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February 19, 2008

Peanut butter (Recipe: African-inspired squash and peanut soup)

Peanutbutter1

For a short time, before The Beatles won my heart, Elvis Presley rock-'n-rolled my world.

Graceland, blue suede shoes, 31 films, 81 record albums that went gold or platinum, the pelvic wiggle that shocked Ed Sullivan, mystical sightings in the supermarket, and a bunch of skydiving look-alikes all became part of our cultural zeitgeist.

For food lovers, however, at least one part of his culinary legacy -- fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches -- ranks high on the list.

Give or take a bit of mechanical assistance, peanut butter is made the same way it's been made for a hundred years -- and the same way you can make it at home. Peanuts are roasted, and then cooled by fans. Rapid cooling stops the cooking, sets the color, and aids in retention of the natural oil. Then the peanuts are skinned by rubbing them together (at home, you can rub the warm peanuts in a clean towel). The kernels are split, the hearts removed and cleaned. After this, the peanuts are ground (commercially this happens in two stages, because a single long grinding would produce too much heat that would adversely affect the flavor). In the second grinding, oil and salt are added to keep the peanut butter from separating.

If you make peanut butter at home, in a small batch in the food processor, plan to use it right away, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container; you can float a thin layer of oil on top, if you wish. Store commercially produced peanut butter on your pantry shelf for up to three months after opening; beyond that, refrigerate to maintain freshness and flavor. Natural peanut butters that contain no stabilizers should be refrigerated immediately after opening to prevent spoilage.

By law, peanut butter must contain a minimum of 90 percent peanut. What's in the other ten percent can vary. Jif, the most popular supermarket brand in the US, contains an unspecified amount (two percent or less) of molasses, soybean and rapeseed oils, and salt. Whole Foods unsweetened organic peanut butter has no additives, preservatives or salt.

Find your favorite peanut butter, or make your own, and use it in cookies, brownies, ice cream, pie, muffins -- and stew, for the times when you'd rather go savory.

Remember: March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lovers Day.

African-inspired squash and peanut soup

Peanuts were introduced to Africa in the 16th Century, and today many African cuisines include dishes that combine peanuts with squash or pumpkin. This hearty soup serves 10-12.

Ingredients

5 winter squash of mixed pedigree (I usually use a few butternuts, plus acorn, blue hubbard, or kabocha)
2 large sweet potatoes
2 tsp olive oil
8 onions, thinly sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 hot pepper (jalapeño or Thai chile), chopped fine, or red pepper flakes
Large pinch of hot curry powder
3 Tbsp peanut butter, or more to taste
Fresh squeezed lemon juice, kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F. Cut the squash and sweet potatoes in large chunks (do not peel), arrange in a large roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and roast until soft (1 hour, at least). Meanwhile, drizzle a large frying pan with olive oil and cook the onions over low heat until caramelized, 30 minutes or more. Put most of the onions (save enough for garnish) in a large stock pot. Scoop roasted squash and potatoes out of skins and add to pot. Sauté with chopped hot pepper and curry powder. Add enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to a simmer. Add peanut butter. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process with an immersion blender until smooth. 

To fry the sage leaves, heat a couple of inches of peanut oil in a pan. Drop in the sage, a few leaves at a time, and fry for a minute or so until they are crisp but not burned. Remove with a skimmer, and drain on paper towels to remove excess oil.

Garnish soup with reserved caramelized onions and sage leaves.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]


More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Spicy Chinese peanut sauce
Vegetable potstickers
Spicy peanut sauce
Bun gao
Peanut dip

Comments

The world would be a very sad place without peanut butter. I've used a tablespoon or two in chili from time to time. In a squash stew like this it seems a natural.

We virginians do love our peanut butter. Actually the jefferson hotel over here is famous for its peanut soup.

Yup, peanut butter is just a food that people can't help but respond to. And I am definitely responding to this recipe--sweet, salty and savory all at the same time? Yes please!

I tried! I really tried to like Peanut Butter, but I couldn't. One teasponn would fill me right away. But the soup! The soup, I am loving it. I don't know how the squash works with the peanut butter. But I love the heat in it.

I love peanut butter and will happily eat it by the spoonful as if I happen to see it in the fridge.

I also think that the soup sounds pretty interesting--I'll have to try that! I tend to forget about peanut butter outside of desserts/snacks, but like chocolate, it can be one of those magical secret ingredients.

