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Savor the joys of peanut butter

 

Austin Steele/TNS
Cold Noodles with Chicken and Peanuts is all about the balance between noodles and sauce.

Peanut butter is my religion. George Washington Carver is my prophet.

I think we can all agree that peanut butter is the most perfect food ever invented. It is the ultimate expression of man’s genius, a spreadable utopia that covers our sins, brings happiness to all and goes as well with jam as it does with jelly.

Though peanut butter is the nectar of the gods, we mortals can enjoy it, too. And it doesn’t have to be in a sandwich. Surrounded by chocolate, it is one of two great tastes that taste great together. It is an excellent choice in a cookie. Few things go as well with apples, and nothing tastes as good on a banana. And if you haven’t had a peanut butter pie, now is the time to try it.

But what about using peanut butter in dishes that are not sweet? Can peanut butter be used in savory dishes, too?

Of course it can. It’s peanut butter. It can do anything.

First I want to talk about the peanut butter that I used. I used the natural peanut butter that has to be stirred the first time you open the jar, not the more familiar, homogenized type. The more popular peanut butters are sweet, and I wanted my dishes to be completely savory.

But if you make them, feel free to use whichever peanut butter you choose. Nobody will complain, and I mean nobody. It’s peanut butter; it will be fine.

Author’s note: Yes, I know that peanut butter was invented not by George Washington Carver but by John Harvey Kellogg, the cereal guy. But Kellogg was a definite weirdo (a little research yields a wealth of bizarre beliefs that do not belong in a family newspaper), and Carver did so much to promote the peanut and other foods. So Carver is still my prophet.

COLD NOODLES WITH CHICKEN AND PEANUTS

Yield: 6 appetizer servings

¼ cup water

3 tablespoons peanut butter

3 tablespoons peanut oil

3 tablespoons red rice vinegar or red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

3 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil

1 pound fresh egg noodles, cooked and chilled 2 hours

1 cup cooked, shredded chicken

½ cup roasted peanuts, chopped

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

¼ cup minced green onion or chives

Combine water, peanut butter, peanut oil, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil; blend well and set aside. Place chilled noodles on serving dish or bowl and top with chicken, peanuts, sesame seeds and green onions or chives. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

PER SERVING: 434 calories; 29 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 23 mg cholesterol; 18 g protein; 29 g carbohydrate; 2 g sugar; 3 g fiber; 605 mg sodium; 31 mg calcium

– Recipe from “Regional Cooking of China,” by Maggie Gin

PEANUT BUTTER HUMMUS

Yield: 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, preferably natural

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Peanut Butter Hummus isn’t as far-fetched as you might think: the flavors of tahini, made of crushed sesame seeds and traditionally used for hummus, and peanut butter are different, but complementary.

½ teaspoon cumin

1 clove garlic, mashed

1/3 cup warm water

¼ teaspoon salt

Combine chickpeas, peanut butter, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and garlic in a food processor. Add water and salt, and process until smooth.

PER SERVING: 227 calories; 11 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 10 g protein; 25 g carbohydrate; 5 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 365 mg sodium; 45 mg calcium

– Adapted from Men’s Health

PEANUT BUTTER-TOFU STIR FRY

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 pound tofu, drained, cut into cubes

Cornstarch, for tossing tofu

1 yellow onion, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

¼ head red cabbage, thinly sliced

2 heads baby bok choy, roughly chopped

¼ cup peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Toss cubed tofu in cornstarch to lightly coat. Cook tofu until golden and crispy, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a plate.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet and add onion, pepper and cabbage. Cook until soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Add bok choy and cook until wilted but still crisp-tender, 2 minutes. Return tofu to skillet.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce and sesame oil. Pour into skillet until completely coated.

PER SERVING: 384 calories; 28 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 21 g protein; 21 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 1,004 mg sodium; 687 mg calcium

– Recipe from delish.com

AFRICAN SWEET POTATO-PEANUT STEW

Yield: 6 servings

3 cloves garlic

2 cups fresh cilantro leaves and stems

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Peanuts, closely related to the West African Bambara groundnut, are a natural in African Sweet Potato-Peanut Stew.

½ cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¾ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans)

½ pound green beans, trimmed

In blender or food processor, blend garlic, cilantro, tomatoes with their juice, peanut butter, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt until puréed. Pour into a slow cooker and stir in water. Add sweet potatoes and chickpeas; stir to combine. Cover and cook as manufacturer directs on low setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours, until potatoes are very tender.

About 10 minutes before sweet potatoes are done, pour just enough water to cover green beans into a skillet or pot; add a pinch or two of salt if desired. Heat to a boil and add the green beans; cook until crisp-tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, and stir into the sweet potato mixture before serving.

PER SERVING: 370 calories; 13 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 14 g protein; 54 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 12 g fiber; 653 mg sodium; 125 mg calcium

– Adapted from delish.com

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