove it.  This is easiest accomplished with sturdy kitchen shears.  Then you can lay the chicken flat and with the heels of your hands, press down on the breasts to make the chicken flat.  When it is flat it cooks much more quickly and evenly.  If you preheat a foil covered brick on the grill, you can place this brick on top of the chicken and cook it from both sides at the same time.  Tuck the wing tips behind the breast.

      I love the simple lemon juice marinade for the chicken.  Add a few herbs and it is, oh, so Italian.  Serve the chicken with a simple salad of garden greens in a buttermilk honey dressing.

      Chicken Under a Brick

      3 lemons, juiced
      1 teaspoon kosher salt
      2 tablespoons olive oil
      2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
      2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
      1 clove of garlic, minced

      Whisk all together and marinade the chicken in this for 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Remove the chicken 1/2 hour before grilling so it warms up and cooks more evenly.

      Grill chicken on medium barbecue.  Preheat a foil covered brick and place the brick on top of the chicken.  Garnish with grilled slices of lemons, if desired.


      Homemade Ravioli in Walnut Sauce

      Mushroom Ravioli in a Walnut Sauce 

       Serves 4

      For the Walnut sauce
      • 1/4 cup walnut butter
      • Extra virgin olive oil
      • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
      • Pepper
      • ½ clove garlic
      For the Pasta           from The Joy of Cooking
      • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 5 large eggs or 7 egg whites
      • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
      • Water as needed
      For the Ravioli filling
      • 25 grams dried mixed wild mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
      • Extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
      • 1/2 cup soft goat cheese
      • Small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
      • Salt and pepper
      1. Before making the walnut sauce, separate a small quantity of the walnuts for a garnish. Then put the remainder and the other ingredients in a blender, with plenty of oil and when blitzed, keep to one side.
      2. Make the filling by frying the mushrooms in the oil and garlic, and then mixing with the goat cheese and parsley. Season to taste and leave to cool.
      3. Make the pasta by mixing the flour and salt with the eggs. Add water and oil as needed. Work the dough until it becomes soft and elastic.  Let dough rest for 30 minutes before rolling.
      4. Roll sheets of pasta with pasta maker or with a rolling pin.  Use a ravioli press, pasta cutter or a round biscuit cutter to make raviolis.
      5. Place a teaspoon of filling on the pasta and press closed with your fingers; eggs or milk will not be needed. Boil in plenty of salted boiling water, and drain when just al dente.
      6. To make the walnut sauce, saute the garlic in olive oil.  Add walnut butter to melt.  Add grated parmesan and coarsely ground black pepper.  Coat the ravioli lightly with the sauce.  If the sauce is too thick, loosen it up with a little of the pasta water.  Serve immediately with a few chopped walnuts.

      Walnut Butter

      1 cup walnuts, toasted

      Puree the walnuts in a food processor for about 3 minutes.  No extra oil should be required.  It makes a firm butter.


      Chipotle Pecan Tamales

      I have been itching to make tamales.  I have the masa, the corn husks, the chipotles and the desire! 

      I came across an interesting post for some nut butters that can be purchased.  One flavour combination appealed to me and that was a spicy chipotle pecan butter.  I am attempting to recreate this butter and using it in a Tex Mex style tamale.  I thought that sweet corn would complement the spicy and nutty flavour of the butter filling. 

      Tamale Dough

      4 cups masa mix
      4 cups lukewarm water or stock (I used the soaking liquid from the chipotles and stock)
      2 cups of fresh or frozen corn off the cob
      2 teaspoons baking powder
      1 teaspoon salt
      1 1/3 cups lard

      If using fresh corn on the cob, grill on a barbecue until tender.  With a sharp knife, cut all the kernels off the cob.  If using frozen corn kernels this step is not necessary.  Place the corn in a food processor and pulse two or three times to slightly break up the kernels.  Set aside.

      Combine masa mix, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Work in the water or broth using a stand mixer, if possible, or otherwise your fingers to make a soft, moist dough.  Beat this masa mixture until it is light and smooth and resembles a cake batter.  Stir in the corn.  Let sit for 20 minutes.

      In another bowl, beat lard or shortening until fluffy.  If you have a stand mixer, this is ideal.  Beat it until very light and fluffy and until it almost triples in volume.  This will ensure a light tamale.

      Slowly add the whipped lard to the dough a little at a time and mix in gently until well combined.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.  At this point you can test the dough to see if it has been beaten enough.  Drop a small amount, about the size of a raspberry into a glass of cold water.  If it floats, you will have a light and fluffy tamale.

