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March 29, 2007

Roasted unsalted peanuts (Recipe: tofu with peanut sauce) {vegetarian}

Peanuts

Whew. I almost forgot: March is National Peanut Month.

If it weren't for George Washington Carver, we wouldn't have a peanut month; in fact, we probably wouldn't have a peanut industry in the United States.

Peanuts originated in South America, where Spanish and Portuguese explorers discovered these legumes and brought them on trade voyages to Africa. With favorable climate conditions, peanuts grew well in Africa and became important in many local cuisines, and so they came back across the ocean to North America with the slave trade.

In the 19th century, Dr. Carver, an agricultural chemist, suggested that farmers in the South plant peanuts to replace their cotton fields that were destroyed by the boll weevil infestation following the Civil War. He invented more than 300 uses for peanuts, including peanut butter, cooking oil, margarine, peanut sausage and peanut punch, as well as linoleum, laxatives, scalp pomade and vanishing cream.

Today, in addition to the US, the leading producers of peanuts are India, China, Nigeria and Indonesia. And the cuisines of those countries reflect the peanut's popularity in recipes for chutney, cookies, stew and gado-gado.

Peanuts, which are more closely related to lentils than to nuts, are packed with heart-healthy monosaturated fats, as well as vitamin E, niacin and manganese. They are high in antioxidants, too. Peanuts do turn rancid if not stored properly. Once shelled, they should be kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

Baseball season opens on Monday, so stock up on peanuts and Cracker Jacks, and root root root for the home team — which, though I live in Red Sox Nation, in my family means the New York Yankees.

Oh, I can hear the groans from the peanut gallery ....

Tofu with peanut sauce

When our World Cuisines Cooking Group "traveled" to Indonesia, this main course salad, adapted slightly from Savoring Southeast Asia, was a big hit. Serves 8.

Ingredients

Vegetable oil, for deep frying (we used rice bran oil)
1 lb extra-firm tofu
2 cups total of roughly chopped lettuce, tomato and/or cucumber

For the peanut sauce:
4 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
2 shallots, quartered
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 cup tamarind water
2 Tbsp sweet soy (kecap manis)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
8 Tbsp unsalted dry roasted peanuts, crushed
6-8 Tbsp water

1 English cucumber, finely shredded
1 carrot, finely shredded

Directions

Pour 2 inches of oil in a wok and heat. Meanwhile, pat the tofu dry, and cut into several large rectangles. When the oil is hot, lower the tofu, one piece at a time, into the oil, and deep fry, turning once, until golden brown, 4-5 minutes. Using a bamboo skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the tofu to paper towels to drain. Repeat until all cooked, then cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

To make the sauce, in a blender combine chiles, shallot, garlic and salt, and blend to a paste. Add a tiny bit of water if necessary. Add the brown sugar, tamarind water, kecap manis, lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp of peanuts, and process to a coarse paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining peanuts, plus water as needed to dilute to the consistency of light cream. Taste and adjust seasonings.

To assemble, scatter lettuce/tomato/cucumber on a platter, top with grated cucumber and carrot, then the tofu, and top with peanut sauce. Serve at room temperature.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

Comments

"Peanuts which are more closely related to lentils than to nuts".

That is really interesting, I would never have guessed! It's great to learn new things :)

Such a wealth of info here! Glad you remembered peanuts!!

go yankees! good to know another yankee fan here in rhode island. now i have yet another reason to love your blog.

I love peanuts! So sad thay my flatmate can't take it due to allergy.

I love the sound of the Tofu goreng. It surelt tastes delicious, especially if using home-made sauce (I am not a big fan of the instant peanut sauce imported from Indonesia).

Lydia,
We make a delicious brittle here with peanuts called "pé-de-moleque" (something like a boy's foot). It's simple and kids and adults love it.
It's very traditional during the month of June, when there are festivities here to celebrate St. John, St. Anthony and St. Peter.

I find myself wanting to sneak tiny dried shrimp into that sauce!

What a delicious post! I love the recipe and incidentally, have all the ingredients on hand to make it :)
I grew up in a totally peanut-growing region of India, and we use peanuts in so many dishes (brittle, stuffed baby eggplants, yogurt salads). It is totally a pantry staple in my home. But my very favorite way to eat them: fresh peanuts boiled in salted water!

Kelly-Jane, I'm so glad you're enjoying these posts. Isn't it interesting that many foods were named for what they seem to be, or seem to look like?

Tanna, now we'll always think of March as Peanut Month!

Stacy, whew, I thought we were the only Yankees fans in RI. Glad to know you are one of us!!

Anh, it's so hard to live with nut allergies. We have a grand-niece who is allergic to nuts and food coloring, and when you start to read packages you realize how difficult it is for her to buy food, or eat out. I agree, too, that homemade sauces are best, because you can control what spices you put in them.

Patricia, I've never heard of this brittle. Would you share the recipe, or blog about it and share the link? Peanut brittle always reminds me of being a child (perhaps when I wasn't paying my own dental bills!) and going to a carnival -- where for some reason we were allowed to eat all of the sweets we never had at home!

Callipygia, I agree -- dried shrimp, or even fresh shrimp, would be delicious with this!

Nupur, I know that India is a huge grower of peanuts, though here in the US I'll bet most of us never think of that.

Hi Lydia!
your peanut sauce sounds lovely, it'd be perfect with some spicy Thai dishes!

About the curry paste, you can store it for a few days, there's no doubt about that!

I like them best coated in chocolate...great article as always!!

Recipe looks fabulous but...what can I use as a substitute to tamarind water?

Valentina, I'm a huge fan of peanut sauces in all guises, especially with tofu, which really benefits from the pairing. (Thanks for the info about the curry paste, too.)

Freya, doesn't everything taste better when it's coated with chocolate?!

Kathy, you can use lime juice or just bump up the amount of lemon juice in the recipe. Tamarind adds an acidic quality to dishes. FYI: it's easy to find in concentrate form in many Boston markets. The concentrate will dissolve in water, making this a very easy addition to the recipe.

Oh I love how this recipe sounds, have bookmarked it :D I never knew that peanuts were related to lentils but I always thought that they did not seem like the other nuts :) Looked at your happy cooks site :) what a yummy idea, wish i could take part :D

You almost forgot? I had no idea! Peanuts always make me think of my dad because he loves them and as a child I thought they were the grossest things ever. Now I like them too. Go figure.

TriniGourmet, I do wish you could come and cook with us. I fell in love with the food of Trinidad when we were there, and though I've tried to make some dishes at home, they never taste quite the same!

Ari, isn't it funny how our tastes change? When I was young I loved peanut butter and hated peanuts. Now I love peanuts, and only use peanut butter in sauces. I haven't eaten a peanut butter sandwich in years. Go figure.

Peanut Sausages? I have to find a recipe for them. I love peanuts, but I abhore peanut butter. No clue why, I just do.

btw, do you think we'll ever get a solid pitching rotation in? sigh... I hope Pavano lives up to his hype.

I love peanuts, peanut butter and peanut sauces. Amazingly, I can even find it here - in the International Section under 'Food from the Americas'
It's Skippy....

Ann, I have never seen peanut sausages, so if you find a recipe, please share! And tomorrow is Opening Day, so we'll keep our fingers crossed for the pitching, too.

Katie, what else is in the Food from the Americas section? At this time of year, maybe Peeps???

I love those specific peanuts from TJs! I use them to make my own peanut butter.

Joe, I always thought that if you ground peanuts beyond the point of granulation that the oil would release and turn it to peanut butter. Is it that simple, or do you need to add liquid to the peanuts to achieve that PB state?

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