Daring Cooks July – brought to you by California Walnuts


I won’t lie – I was pretty disappointed to see the Daring Cooks’ challenge this month. Nut  butters. Really? I don’t personally find using a food processor that challenging and I am already familiar with using nut butters in both sweet and savoury dishes.  This challenge does, however, give me the perfect opportunity to introduce you all to my second sponsor for The International Food Blogger Conference this August in Seattle – yes folks, after The National Watermelon Promotion Board, I am ecstatic to announce that California Walnuts is also one of my part-sponsors.

Since I already wrote abut the health and nutrition benefits of walnuts in this post, I’ll cut to the chase, shall I?

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.

As I scratched my head to come up with a recipe using nut butters, I happened to look in the fridge to see a pile of spinach, some garlic scapes and a hunk of parmesan going to waste.  So, whilst it’s not a “butter” of sorts, I made this spinach and scape  walnut pesto. No recipe – just handfuls of spinach, about a cup of walnuts, 4 garlic scapes, roughly chopped, some olive oil and grated parmesan.

A gorgeous, light summer pasta sauce:

Still wondering what sort of “nut butter” recipe I could come up with, I perused the recipe section of the California Walnuts website, and was thrilled to find a recipe for Thai Salad Rolls using walnut paste. Good enough!!  It was a perfect make your won light meal for a hot summer’s night:

Since I could not find rice paper rolls at such short notice (nothing like leaving it til the last minute!!), I used romaine lettuce leaves to wrap the fillings in. Other substitutions and changes marked below in red.



Thai Salad Rolls


1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1/4 cup mango chutney
4 tbsp sweet chili sauce, divided
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup toasted and finely chopped California walnuts
1 cup rice noodles (I omitted these)
8 rice paper wraps (I used romaine lettuce leaves)
1 cup bean sprouts, divided
1 cup shredded carrot, divided
1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced lengthwise, divided
8 cilantro sprigs
16 mint leaves


Toasting Walnuts:

In large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast walnuts, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown, about 1 to 2 minutes; set aside.

Walnut/Onion Paste:

In a large heavy-bottomed pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add chutney, 1 tbsp (15 mL) chili sauce and fish sauce and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and add walnuts; set aside. (I added walnuts to the onion mixture and combined it all in the food processor to make a thicker paste).

In a small sauce pan, bring 3 cups (750 mL) water to a boil and cook rice noodles for 5 to 7 minutes or until al dente. Rinse noodles with cold water and drain. Transfer to a bowl and add remaining chili sauce, stirring to coat noodles. (I omitted the noodles)

To Assemble the Rolls:

Fill a medium mixing bowl with 3 to 4 cups (750 mL to 1 L) hot water. Submerge one sheet of rice paper in hot water until it has softened, about 15 to 30 seconds. Remove and place on a cutting board lined with kitchen towel or damp paper towel. Stretch out rice paper so that there are no folds. Place 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the noodles in the centre of rice paper and stretch out to form a small rectangle. Top with 2 tbsp (30 mL) of walnut/onion paste and 1 tbsp (15 mL) each of bean sprouts, carrots, snap peas, 1 cilantro sprig and 2 mint leaves. Fold bottom end of wrap over the filling and tuck to form a compact log. Fold the ends in and continue to roll into a tight cylinder. Arrange seam side down on platter. Repeat steps to make 8 rolls.

(Or, you could haphazardly make litte bundles of goodness inside the lettuce leaf “wraps” like I did!)

Serve immediately.

Tip: For a heartier roll, add cooked shrimp, shredded chicken or pork. (I sautéed a few shrimp in chili oil)


Result? A surprising combination of spicy and sweet (from the chutney and the walnuts) – I am looking forward to using the leftover sauce/ paste in a simple noodle dish!