Homemade peanut butter? My husband recently suggested we should start roasting our own coffee, but if he were to see this post about roasting your own peanuts and making peanut butter, he'd go hog wild. Needless to say he loves the stuff and eats it by the spoonfuls (or with sliced bananas.) I prefer mine on toast and drizzled with honey.

This recipe for Squash and Peanut Soup is oddly appealing. I've never tried it, never had it at a restaurant and am now thinking I should give this soup a go. With all the winter vegetables plus a kick of spice, it sounds very comforting and delish.

My favorite pantry item of all time! I love it with Jelly and I love it with Fluff (a rather severe addiction, I might add)! I have made the Virginian Peanut Soup that Veron mentions and it is delicious - However, I'd love to try your version with the squash and exquisite spices.

Lydia - is there a reason to use peanut butter like Jif instead of the natural or homemade stuff when you are cooking or baking? I always see notes in peanut butter cookie recipes that suggest you NOT use natural peanut butter. What gives?

I love reading recipes when they jump off the page (or screen) saying make me, make me. This is one of those. The only savoury use I knew of for peanut butter was in satay sauce, it pays to keep on thinking, thanks for the reminder.

I like the sound of this recipe, Lydia -- delicious! That kick of spice sounds ideal for a blustery day. I've never been a fan of straight peanut soup, but the combo of peanut and squash appeals to me quite a bit.

Jessica, I'd not heard/seen that before -- interesting! I wonder if it's because the natural stuff tends to separate more and adversely affects the cookies?

I just saw your post after I finished eating a peanut butter and banana sandwich! I've never thought about using it in a soup before, though, and this sounds delicious-I can't wait to try it. xo

Well I can't say that I have ever had peanut butter in soup...but it sounds interesting.

MyKitchen, pb in chili sounds great -- I've never tried that.

Veron, I've heard of Virginia peanut soup but I've never had it. Luckily we get those wonderful Virginia peanuts up here in Rhode Island.

Cakespy, this particular recipe came about during an improvisational cooking group session in my kitchen. Everyone had brought some foods in a bag, and because it was squash season, we ended up with a lot of squash. The soup is a real winner.

Warda, same here. I cannot eat plain peanut butter -- just don't like it. But I do love Asian peanut sauce and I do love this soup -- neither one tastes like peanut butter, but there is a nutty flavor that's delicious.

Mike, I've always got PB in the kitchen for the grandkids, but my husband and I tend to use it only as a cooking ingredient. But I've been known to take a spoon to a jar of fudge sauce....

Cork & Feast, you can adjust the amount of peanut butter to your taste, so the soup tastes more or less nutty. And homemade peanut butter? I made it once by accident -- threw some peanuts in the food processor, and let it go too long. Voila -- peanut butter!

TW, you're a Fluff guy?! Now I have to look up recipes for the Virginia peanut soup to see how it differs from ths one.

Jessica, thank you -- that's a great question, and I don't know the answer. I'm going to guess that it has to do with (1) stabilizers that keep the Jif from separating, which are absent in natural PB (see Genie's comment above); or (2) the amount of oil, which is higher in the Jif-type. I'll throw this one out to Pantry readers for a more authoritative reply, and I'll do a bit of research on this.

Neil, make this, make this! It's surprisingly delicious. I'm always looking for a good satay sauce recipe... do you have one to share?

Genie, I love all kinds of squash soup, and the addition of peanut butter really boosts the flavor. Thanks for your thoughts about PB in baking, too.

Rebecca, Elvis would be proud of you!

Peabody, you'll be surprised. It adds thickness and a nutty undertone, but doesn't taste like peanut butter.

Hi Lydia,
The recipe sounds really good. I also just saw your peanut sauce recipe which looks really yummy- I will add ginger to mine next time I make it.
It seems like all the organic peanut butters I have seen have a lot of oil floating at the top and are not as creamy. Do you know of a brand that is as creamy as the conventional peanut butter? (I have a picky 6 year old).

Peanut butter and berry jam preserve - that's how I do my combi sandwich! TJ's organic peanut butter - my fav!

Wow Lydia, peanut butter in soup?? this muste add a special touch of flavour to the soup:)

There used to be a place in Kenmore Square in Boston called Deli Haus with the cutest waiters. One of their specialties were fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. One of the cute waiters recommended it to me once, so I ordered it. I didn't like it, but I'm proud to say I've tried it ;-)

Katie, I don't know of a creamy organic brand, but you might take your favorite and pop the whole container into a food processor to blend the separated oil. Of course you'd have to eat it right away, or it would separate again!

