Monday, February 15, 2010

Don’t Fear the Butter

In the wake of Valentine’s Day, it seems only right to tell you that I’m having a love affair with butter.

It’s not my fault that butter is so delicious, clean and rich-tasting, capable of making savory and sweet dishes something to linger over.  It smells good too, whether it’s melting into a puddle of olive oil before being tossed with some thinly sliced red onions, or baking in little tea cookies or dense chocolate brownies.  Butter really does make things better, and I for one think that butter has earned its place in the kitchen, healthy or not.

But wait.  Am I the only one who thinks that butter has been given a second chance with the rising popularity of dairy from grass-fed cows?  Talk about good news for us hedonistic health nuts!  Rumor (or science) has it that grass-fed cows’ butter contains higher levels of antioxidants and those so-called “healthy” fats like conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.  Now, I’m not really convinced that butter’s saturated fat is bad—that whole trans-fat issue really scrambled the data set and if coconut is supposed to be good for us now, then I think the jury is still out on saturated fat.  Regardless, I eat my butter, and I love every last morsel of it.

I have, however, made a conscious decision to buy butter from grass-fed cows as much as I can.  I’m really elated to find that my natural foods store (my “Brambles,” as I might say to Laurie) carries a regular supply of Organic Valley’s Organic Pasture Butter.  It is more expensive than regular organic butter, but I believe it’s worth it.  If you’re going to love butter, you might as well love the good stuff.

I love butter so much that I decided to put it somewhere that it rarely shows up: in a nut butter.  It was a magical moment for me when I realized I could make my own nut butters at home.  It also shows that I’m kinda slow sometimes, since I watched my friend Daine make his own peanut butter in his Chicago kitchen.  And never mind the huge “grind-your-own” vats at stores like Whole Foods.  I could make MY OWN NUT BUTTER!  Suddenly spending ten dollars on a jar of walnut butter was totally unnecessary—I could make it myself at home!  And best of all, I could make a custom blend of my favorite ingredients.  When was the last time you had a pecan butter?  Seriously!  But you can have it at home—all you need is a decent food processor and a touch of patience.  And a bit of butter.  I add a tablespoon of butter to about a cup of nuts because I thought the butter would give it a nice, creamy texture—it would help meld the flavors together.  What I got was a nubbly, sweet yet complex-tasting spread that I found positively addictive.  It’s delightful.  And so without further ado, I give you the recipe.

Honey Walnut-Pecan Butter

Makes ~1 cup

This nut butter is lightly sweetened with honey.  The bitterness of the walnuts adds an unusual layer of flavor, and the pecans and butter round everything out with their pleasant richness.  I like this nut butter a lot with apple slices, but I love it with a banana.  It reminds me of a banana split, which is always a good thing.

One last thing, about the title of this post: “I gotta have more cowbell!

1/2 cup pecans (whole or coarsely chopped)

1/2 cup walnuts (whole or coarsely chopped)

1 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp. honey

1)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Place the nuts on a large rimmed cookie sheet.  Toast them in the oven for 5-6 minutes, then remove and let them cool for a few minutes.

2)  Place the toasted walnuts and pecans in a food processor.  Grind for a few minutes to create a chunky paste.  Add the butter and honey.  Grind for another minute or two, scraping down the sides as needed, until the paste has reached a uniform consistency.  It will still be nubbly using a regular food processor like mine, but with a high-powered blender like a Vita-Mix, you might be able to get a smoother, creamier texture.  Myself, I like the nubbly texture.

3)  Store any leftovers in a tightly-lidded container in the fridge.


Laurie said...

I can't believe you managed to work in a cowbell reference before I did! That's about the only thing I like Will Ferrell in. I'm honoured that you linked to my blog and to the More Cowbell video in the same post.

I trust you've seen this:

Scroll down to the last clip for recent cowbell footage.

Rosiecat said...

More Cowbell! Laurie, that clip was hilarious. Is that ZZ Top who shakes his head when Will Ferrell gets out the cowbell? I love it.

Have you seen the More Cowbell t-shirts, too? I'm so tempted to buy one because it would make me happy every time I wore it.

Laurie said...

Yep, that's the guy from ZZ Top. No, I haven't seen the More Cowbell t-shirts. I'll have to look for those. I believe I've seen ones that say "Got Cowbell", but I could be imagining that. If they don't exist, they should. I'll have to do some browsing and see what I can find, as more happiness is always welcome.

Lele said...

I love butter too! It for sure gets a bad rap. It comes from a cow. It is Real Food. All things in moderation.
And yeah, for some things (especially pastry) there is just NO SUBSTITUTE WHATSOEVER that tastes as good as butter.

Shannon said...

I'm coming around to butter and other saturated fats... although it's a tough thing to re-learn!

This sounds fabulous, and is making me drool here at work... one last thing to do before i can go home and make dinner!

Rosiecat said...

Laurie, now I REALLY need a t-shirt. Even Barack Obama needs more cowbell.

Lele, welcome! I totally agree. If you love butter and you don't have a food allergy, then by all means enjoy it and be sensible about it. Real Food is the way to go.

Shannon, I definitely know where you're coming from with the saturated fats. It's been a gradual transition for me to make them a regular part of my ingredient stash. I always, always loved cheese, but I avoided butter and fatty milk on a regular basis. Now it feels like butter is just one of many options. I like that it's there.

Sorry about the drooling, but luckily this nut butter can be whipped up in a snap. If we lived in the same town, I'd bring you a sample to try :-) Oh, and did you see that your beloved Siggi's was on Kath Eats the other day? It made me think of you! I've got to try that stuff--maybe this weekend!

Lo said...

Butter's been getting a bad rap for too long, I say. It's good to see the word getting out on the good side of saturated fats. I'll include red palm oil and extra virgin coconut oil in that category too! It's nice to know that we can have our butter, and eat it too!

daine said...

Even when I want chunky peanut butter, I like the majority of it to be smooth. You can easily reserve some of the nuts, blend the rest until it's silky smooth, and then add the chunks in, pulsing the food processor once or twice just to mix the chunks in without destroying them.

Rosiecat said...

Hi, Lo! Yes, I think it's a good thing to enjoy saturated fats, especially the ones you've listed. I haven't tried red palm oil. What does it taste like? How do you like to eat it? I love coconut oil and coconut butter--the latter is really good as "shavings" on top of hot oatmeal.

Daine, thanks for piping up! Does your food processor have to be super-powerful to make smooth peanut butter? I haven't tried it with my itty-bitty one yet. I know with the recipe I shared here, it doesn't really get creamy--it's more like a nubbly paste. I wonder if that's a function of the kind of nut you choose?