Thank you California Walnuts for the lovely bag I am currently working my way through – there is surely a lot more walnut deliciousness in my future. And I can’t wait to attend IFBC with your generous support 🙂


61 Responses to Daring Cooks July – brought to you by California Walnuts

  1. Jenn July 14, 2010 at 06:01 #

    Oh you are SO smart with the pesto! I love walnut pesto!! Those Thai salad rolls look great too – great summer dish!

  2. Liana July 14, 2010 at 07:23 #

    I’d love to participate this month…how do I do it?

  3. Carol Egbert July 14, 2010 at 07:55 #

    This looks delicious. Do you think it would be possible to make hummus with walnuts instead of tahini?

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 18, 2010 at 16:13 #

      Hmmm.. hummus with walnuts – I really don’t know about that. You mean walnut paste, right??

  4. penny aka jeroxie July 14, 2010 at 08:04 #

    good idea! I use different type of nuts besides pine nuts for pesto as well…. and great for pasta! 😉 Like you said we should be living in the same city

    and nice one on the sponsor!

  5. Barbara@ VinoLuciStyle July 14, 2010 at 08:25 #

    Well, I’m glad you persevered and made the dish despite your nut butter reservations; sounds nuttalicious!

  6. Shelley July 14, 2010 at 08:42 #

    I find it so amusing that you say that you weren’t all that inspired by the challenge because look at what you created as a result! I’d say that you came up with some great dishes (that pesto sounds fantastic!), and it’s a bonus that it tied right in with a sponsor! I wish all of my non-inspired dishes came out so beautifully and delicious. 🙂

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 18, 2010 at 16:12 #

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I figured if I was going to participate I should come up with a couple of different ideas since the “nut butter” part was so easy…

  7. lo July 14, 2010 at 09:04 #

    As simple as some of the DC challenges are, I do find that they can inspire some creative thinking on our part… looks like the same is true for you!

    Walnuts are so delicious… I love what you’ve done with yours.

  8. Rochelle (Acquired Taste) July 14, 2010 at 09:42 #

    These salad cups look fantastic! I love that you did something different than the required recipe but still used the nuts 😀 I bet this tasted great!

  9. Tracey@Tangled Noodle July 14, 2010 at 10:07 #

    Congratulations on your new sponsor! And thanks for these Thai Salad Rolls with walnut paste. After my bout w/pine nut mouth and my ongoing peanut probs, it’s good to have tasty alternatives to pestos and nut butters! 😎

  10. The Wife of a Dairyman July 14, 2010 at 10:11 #

    Wow! I never would have thought up that combination. You are so creative and it looks delicious too 🙂

  11. Shea M. @ Blissfully Unrefined July 14, 2010 at 10:27 #

    As usual, inspiring food here Mardi. Deliciousness all the way! That walnut pesto sounds awesome. Well played 🙂

  12. Audax Artifex July 14, 2010 at 10:36 #

    So you were not inspired well I beg to point out the bleeding obvious your recipes are stunning I love the pesto but the Thai salad rolls are divine superb effort and gorgeous photos very professional looking. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 18, 2010 at 16:09 #

      Cheers Audax. I guess I was more disappointed that it was so easy – here I am with all this time on my hands now it’s the summer hols and I get a super easy challenge!

  13. Evelyne@CheapEthnicEatz July 14, 2010 at 11:09 #

    Congrats on the sponsor and great version of a pesto indeed. Yes a simple challenge but think of all the various nuts! lol

  14. good meal good deal July 14, 2010 at 11:18 #

    Awesome! you’re so creative, it’s looks good with romaine lettuce leaves 🙂

  15. Joy July 14, 2010 at 11:48 #

    Great great recipe. I love thai egg rolls. It is great that you used romain lettuce instead of of the spring roll wrapper. I can’t wait to try this.

  16. Priscilla - She's Cookin' July 14, 2010 at 11:48 #

    Congrats on your two sponsors and finding the inspiration to create the walnut/onion pesto – and I think lettuce wraps are better than spring rolls because of the crunch!

  17. Barbara Bakes July 14, 2010 at 13:35 #

    What a great sponsor. Looks like two delicious meals!