Tigerfish, nothing beats the classic PB&J sandwich.

Valentina, it's a really interesting combination. Hope you'll try it.

Ann, I think the Deli Haus closed -- but I remember it well. Of course I'd probably try anything recommended by a cute waiter....

Katia, Whole Foods makes an organic peanut butter that is very creamy. Unfortunately, some of their PB has some sugar in it, but I decided that I would take organic with a little sugar over non-organic any day.

Lydia, I used to live in Nigeria, where I first ate groundnut stew - it's a chicken stew in a tomato/chicken stock/peanut butter base, served with little side dishes that you can sprinkle on top - fresh coconut, tomatoes, banana slices, mango chutney, onion - you can go on forever. It was so delicious! I now love any kind of soup or stew with peanut butter - I will definitely try this squash and peanut soup recipe.

Oops! I forgot to add that I always use organic peanut butter when I bake. The Whole Foods kind I mentioned above does not need to have the oil mixed in when you first open it. However, if you have a peanut butter that does need to be mixed, just mix it when you open it and then keep it in the refrigerator - it won't separate again.

Oh yum! I sure do love peanut butter! And that soup looks to be quite a winner. Squash and peanuts together is a lovely combination. By the way, peanut butter tastes best served on your finger. :):)

My goodness, I love peanut butter, Lydia!
I haven't have any in weeks, thanks to the stupid diet I'm on, but I think I can make an exception on March, 1. :)

That looks like such a unique recipe, I don't think I've ever tasted flavor combinations like that. (Not to mention acorns!) Very cool.

Judy, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thank you for the information about organic peanut butter -- I love it when readers add to our knowledge of these ingredients. The groundnut stew sounds great; I'm going to incorporate some of the toppings into my next version of this soup.

Sher, I've heard that about peanut butter (and I think when I was a kid, I used to eat it right from the jar, too!).

Patricia, this is a great soup to make for a party -- it serves a lot of people, and you can have just a small taste!

Ari, hope you will give it a try. We have so many interesting winter squash available these days, and any combination will work with this recipe.

March 1st? Really- awesome! I need to start honoring peanut butter now. I love it with fluff, thrown into banana smoothies- and definitely a soup similar but with tomatoes as well. The proportions are interesting, so many squash and onions. Howabout peanut butter filled pretzels- chocolate covered...

Callipygia, you're another PB-and-fluff person! Now, those pretzels do sound pretty great....

I must have like 6 jars of peanut butter in the pantry (from me buying when they were on sale). I'm not even that big of a fan of pb&js but I love cold peanut sesame noodles. Yum!

I love PB and have learned to add it to all kinds of stews. If I have time, I usually roast, peel and grind the peanuts to add (cheaper than PB here). I am doing just that today in a garbanzo bean stew...the peanuts go in at the end. Yum!!!

Amy, I'm the same -- I love making peanut sauces, but I don't really eat peanut butter.

Gretchen, sounds delicious. Peanuts really just add a bit of flavor -- it doesn't scream "peanut", but there's a richness with the peanut butter in the stew.

What a great use of peanut butter! We both love it, but I don't buy it unless I have at least one culinary use. I don't like peanut butter and banana sandwiches...but we both love peanut butter on a spoon...too much!

I didn't know Elvis made the peanut butter and banana sandwiches famous! Interesting! Thanks for all of the info.

Katie, I don't buy it unless I'm planning to cook with it, or unless the kids are coming to visit. And yet, I seem to go through quite a bit of peanut butter....

Hillary, PB and banana sandwiches (fried) were Elvis' favorite. Never were high on my list.

When cooking with peanut butter, please remember, African dishes and all other recipies should not use peanut butter with sugar in it. You should always pick a natural peanut butter with just peanuts and salt (the oil should show on the top of the jar). The sugar in most brands will spoil the dish.

Lacy, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for the tip!

I am a Jiff reduced fat creamy peanut butter fan but looking for a healthier, less processed alternative. I tried Trader's Joes creamy pb but felt it was bland and I don't like eating it cold. I use it in pb & j sandwiches, as a dip and by the spoonfuls. Any suggestions?

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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