In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, I stocked up on nonperishables such as almonds, canned goods, and that old standby, peanut butter. Among the many wonderful things about peanut butter is that it doesn't need refrigeration or cooking, it's filling, and it makes me feel like a little kid. Plus it has that easy, ice-creamy quality (without all the sugar).
There are many stories about the origins of this spreadable protein source: Africans were grinding peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century, and the Chinese have mashed it into sauces for centuries. In 1890, a physician persuaded the owner of a food products company to process peanut paste as a protein source for people with poor teeth. Around this time, John Harvey Kellogg, of cereal fame, is reported to have patented a method for converting peanuts into a spreadable vegetarian health food that he could feed to clients at the Battle Creek, Michigan, sanatorium where he worked. His brother W.K. Kellogg soon opened Sanitas Nut Company, which supplied peanut butter to local stores.
While peanut butter is not exactly low in calories (about 94 in a tablespoon), a person does not need to eat much to feel full. It offers plenty of heart-protecting mono and polyunsaturated fats (the "good" fats that lower cholesterol), as well as protein (4 grams per tablespoon) and essential vitamins and minerals such as niacin, magnesium, and Vitamin E.
Here is a savory recipe for Indonesian Peanut Sauce, courtesy of About.com. It's a delicious satay flavor for veggies, tofu, or salad. And if any of the sauce gets on your counter, you can wipe it away with Seventh Generation Free & Clear Glass & Surface Cleaner, made with plant-derived cleaning agents and no harsh fumes.
Indonesian Peanut Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (1 Tablespoon)
- 12 chiles de arbol or chiles japones, softened in hot water, dried, seeded, and minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced galangal or ginger
- 1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers and green parts removed, minced (1/4 cup)
- 2 shallots, minced (1/4 cup)
- 1 teaspoon red miso
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 cup coconut cream
- 1/4 cup tamarind juice
Pound the salt and garlic in a mortar with a pestle into a fine paste. Add the chiles and pound to a puree. One at a time, add the galangal or ginger, lemongrass, shallots, and red miso, in sequence, adding each one only after the previous ingredient has been completely pureed and incorporated into the paste. Transfer to a bowl or to a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerated, the seasoning paste will keep for a month.
Or, if using a blender, add all the above ingredients plus the vegetable oil and puree.
Sauté the chile paste in the oil (or the chile paste-oil mixture) in a saucepan over medium-high heat until it exudes a pleasant aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. Lower the heat and add the sugar, peanut butter, coconut cream, and tamarind juice. Stir to mix, and heat until the mixture boils and thickens, about 2 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool before serving. Stored in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid in the refrigerator, the sauce will keep for a couple of weeks. If it congeals and thickens, dilute with 2 to 3 Tablespoons water and cook over low heat in a saucepan, stirring until smooth.
Yield: 1 cup
Photo: Sharon Drummond