Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ode to Peanut Butter

I love peanut butter. It’s an obsession. I have tried to muster similar enthusiasm for almond butter, which I like just fine, but it’s not the same. It tastes a little too sweet and not nearly awesome enough. I’ve tried many kinds of peanut butter. In my former, pre-organic-foods life, I loved Jiff. But now my heart belongs to Trader Joe’s organic creamy peanut butter.

At the moment, I live 30 minutes from the nearest TJ, so whenever I go, I stock up like it’s about to be the peanut butter apocalypse. A few months ago I heard a story on NPR that there was a serious peanut shortage that might cause peanut butter costs to rise substantially or—gasp—stores to stop carrying the stuff altogether. I panicked and bought ten jars. The guy at the checkout looked at me like I was crazy, and when I tried to explain myself, I ended up sounding even crazier: “I heard there was going to be A PEANUT SHORTAGE!”

My favorite meal for PB-consumption is lunch. I like toasted bread or English muffins spread with the good stuff, or I use it as a dip for pretzels, pears, or apples. When I’m feeling more creative, I love these recipes:
  • A “Curious George,” inspired by a sandwich of the same name I used to order regularly at Strawberry Fields, a natural-foods store in Urbana, IL. Just take two slices of whole wheat bread and fill with creamy organic peanut butter, banana slices, a drizzle of honey, and unsweetened coconut. Sunflower seeds are good on it too.
  • Rachael Ray’s Thai (ish) peanut noodles. I really appreciated Rachael Ray's easy, quick recipes when I was first learning to cook. Knowing that, my mom got me a gift subscription to her magazine the first year it came out. I didn't much like it, but I am so grateful I encountered this one recipe. It rocks my PB-loving heart.
Ginger, Soy, and Honey Sesame Noodles
From Every Day with Rachael Ray, August/September 2006

2 teaspoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey 
2 tablespoons soy sauce 
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil  
1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and grated 
¼ pound spaghetti, cooked
1 tablespoon light sesame seeds

In a medium microwavable bowl, heat the peanut butter in the microwave oven on high until melted, 15 to 20 seconds. Whisk the honey and tamari into the peanut butter, then whisk in the sesame oil and ginger. Toss the spaghetti with the sauce and top with the sesame seeds. Serves 1.

My notes: The original recipe calls for this dish to be served cold (with the noodles rinsed in cold water). That works really well if you want to make it ahead for a picnic, work, or school lunch. But I like it served hot too. The recipe recommends you toast the sesame seeds, which I am sure would be delicious, but honestly I have never had the patience. By that point in the cooking, it looks and smells so great that I don't want to add another step. I usually make the dish with whole-wheat spaghetti, and occasionally I use Thai rice noodles if I have them on hand. Most recently, I tried it with brown rice penne (see photo above), and I think I liked that the very best.

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