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 and by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.
The requirement was to use the nut butter in a savory dish - not sweet. Bob suggested a Northwest theme when I said I was thinking about doing something with fish - hazelnuts and salmon. I had been thinking pistachios with salmon because I thought the colors would be striking, but I decided his idea was just fine.
Finding hazelnuts or filberts was a bit of a challenge in itself, as was preparing them for the butter-making process. My local store had nothing, but my favorite store, where I also bought my salmon, had a good supply. Making the butter takes only minutes, but with hazelnuts, some skin removal is suggested. I roasted the hazelnuts for 5 minutes and then rubbed them vigorously in a dishtowel. That worked for some, but others were very stubborn. After trying several other techniques, I gave up. Some of the nuts had skins on when they went into the food processor. It really didn't seem to affect the color or flavor too much.
The nuts were pretty dry, so I added a small amount of hazelnut oil (who knows why I bought that at some point in the past, but I was glad to have it). The consistency, after a few minutes of pulsing, was like a natural peanut butter. Soft, not stiff, and a dark tan color.
I sliced the salmon into narrow pieces, about 6 ounces each. I salted and peppered them, put some nut butter across the top and wrapped them in two layers of phyllo which had been buttered and decorated with parsely sprigs. NOTE: I used Safeway brand phyllo and once again, I found the product inferior to the national brand I sometimes buy. The phyllo was very sticky in places and already split when I unwrapped it. Go with the national brand (which, of course, Safeway doesn't carry). Phyllo is tricky enough without trying to cope with basic product flaws.
After doing a light egg wash, I baked the salmon wraps for about 15 minutes in a hot oven. I also made stuffed mushrooms - sauteed onions, mushrooms stems, panko, parsley, some of the nut butter, and seasonings, drizzled with olive oil. These baked for about 5 minutes, so easy to coordinate with the salmon. A few steamed local green beans and dinner is on the table!
Bob decided his idea wasn't so great after all. Now one must remember that Bob likes spicy food - this was not spicy despite the addition of some pepper to the dish. He found the hazelnuts too sweet. Not a fan. I, on the other hand, could taste the nutty flavor and thought it did complement the salmon. I also liked the stuffed mushrooms, although I think a saute of sliced mushrooms with all the same ingredients would also have tasted good and might have worked really well if stuffed into the phyllo with the salmon. Maybe a roulade? Something to think about for next time.