"The small brown mouse named Ralph who was hiding under the grandfather clock did not have much longer, to wait before he could ride his motorcycle. The clock had struck eight already, and then eight thirty.
…Ralph observed the boy with interest. He was the right kind of boy, a boy sure to like peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. Since the day Keith had left the hotel, Ralph had longed for crumbs of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. Ralph could not understand the boy's behavior. He had often heard other young guests wearing the same kind of white T-shirt speak of a place called camp, but unlike this boy they always sounded eager and excited about going there. Ralph did not know exactly what a camp was, but since medium-sized boys and girls went there, he thought it must be a place where people ate peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.
…The desk clerk summoned old Matt, the elderly bellboy and hotel handyman, to show the family to their room. As Matt picked up their suitcases and led the way to the elevator, he said to Garf, "Well, young fellow, what are you going to have for breakfast tomorrow? Apple pie or chocolate cake?"' Matt, who was not always popular with parents, was always liked by children.
The boy smiled faintly at. Matt's joke as he followed the old man into the elevator. What that boy needs is a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, thought Ralph."
- Runaway Ralph by Beverly Cleary
Scrumpdiliumptious, She says…
Peanut butter was an integral part of my childhood; how many afternoons found me perched in the branches of the tree in the front yard, book in one hand, peanut butter sandwich in the other? Peanut butter was my culinary playground, the foil for oh so many different flavors. I experimented often, playing around with texture and taste, savoring each unlikely combination: spread and layered with sweet, soft bananas and salty, crispy potato chips, or sandwiched between white bread pressed up against slices of salami or bologna or pickles, or simply gooey and sticky on white bread, using fingers to push clumps off the roof of my mouth, or melting smooth and unctuous on warm toast, and peanut butter on matzo got me through the Passover week. Peanut butter snuggling down into the smooth groove of a branch of celery seemed oh-so grown up when I was a kid, the sharp crack then the crunch of the green vegetable, a mouthful of cool followed by the creamy is something sensual and refreshing like lying on sheets and feeling the warm breeze flutter over your body. Peanut butter and jelly, grape or cherry, the jelly was always secondary, just another flavor to highlight the peanut butter and, more often than not, I simply forewent the jelly. Creamy or crunchy, depending on my mood, hopping from one brand to another, ever-changing like my temperament, even going through my all-natural, 100% pure peanuts phase. Yet the need – and the taste - for peanut butter stayed with me, through childhood as I explored my emotions and my tastebuds, the two ever linked in a holy embrace, through my college years, comforting me when I needed comforting, a way to travel home when nostalgia yanked at my heart, through my adulthood, a way to pull me to a warm, culturally reassuring place.
Peanut butter is such an emotionally charged food. There is something so primal about it, bringing out the best – or the worst – in us, turning us back into children, purring in all of our innocence, sighing with wide-eyed delight, or growling like some beast from a deep, dark netherworld battling something fanged and evil. In other words, either one loves it or despises it with a passion. My mother bought the stuff for us but couldn’t stand it herself. The smell alone made her get up and leave the room, grumbling under her breath. I have one son who loves it, eating sandwich after sandwich, a purist at heart he’ll eat it no other way, and one son who wants nothing whatsoever to do with it. My husband dislikes it and refuses to see the attraction, but, then again, he’s French, so what does he know of peanut butter?
And curiously, dogs love the stuff. We got such a huge kick out of feeding spoonfuls of peanut butter to our English setter, Peewee, when we were kids, laughing uproariously as she struggled to eat it, her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth. And I discovered that it brings out the wild animal in Marty: this photograph is witness to the fact. Snapping pictures of peanut butter to illustrate this post, I inadvertently forget the open jar on our dining room floor. A bit later as I was in the kitchen preparing to make the biscotti, I heard horrible, utterly disgusting slurping noises coming from the other room. What in the world could it be? Put my head around the corner and found Marty up to his globular eyeballs in my very expensive jar of Skippy, lapping it up for all he was worth. Egads! Lucky for me I had a second unopened jar!
Peanut butter is extremely versatile and can be used in both sweet and savory treats; from cookies to sate to pies to curries to, well, basically anything. Kim at Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet is this week’s Blogger Secret Ingredient host. She has decided that peanut butter is our BSI. Yay Kim! Great choice! I have made not one but two wonderful recipes using peanut butter, one sweet for snack time and one savory for a great meal.
Let’s start with the savory:
TANGY PEANUT-SAUCED CHICKEN
From my Better Homes & Garden New Cookbook (this is meant for ribs, but I prefer cooking chicken at home)
Chicken pieces (I bought enough for 4 of us: 2 leg-thigh sections and 1 breast filet, skin on)
¼ cup hot water
¼ cup peanut butter
2 Tbs lime juice
2 Tbs sliced scallions or spring onions
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).
Trim excess skin and fat off of the chicken pieces. I separated the legs from the thighs. Line a large baking pan with foil.
Put the peanut butter in a small saucepan and gradually stir in the hot water until smooth. Stir in the lime juice, spring onion, grated ginger and the cayenne. Cook over low heat until warmed through.
Brush the chicken pieces on both sides and lay them on the foil-lined baking tray. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until cooked through to the bone.
Serve with the rest of the sauce, warmed to thin, in a small bowl. Delicious!
And now for the sweet, to calm our biscotti yen (click here and here to see my other biscotti):
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCOTTI
2 ¾ cup flour
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup peanut butter
¼ cup water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks (I used mini chips)
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
In a large mixing bowl, blend the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Stir in the chocolate chips.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the water and the peanut butter until the peanut butter is “melted”, thinned and smooth. Whisk in the eggs.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir until all the dry is moistened and you have a dough. Biscotti dough is fairly wet and sticky, but it should be dry enough to easily pat into a log shape. Knead briefly in a bit of extra flour until homogenous and smooth.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Divide the biscotti dough into two and pat into two long logs, about 3 inches wide. Place on the baking sheet and pat and press into shape.
Bake in the preheated oven for 35 – 40 minutes until lightly browned and set in the center.
Remove from the oven without turning the oven off. Allow the biscotti to rest for 10 minutes.
Carefully slide the logs off the baking sheet onto a cutting board. Using a sharp bread knife, slice each log on the diagonal into even slices about ¾-inch wide.
Lay as many cookies as will fit on the baking sheet, cut side up. Bake for 10 minutes, pull out the tray and carefully flip each cookie over. Pop back in the oven and bake for an additional 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown. Repeat with any cookies that didn’t fit in the first time round.
Cool on a cooling rack before eating. These are best eaten dipped in a cold glass of milk or a cup of coffee.