Everyone loves peanut butter. But after baking a cookie or two, most home cooks are out of ideas for what to do with this rich and creamy treat. But now, with their new book, "The Ultimate Peanut Butter Book", Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough offer some exciting new ways to use America's favorite spread. Here's an excerpt from the book and some recipes for the whole family to enjoy.
The Ultimate PB&J
Makes 12 sandwhiches
We're about to start turf wars. We think the ultimate PB&J is made with strawberry jam. Maybe it was a childhood in the late sixties when strawberry jam was starting to challenge grape jelly as top dog; maybe it's just that we like its texture with the Ultimate Creamy Peanut Butter. This recipe makes a refrigerator jam, not processed or canned; simply store it in your refrigerator in sealed bottles or plastic containers for up to 2 weeks. What else do you need for the Ultimate PB&J? Fresh warm bread, of course.
The Ultimate Creamy Peanut Butter
2-1/4 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts (3/4 pound)1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter2 teaspoons light corn syrup
Refrigerator Strawberry Jam
3-1/2 cups fresh hulled strawberries2-1/4 cups sugar1/4 teaspoon salt
To make the creamy peanut butter. Place the peanuts in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade; process until smooth -- the heat and friction will release the peanut oil and the mixture will eventually convert from grainy to smooth. Add the butter and corn syrup; process until creamy. Set aside at room temperature until the bread is ready or spoon into a releasable plastic container and store at room temperature for 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks; stir well if any of the oil falls out of suspension.
To make the strawberry jam, stir the strawberries, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the strawberries begin to break down. Bring the mixture to a low simmer, then reduce the heat and cook slowly until thick and jamlike, about 20 minutes, perhaps longer if the day's humidity is high. If you're using a glass jar, spoon the jam into it while the jam and jar are hot, and seal it with the lid and the ring; refrigerate the jar after about 10 minutes. If you're using a plastic container, cool the jam for 10 minutes and then spoon it into the container, seal it, and immediately place it in the refrigerator.
To make the ultimate PB&J, use a serrated knife to slice fresh baked bread into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Spread half the slices with 2 tablespoons homemade crunchy peanut butter; spread the other half with 2 tablespoons refrigerator strawberry jam. Place the bread slices together, peanut butter to jam, and chow down.
To take it over the top: Make hot sandwiches by melting 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a large non-stick skillet set over medium heat. Slip one or two sandwiches into the pan; cook until brown, about 25 seconds; then flip and brown the other side. Repeat with more butter and sandwiches, as desired.
Ultimate Crunchy Peanut Butter
Makes about 1-1/2 cups
2-1/4 cups dry-roasted salted peanuts (3/4 pound)1 tablespoon solid vegetable shortening1-1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup
Place 2 cups of the peanuts in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process until the mixture flows smoothly around the bowl, then add the shortening and 1-1/2 teaspoons corn syrup. Continue processing until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup peanuts and pulse two or three times to chop lightly and combine. Set aside at room temperature for up to 1 day, or store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Peanut Butter Potstickers
Makes 24 dumplings -- about 8 appetizers, or 4 main-course servings
These tender, light dumplings are made with shrimp and a little peanut sauce, then fried in toasted sesame oil for a crunchy outside that contrasts well with the creamy filling. Serve them with the simple dipping sauce that follows.
3 scallions, thinly sliced1 large garlic clove, minced2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger2 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter1 teaspoon rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)1/2 teaspoons five spice powder1/2 pound medium shrimp (about 30 per pound), peeled and deveined24 dumpling wrappers2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil1-1/2 cups water
1. Place the scallions, garlic, ginger, peanut butter, vinegar, and five spice powder in a food processor fitted with the chopping blade; pulse three or four times until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and then add the shrimp and pulse several times to chop and blend, until the mixture resembles a very thick, chunky salsa.
2. Fill a custard cup or teacup with water and place it near your work surface. Lay a dumpling wrapper on the work surface. Place about 1 rounded teaspoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Dip your finger in the water, then run it halfway around the rim of the wrapper. Seal the dumpling, pressing the wet rim against the dry. Starting at the right end and working to the left, crimp the edges closed by folding the sealed edge in 1/4-inch increments over itself, thereby creating the look of a small leather purse. Set side and continue making the dumplings. (The dumplings can be made in advance -- place them on a large baking sheet dusted with cornstarch, seal tightly with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.)
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil, then place 12 dumplings in the skillet, laying them on their sides. Fry until brown on that side without turning, about 2 minutes. Then pour 3/4 cup water into the skillet, cover, raise the heat to high, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the skillet, shake it to make sure the dumplings are not stuck, and continue cooking until the water has completely evaporated and the bottoms are crisp, about 1 more minute. Transfer them to a platter, then make a second batch with the remaining dumplings, following the same method described in this step. When done serve the dumplings with the Dumpling Dipping Sauce (recipe below.)
Dumpling Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce3 tablespoons rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice1/2 teaspoons chili paste
Mix the ingredients in a small bowl until well combined; serve with the dumplings as a dip.