While I am typically not a huge fan of peanuts, unless I’m eating them off of a countertop with a pint of beer, I could live quite happily off peanut butter.
A friend of mine who is a chef at a local restaurant forbids bringing peanut butter into his house out of principle. I’ve seen him become red-faced and indignant at the mere mention of it, as he thinks it unsophisticated and barely passable for food, like Cheese Whiz or Twinkies. He may not be alone when it comes to this contentious legume and its creamy spread. Allergies have given peanuts such a bad rap that they are banned from schools and office buildings as if they were something illicit or leprous. It’s true that they’re not as sexy as the macadamia or as versatile as the almond, and in assorted nut mixtures, they’re always picked last – the fat kid of nuts. But don’t be so quick to judge the lowly peanut.
I always carry a large, Costco-sized container of peanut butter in my cupboard. As a runner, I find it a quick, energy rich food for before or after a workout. As an oft-lazy weeknight cook, I’ll whip together a peanut butter jam sandwich, or will plop down on the couch after work, spoon in hand, and eat directly from the container as if it were a tub of Rocky Road ice cream.
Not from fiscal necessity, but rather out of curiosity, I wanted to see how easy it would be to make my own peanut butter at home. I’m not a huge fan of the crunchy, thick stuff they sell in health food stores, so I decided to dispense with the “all natural” and add a bit of sugar and oil for increased taste and added creaminess. The ingredient list is sparse: roasted peanuts, salt, oil and sugar, though if you prefer natural peanut butter perhaps leave out or reduce the last two ingredients.
I picked up a bag of peanuts at the grocery store tonight and felt a little self conscious, like I was buying a Playboy or tampons for a girlfriend. After all, no one buys peanuts anymore except old ladies with purple-dyed hair who feed squirrels in the park.
This recipe couldn’t be more satisfying and was well worth the arched-eyebrow look from the pale-faced cashier tonight. In less than 5 minutes I had a cup full of creamy peanut butter that cost pennies and tasted as good as anything store-bought. Kids, try this at home.
A food processor
1 cup of roasted, unsalted peanuts – shelled and skinned
¼ tsp of salt
1 1/2 tbsp of peanut, canola or vegetable oil (optional)
1 tbsp of granulated sugar (this last ingredient is optional and dependent on your taste – I prefer a little sweetness)
Mix all the ingredients together in the food processor for 3 minutes or until the mixture starts to become soft and creamy. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and then blend again until the desired consistency is reached. You may prefer a bit of chunky peanuts in yours, though I mixed a little longer until smooth. You can also add more or less sugar depending on your taste and hankering for sweets.
You can eat peanut butter on its own if you’re quirky like me, but it can also be used in a wide range of recipes from pasta, to cookies, to breakfast smoothies as a protein additive. Take a look at my peanut butter dog treats, or quick-and-easy chicken satay. I’ve also made a variation of the classic Phad Thai dish, in which I stir 2 tbsp of PB into cooked rice noodles, along with a dollop of curry paste and a can of coconut milk; sprinkle this with cashews, sliced spring onions and squeezed lime and you’ll get a mouth watering dinner.