Friday, March 25, 2011

ingredient: PEANUTS

I just heard a fun fact: peanuts are sometimes called goober peas. Yes, I am highly skeptical that more than five people in the world have ever used this phrase, but who cares? I’m a big fan. Let’s start a movement! Let’s contact the National Peanut Board. I really want to go on the subway and see their new ads:
Goober Peas: Energy for the Good Life.

Here are some other things about goober peas that you might not know. First, they’re a legume, like lentils or navy beans. Second, the plant produces a flower which actually dives back under the soil to mature into peanuts. (Do you think it’s embarrassed? Maybe it just gets cold.) Also: China produces almost half the world’s peanuts. However we do have a fair bit of domestic peanut production in Southeastern states like Georgia and South Carolina- which explains why boiled peanuts are a popular seasonal snack in those areas. Sorry, I can't tell you what a boiled peanut tastes like, or why you'd boil a nut in the first place.

Over time, peanuts have become associated with the health food movement. In fact I feel like they’ve really spearheaded the campaign for nuts. But we should thank the peanut and its proponents for teaching the American people an important lesson, namely that not all fat and calories are created equal. Despite their high levels of fat and calories, peanuts are a great source of nutrition, even for those on a diet. That’s because peanuts contain mostly unsaturated fat (the stuff that’s in olive oil), and absolutely zero trans fat (the stuff that’s in Ritz crackers). Peanuts have 30 essential nutrients, a ton of protein, fiber and antioxidants. They’re also a good source of Niacin, a vitamin you didn’t know you needed but actually helps brain function and blood flow.

My favorite way to eat peanuts is quintessentially American: peanut butter. This is funny because I used to hate peanut butter. Capital H- Hate it. I ate a jam sandwich every day for lunch in middle school and let me tell you, the number of times I had to say, “I just don’t like peanut butter OK” far surpasses the number of times anyone has ever called them goober peas (until we make this a thing and sweep the nation.)

But it’s not just me. In college my first year Italian professor, a sweet young woman from Naples, came in one morning, looking aghast.

“This morning I tried your American peanut butter,” she said, her faced pulled into a most unpleasant frown, her hands circling in a way that meant “this product you allegedly call peanut butter.”

“And...?” someone ventured. She seemed too traumatized to go on.

“And it is not what I thought. It is disgusting. So salty! I actually spit it out!” This was accompanied by more hand waving indicating “Believe me, I spit that s*** out onto the floor it was so freaking gross. Who are you people that would make such a product?” Then she sighed and wagged one finger. “Non. This is not like Nutella.”

Personally I’ve come to like peanut butter. In fact I’m going to go make myself a goober pea and jelly sandwich. Latas.

Peanut Butter Cookies with Peanuts

I like contrasts in the food I’m eating: Sweet and salty. Hot and cold. Soft and crunchy. It was with the latter in mind that I made these peanut butter cookies. I took a recipe for a tasty, soft, standard peanut butter cross cookie and added whole peanuts. The result is a nicely crunchy and supremely peanutty cookie. I think it’s a version that even an Italian could love.

2 2/3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups whole peanuts

1/2 sup sugar, for rolling


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy, about two minutes. Add peanut butter and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.

Add light brown sugar and 3/4 cup regular sugar. Beat for three minutes. Add eggs, beating for one minute. Beat in flour mixture in two parts, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. Mix in peanuts.

Pour 1/2 cup sugar into a small bowl. Roll dough into 1 1/2 inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar to coat lightly. Place balls on baking sheet and press down each ball twice with the tines of a fork, making a crisscross pattern.



Bake cookies until golden brown and starting to crisp at the edges, 12 to 14 minutes.

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