Thursday, November 22, 2012

national cashew day

This November celebrates a rather “nutty” day, the National Cashew Day. While we’re all preoccupied with Thanksgiving planning and holiday preparations, this November 22 takes a moment to celebrate this rather tasty and very special ingredient to many of today’s recipes.

While cashews were once considered to be native to Northeast Brazil, they are said to have found their roots in ancient Africa. Grown for both the cashew seed, what we call the nut, and it's outer coating, the cashew apple (haven’t seen many of these, but they apparently contain five times the vitamin C of the average orange), it is now grown throughout tropical climates, some of the prime sources being the Philippines and Nigeria.  Although less common that other tree nuts or peanuts, some people do have a serious allergic reaction to cashews.

The nut alone isn’t what it’s all about. There is far more to cashews than we think. In some countries, the juice of the cashew nut is a very popular drink, offering plenty of essential nutrients and often considered as a wholesome part of the diet. For medicinal purposes, cashews are renowned for their ability to ward off tooth infections due to the compounds naturally found in them. Parts of the cashew plants are even utilized as a medicinal aid for snake bites (such as the deadly cobra).

So, who decided that November 22 was going to be National Cashew day? Well, no one really knows.  It is believed that this tasty nut has been celebrated as far back as the 16th century.  Over the years, because of its integrity to so many different dishes found worldwide, the cashew gained fame amongst chefs and became a valued item, often appearing in restaurant specials. As its popularity improved during the fall season in America, November was designated a prime time for cashew flavored additions to dishes and today, November 22 has been designated as its celebrated day.

While most often available either salted or chocolate covered, cashews are so tasty that they stand up well on their own in a raw format.  This is the healthiest way to eat them as a mid-day or evening snack to keep your guests preoccupied while they converse with one another. We also find them in trail mixes, a great way to keep us company while traveling on the road.

However, cashews are found in far more places than just our daytime snack packs. When it comes to preparing vegetarian recipes, the cashew has a unique place on the ingredient list. In Kerala cuisine, the cashew is a vital ingredient in the dish known as Avial, which is a thick mixture of vegetables, curd, and coconut as well. Broccoli with garlic butter and cashew is also a very prominent and tasty dish, regardless of preference. Another favored recipe is Coconut Red Lentils with spinach, cashew, and lime, which makes for an amazingly healthy dish that anyone would enjoy. Additionally, cashews are an appetizing ingredient to many sauces, especially for chicken and turkey recipes. Sauces are often thickened by use of flour or other starchy alternatives, but if you’re searching for a new flavor or want to improve the nutritional value of your meal, consider some meaty dishes that utilize the healthy cashew as a saucy alternative. This holiday season, don’t neglect to introduce this fantastically delicious and amazingly healthy nut into your mealtime recipes.

Mark Gomez is owner and operator of Gomez Catering. Gomez Catering which specializes in providing full service, off-premise catering and party planning. With an emphasis on quality, customer service, and style we can help you with any size event but we believe there are no limitations when it comes to food. What lies in your imagination is our goal to create and bring to life.

photo: Midori

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