      Spicy Chipotle Pecan Butter

      1 cup pecans, toasted
      2 dried chipotle peppers, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes.
      1/2 teaspoon sea salt

      Puree the pecans until a butter is formed, about 3 minutes.  Chop the chipotles into small pieces and add to butter.  Continue to puree until they are very finely chopped.  Add salt to taste.

      To assemble the tamales:

      Soak corn husks for 20 minutes and drain well.

      Smear each corn husk with two or three tablespoons of the masa mixture.  Drop a teaspoon of the nut butter in the centre.  Roll the corn husk to encase the nut butter in masa and tie.

      Repeat this until all of the masa mixture is used.

      Steam the tamales for 45 minutes in a large pot.  Use a rack to keep the tamales out of the water so they are just steamed.


      Grilled Sirloin Steaks with Blue Cheese Walnut Butter

      This is another recipe using a home made nut butter.  I loved the last Daring Cooks challenge and made several different recipes.   I am combining walnut butter with blue cheese to make a luscious topping for a grilled steak.  Such an easy way to ramp up your next barbecue.

      For a more polished presentation, this butter can be formed into a log by wrapping it in plastic wrap.  Chill until firm and slice thickly.  Put a pat on each steak.

      Grilled Sirloin Steaks with Blue Cheese Walnut Butter           

      • 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled  
      • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
      • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
      • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, finely crumbled 
      • 1/4 cup walnut butter 
      • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely minced
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
      • 2 - 1 1/2-to 1 3/4-pound sirloin steaks (1 inch thick) 

      • Combine cheese, butter, parsley, garlic and rosemary in medium bowl. Stir to blend well. Mix in walnut butter.
      • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer blue cheese butter to small bowl. (NOTE: Blue cheese butter can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring butter to room temperature before using.)
      • Season steaks as you like.  I like Montreal steak spice but you can simply use salt and pepper.   Cover and let stand 1/2 hour at room temperature.
      • Prepare grill (medium-high heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to platter and let stand 5 minutes.
      • Cut each steak into 3 equal portions. Top each portion with a spoonful of blue cheese butter and serve.
      • Serves 6.


      Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew Dressing

      The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

      I didn't begin the challenge until well into the month.  I had a limited selection of nuts locally so I went online and found a wonderful place in the U.S. that will ship to Canada - Nuts Online.  I got so excited and ordered more than I needed for this challenge alone.

      I bought some marcona almonds, because I love them!  Roast or fry them with a little olive oil and  a sprinkle of sea salt and they are a wonderful with a cocktail or a cheese tray.  I also wanted to try the almond flour and had to purchase a whopping 5 pound bag!  I guess I will be making a few macarons and I would like to try some other cookies or cakes with it.

      I bought raw nuts because I can fresh roast them as I need them.  I think the flavour is better.  I made the cashew nut butter for the recipe below.  I cannot post everything today because you would just keep reading and reading or...not!  Over the next few days I will share other recipes with other nut butters.  Today it is cashew butter.  Please read on! 

      • The process for making various types of nut butters is essentially the same. Pour nuts into bowl of food processor. Grind the nuts in the processor until they form a paste or butter. The nuts first turn into powdery or grainy bits, then start to clump and pull away from the side of the bowl, and finally form a paste or butter. The total time required depends on the fat and moisture content of the nuts; grinding time will vary from roughly 1 to 4 minutes (assuming a starting volume of 1 to 2 cups [240 to 480 ml] nuts). Processing times for a variety of nuts are described below.
      • You may add oil as desired during grinding to make the nut butter smoother and creamier or to facilitate grinding. Add oil in small increments, by the teaspoon for oily nuts like cashews or by the tablespoon for dryer/harder nuts like almonds. You may use the corresponding nut oil or a neutral vegetable oil like canola.
      • The inclusion of salt in the nut butters is optional and to taste. If you make nut butters from salted nuts, peanuts or cashews for example, you will not need additional salt. We recommend making unsalted nut butters for use in the challenge recipes (and other savory recipes) since the recipes call for salt or salty ingredients. You can then adjust the salt to taste. If you are making nut butter for use as a spread, you should add salt according to your preference.
      • Roasting the nuts before making nut butters is optional according to your preference. To roast nuts in the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4). Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet or roasting pan. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until nuts are fragrant and a shade darker in color. Allow nuts to cool before grinding. Roasted nuts will make butter with darker color than raw nuts.
      • It’s helpful to keep in mind that the yield of nut butter is about half the original volume of nuts. If you start with 1 cup nuts, you’ll get about ½ cup nut butter.
      • The consistency of nut butters varies from thin & soft (almost pourable) to very thick and hard depending on the fat content of the nut. (See links below for nutrition info on variety of nuts.) Homemade nut butters will probably not be as smooth as commercial products.
      • Homemade nut butters are more perishable than commercial products and should be stored in the refrigerator. The nut butters harden & thicken somewhat upon chilling. 

