When Jane and I were 9 years old and full of after-school peanut butter cookies and milk, she told me there was no such thing as peanut butter in England, where she had lived until the previous year.
But for me, peanut butter was both a dietary staple and a comfort food: A spoonful from the jar when no one was looking always seemed to make everything better.
My daughter likes to add a little honey. I usually opt for 1 tablespoon wheat germ.
Makes 2 cups
1 pound unsalted and blanched roasted peanuts (3 1/2 cups)
1 to 2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
Place peanuts and 1 tablespoon oil in blender or food processor. Process on low speed in blender or pulse in food processor until nuts are coarsely ground. Increase blender speed to high or process continuously until smooth, scraping down sides twice. Add more oil if you like creamier peanut butter. Season with salt if desired. (Homemade peanut butter can be stored in covered container in refrigerator up to 10 days.)
Vietnamese noodle salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
1/2 pound rice noodles
1 1/2 cups peeled and diced cucumber
1/2 pound small shrimp, cooked
2 green onions, diagonally sliced
1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
-- Chinese chili oil, or more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 cup unsalted and blanched roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
Soak rice noodles in warm water 15 minutes. Drain. Then cook noodles in boiling water until tender but still firm, 1 minute. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Place in serving bowl along with cucumber, shrimp and green onions.
Stir together oil, vinegar, sugar and chili oil in small saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour dressing over noodle mixture. Add mint and toss. Sprinkle peanuts over top. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 2 hours.
Spicy Asian chicken
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup unsalted and blanched roasted or raw peanuts, plus 1 tablespoon chopped for garnish
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried red chili pepper, minced, or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into strips
3/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or dried lemon grass or grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
cooked noodles or rice
Heat oil in wok or large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup peanuts and stir-fry until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add garlic and chili pepper and stir-fry 1 minute.
Add chicken, basil and green onions and stir-fry until chicken loses its pinkness, about 2 minutes. Add fish sauce, lemon juice, lemon grass, sugar and 2 tablespoons water and bring to boil.
Dissolve cornstarch in remaining 2 tablespoons water in small bowl. Add to wok and cook and toss until sauce has thickened. Transfer to serving platter and garnish with remaining chopped peanuts. Serve with hot cooked noodles or rice.