  18. Ruth H. July 14, 2010 at 16:11 #

    That pesto looks and sounds delicious! I am sorry that you weren’t as wowed by this challenge, but I am really amazed at how well you were able to work with it and make some things that worked so well for you and your sponsor!!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 18, 2010 at 16:07 #

      Yes I was pleased that I could tie in my intro of Cali Walnuts to this challenge, even if I didn’t learn a new technique…

  19. SMITH BITES July 14, 2010 at 18:37 #

    Walnut pesto is fantastic but I’ve honestly never thought to use it in a sammie – brilliant! And congrats on another sponsor – wish I were going to IFBC but alas, airfares just aren’t kind to us mid-westerners!

  20. Andrea@High/Low July 14, 2010 at 21:04 #

    I love that your sponsors represent real food! Congrats on your second sponsor! Your walnut dishes look amazing!

  21. Asha@FSK July 14, 2010 at 21:27 #

    I know, whipping something up to puree isn’t a challenge. But I didn’t complain. It gave me a good excuse to make a dish we love to have and hadn’t had in a while.

    I like the idea of the wraps! nicely done…

  22. Special K July 15, 2010 at 00:20 #

    My goodness! Never thought of walnut PASTE before, but that makes such great flavoring sense.

    I wish I could be there in Seattle to cheer you on! In spirit though…I lived in Seattle before moving over here to Germany and LOVED the access of farm to table edibles.

  23. Carolyn Jung July 15, 2010 at 00:58 #

    Love these fresh and crispy salad rolls. A perfect dish for summer. And nuts make everything taste even better.

  24. Sarah, Maison Cupcake July 15, 2010 at 04:44 #

    I don’t do Daring Cooks so hadn’t heard about this but agree it sounds a bit of a non challenge – on the other hand, certainly with Daring Bakers I’m glad of the odd month where it’s slightly easier!

    Looks like you did the challenge justice and that pesto looks fab.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 18, 2010 at 16:04 #

      Thanks – but I actually love “technique” challenges where you learn a new technique. Hasn’t been much of that lately and the Bakers seem to just pick the most outrageous recipes they can find…

  25. Ken July 15, 2010 at 07:34 #

    Simple and delicious, not to mention it’s good for you too. I like the lettuce wrap idea.

  26. Daniel@CocinaSavant July 15, 2010 at 10:13 #

    The salad rolls look delicious and congrats on the California Walnut sponsor. That pesto makes my mouth water too much since it is not lunch time. Well done.

  27. Joy July 15, 2010 at 11:01 #

    Mardi these salad rolls look out of this world!!! And the pesto looks amazing — i love your use of nuts 🙂 Anyways looked like you had a fabulous time in Philly and that shot of the pasta just made me drool onto my keyboard…drats!

  28. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction July 15, 2010 at 13:48 #

    Even though you weren’t thrilled about the challenge, it looks like you came up with a pretty great recipe… Bravo! Looks fantastic.

  29. Jo @ secondhelping July 16, 2010 at 00:57 #

    Congrats on the sponsorship coup and on that great looking pesto!

  30. Sharlene (Wheels and Lollipops) July 18, 2010 at 18:13 #

    Congrats on the sponsorship ! Yes not the most interesting challenge, but your dish looks amazing !!! I personally prefer fruit butters but that’s something I enjoy in the fall months 🙂

  31. Conor @ HoldtheBeef July 20, 2010 at 03:32 #

    I love things wrapped up in lettuce, despite always seeming to end up with bits falling/dribbling out the end. I may not be a glamorous eater but at least I’m entertaining.

  32. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best July 20, 2010 at 12:23 #

    I like the wide variety of recipes that you used those California walnuts in. The Thai spring rolls sound really good right now in the sweltering heat.

  33. Kevin (Closet Cooking) July 27, 2010 at 21:46 #

    I like the sound of using a savoury walnut paste in Thai flavoured lettuce wraps!


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