That Richard is One Crazy Guy
Today I want to talk about one of my favorite foods: peanut butter.
And that guy Crazy Richard.
A staple of most kitchens, it is also extremely overlooked as an important food. We all think of peanut butter as a sandwich spread to be partnered with jelly, usually Concord grape jelly.
Oh, but peanut butter is so much more.
It is one of nature’s most perfect foods. High in protein, high in the good kind of fats we all need some of in our bodies to stoke the furnace, filling, tasty, and in ingredient in so many more recipes than the simple PB&J sandwich.
But what peanut butter are you using? What’s in it? When was the last time you read the label on your peanut-butter jar? Are you buying all natural? Do you know what that even means?
Let’s talk peanut butter.
How many ingredients does the peanut butter in your cupboard contain? Two? Three? Four? More? Even the products that call themselves “all natural” contain at least two or three. Why? Usually to make them taste better. Salt? Sugar? Honey? What else? Emulsifiers? Know what that’s all about? So that you don’t have to deal with the oil at the top of the jar.
Did you know that the majority of peanut-butter buyers won’t buy a jar of peanut butter that has oil on the top. “Who wants all that oil?” I’ve been asked. “I don’t want all that oil in my peanut butter, and I certainly don’t want to stir the jar. Too much trouble. Hey! It’s only peanut butter.”
What about that oil? Comes from the peanuts. It’s a natural part of the peanuts. It’s not added later (of course, in some cheap products, it IS !). It’s just a little bit, and it’s in the peanuts, and it’s a healthy fat. Get used to it.
Too much trouble to stir? C’mon. Really?
I’ll even give you tips for that.
But here’s the deal. There’s only one peanut butter to live in our cupboard. Only one.
Smooth or crunchy, certain people in our family like only one or the other. But still, it’s only Crazy Richards in our house.
Want to know why? Read the label. One ingredient. Only one.
What else does peanut butter need? Salt? Sugar? Honey? None of the above, and none of those ingredients ever find their way into our peanut butter. We buy the only product I’ve found that contains nothing but peanuts.
And if you live in the Midwest, it’s Krema. Same product, different name.
There is no other.
Crazy Richards. Available at Giant here in Lancaster, other stores in other places, and on their web site, http://www.kremaproducts.com/Crazy-Richards-Peanut-Butter/products/1/.
I won’t get crazy with the details about Crazy Richard’s versus other brands; I’ll leave that to you. But suffice it to say, if you want the real deal, it’s got to be Crazy Richard’s. Just peanuts. Nuttin’ else!
So what do you do with peanut butter? Here’s a few ideas beyond the simple peanut butter sandwich:
I call this first dish “Vicki’s Noodles” because I got the recipe from an old friend named, Vicki, a nurse and confessed Jersey Girl I knew many years ago. She could cook, and was especially adept at Asian cuisine. I have several of her recipes in my notebook. This one is Cold Sesame Noodles. The ingredients beyond the sauce are completely optional. I like to use fresh, crispy bean sprouts. A chef I once worked with suggested I add red cabbage and some shredded carrot for color and texture. I liked the way that worked out, and I have also variously included chopped snow peas or sugar-snap peas, which we grow in our garden. You can also give it a note of Thai by adding some fresh chopped basil and maybe a touch of fish sauce. If you like meat in your salad, add grilled slices of chicken, or try it with cubes of premium dry tofu. Play with this one and see what you like. There’s almost no ingredient you could add that would not make it better. The sauce is a nice sweet and tangy one, but it doesn’t get in the way of any kind of additional ingredient.
As for the noodles, I make it with whole wheat linguine, but it is just as good with Asian buckwheat noodles, rice noodles, plain spaghetti, or whatever pasta you prefer. Adjust the heat to your own liking. This one is not too spicy. To kick it up, increase the hot chile oil to 1 tablespoon instead of a teaspoon.
1 lb. noodles
3 Tbsp Crazy Richard’s smooth peanut butter
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
3 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp red chili oil
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
¼ finely-chopped small red cabbage
1 finely grated carrot
1 handful FRESH (!) bean sprouts
1/3 cup chopped scallions (just the green tops)
Prepare the noodles al-dente’ per the package. Cool under warm, then cold running water, coat with 2 tsp sesame oil, set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the next six ingredients (peanut butter through chile oil) with a whisk until smooth and completely blended. Set aside at room temperature.
