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.