        • Almonds: form a thick butter in about 2 to 3 minutes for slivered almonds, or 3 to 4 minutes for whole almonds; the skin of whole almonds will leave dark flecks in the butter
        • Cashews: form a smooth, spreadable butter after about 2 minutes of processing
        • Hazelnuts: form a firm, thick, and grainy butter in about 2 to 3 minutes; to remove the skin from whole hazelnuts, roast in a 400 degree F oven (200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6) for about 5 minutes or till skins loosen, then rub hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel to remove some of the skin; the remaining skin will leave dark flecks in the butter
        • Macadamias: form a soft and smooth butter in about 2 minutes
        • Peanuts: form a thick, grainy butter in about 2 or 3 minutes
        • Pecans: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give pecan butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
        • Walnuts: form a very soft, oily, pourable butter in 1 or 2 minutes; the skins give walnut butter a slightly tannic and bitter flavor
        • Pistachios: According to the Nut Butter Primer from Cooking Light, pistachio butter is dry and crumbly with a tendency to clump during processing; they recommend combining it with softened cream cheese for easy spreading and report a processing time of 3.5 to 4 minutes. Please note, we did not test pistachio butter.
        Asian Noodle Salad with Cashew (or Peanut) Dressing
        Yield: 4 servings
        Recipe notes: Customize the salad by adding or substituting your favorite vegetables. Shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, and slivered carrots would make nice additions. Obviously, you can omit the shrimp, or substitute chicken or tofu or the protein of your choice. The dressing is equally as good with peanut butter rather than cashew butter. We tested the dressing with nut butters made from salted cashews & peanuts with good results.

        Cashew Butter:
        1 cup (240 ml) cashews*
        Cashew Dressing:
        ½ inch (1 cm) slice of fresh ginger, chopped
        8 cloves garlic, more or less to taste, chopped
        ½ cup (120 ml) cashew butter
        ¼ cup (60 ml) soy sauce
        3 Tablespoons (45 ml) sugar
        3 Tablespoons (45 ml) vinegar
        3 Tablespoons (45 ml) toasted sesame oil
        ¼ cup plus 1 Tablespoon (75 ml) water
        Hot sauce to taste (optional)
        Noodle Salad:
        1/2 pound (225 g) linguine or thin rice noodles
        1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
        1/2 pound (225 g) small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
        1 large red bell pepper, cored and seeded, cut into thin strips
        1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, sliced
        1/4 cup (60 ml) sliced green onions
        1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh basil
        1 tablespoon (15 ml) chopped cashews (optional garnish)
        Lime wedges (optional)
        1. Make cashew butter: Grind cashews in food processor for about 2 minutes until smooth. (*Or start with ½ cup (120 ml) prepared cashew butter.)
        2. Prepare cashew dressing: Combine ginger, garlic, cashew butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, and water in food processor or blender. Process/blend until smooth. Be sure to process long enough to puree the ginger and garlic. The dressing should be pourable, about the same thickness as cream. Adjust consistency – thinner or thicker -- to your liking by adding more water or cashew butter. Taste and add your favorite hot sauce if desired. (If the cashew butter was unsalted, you may want to add salt to taste.) Makes about 1 ½ cups (360 ml) dressing. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator.
        3. Prepare noodles according to package instructions in salted water. Rinse and drain noodles. Set aside.
        4. Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat. Add shrimp to the pan and sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes or until opaque throughout. Alternately, cook shrimp in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes or until done.
        5. Slice basil into thin ribbons. Combine noodles, bell pepper, cucumber, onions, and basil in a large bowl. Add about ½ cup (120 ml) cashew dressing; toss gently to coat. Add more cashew dressing as desired, using as much or as little as you like. Scatter shrimp on top. Squeeze fresh lime juice over salad or serve with lime wedges. Sprinkle with chopped cashews if desired.