One half hour before serving, combine noodles with the tofu, peanuts, cabbage, bean sprouts, and half the scallions. Add the peanut sauce and toss to coat all the ingredients with sauce. Allow to rest for a half hour, sprinkle the rest of the scallions over the noodles, then serve (don’t allow this to sit too long. The sauce will eventually break.)
Both the noodles and the sauce can be made ahead of time, but not overnight. They should not be refrigerated. This dish is meant to be served at room temperature. If you plan to add chicken, it should be grilled ahead of time and chilled.
Here’s a very special recipe that absolutely hits the spot on a chilly winter evening. We’ve made this wonderful soup a number of times, and it always surprises. Warms the soul.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, with liquid
8 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon Cayenne pepper (optional)
2/3 cup Crazy Richard’s crunchy peanut butter
½ cup uncooked brown rice
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook onions and peppers until lightly browned. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds, but don’t allow to burn. Add tomatoes, stock, salt, and spices and mix well. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the brown rice, cover and simmer another 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Stir in the peanut butter until well blended.Garnish with chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with warm, crusty bread.
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And last but not least, here’s a terrific recipe for grilled satay, one of my favorite grilled dishes, wonderful as an appetizer, as part of a tapas presentation, or as a stand-alone entree served with Pad Thai or apple-cilantro slaw, which I’ll present next time.
- 8-12 skinless chicken thighs or beef top-round cut into 1/4-inch strips
- 1 package wooden skewers
- SATAY MARINADE:
- 1/4 cup minced fresh lemongrass
- 2 shallots OR 1 small onion, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1-2 fresh red chilies, sliced, OR 1/2 tsp. to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
- 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp. minced fresh turmeric OR 1/2 tsp. dried turmeric
- 2 Tbsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 3 Tbsp. dark soy sauce (available at Asian food stores)
- 4 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 5-6 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 1 cup fresh-tasting dry roasted peanuts, unsalted or 1/2 cup Crazy Richard’s crunchy peanut butter
- 1/3 cup water
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. dark soy sauce
- 2 tsp. sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 to 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, depending on desired saltiness/flavor – Vegetarians substitute 1.5 -2.5 Tbsp. regular soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp tamarind paste OR 1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, OR 1 tsp. Thai chili sauce (more or less to taste)
- 1/3 cup coconut milk
For the meat:
- If using wooden skewers, soak them in water while you prepare the meat (to prevent burning). The kitchen sink works well for this.
- Cut the meat into thin strips and place in a bowl.
- Place all marinade ingredients in a food processor or chopper. Process well.
- Taste-test the marinade – you will taste sweet, spicy, and salty. The strongest tastes should be SWEET and SALTY in order for the finished satay to taste its best. Add more sugar or more fish sauce (in place of salt) to adjust the taste. You can also add more chili if you want it spicier.
- Pour the marinade over the meat and stir well to combine. Allow at least 1 hour for marinating, or longer (up to 24 hours).
- When ready to cook, thread meat onto the skewers. Tip: Fill up to 3/4 of the skewer, leaving the lower half empty so that the person grilling has a “handle” to easily turn the satay during cooking.
- Grill the satay on your BBQ, OR on an indoor grill, basting the first time you time it with a little of the leftover marinade from the bottom of the bowl. OR you can broil in the oven on a broiling pan or baking sheet with the oven set to “broil” Place satay close beneath the heating element and turn the meat every 5 minutes until cooked (be sure to soak your wooden satay sticks in water before skewering). Depending on how thin your meat is, the satay should cook in 10 to 20 minutes.
- Serve with Jasmine rice and the Satay Peanut dipping sauce:
For the sauce:
- Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend or process until sauce is smooth. If you prefer a runnier peanut sauce, add a little more water or coconut milk.
- Do a taste test, adding more fish sauce (or soy sauce) if not salty enough, or more cayenne if not spicy enough. If too salty, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice. If you’d prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with any Satay meat dish, and it also makes a great dip with fresh veggies, fresh rolls, or other Asian finger foods. Or combine with noodles to create a Thai-style noodle dish or cold noodle salad. Enjoy!