The Sun Eats - Kristin Jorgensen


Peanut butter passion

One of life’s greatest joys has got to be peanut butter.  Wouldn’t you agree?  Chocolate peanut butter cups eaten on a long family road trip or deep dish frozen peanut butter pies at a Sunday potluck, complete with the fluffiest clouds of meringue?  How about those peanut buttery Christmas cookies, a fancy chocolate kiss stuck in the top, or possibly a late summer berry jam sandwich on grandpa’s homemade white bread, smeared generously with super crunchy peanut butter, the whole sticky mess dribbling down your arm?  The simple delights of this one lone ingredient, the peanut (not really a nut at all) just ho-hum when eaten whole, but a thing elevated to legendary status, when smooshed into a creamy paste.

As an always-starving kid, I would barge through the front door each day from school, dropping my backpack with an obnoxious thud and screeching out to mom, “I’m hungry!”  Much to my endless frustration, she would answer from wherever in the house she was with a, “Have a spoonful of peanut butter!” Argh! A spoonful of peanut butter?!

I wanted a snack, something fun, something all the other kids were scarfing.  Like maybe Oreo cookies or even a sugary fruit roll-up.  Geesh.  Well, the snacking options were truly limited in my house, mom touting the gourmet-healthy-foodie credo before such things even existed.  It was maybe a handful of raisins or, if you risked mom’s wrath, a pilfered hunk of her dark baking chocolate.  So, the dreaded spoonful of peanut butter it typically was.  Ironically, as an adult, I now adore it immensely and find that I turn to peanut butter most times that I am craving something snacky, salty, and satisfying.  My preferred method; standing in the kitchen, fridge door wide open, spoon in hand, digging out each crunchy bite straight from the jar.

I never knew the immense pleasure of freezing cold peanut butter — like peanut butter ice cream without the cream — until a fellow ‘spoonful of peanut butter’ lover turned me on to keeping my jar in the fridge, and how well the treat pairs with Zinfandel… think peanut butter and grape jelly.  Brilliant.

I cannot say enough about how immensely happy a spoonful of peanut butter makes me.  That is until I remind myself of that obscene fat content!  Man, such a drag.  Why does it have to be so ridiculously tasty, but oh-so-fattening?  Well, guess what?  It doesn’t!  I recently stumbled upon a new product at Whole Foods called PB2, a low fat, dehydrated, powdered peanut butter.  I did a little dance of happiness right there in the aisle.  Sure, I was a little skeptical, but at a mere one and a half grams of fat per serving, I didn’t think twice about tossing that jar in my basket.  I could hardly wait to get home and try it.

Skipping into the kitchen, I immediately whipped some up.  Two tablespoons of the peanut powder goes into a bowl with one tablespoon of water and voila!  Peanut butter sans the fat and I liked it, I really liked it!  Peanut butter by the endless spoonful without the endless guilt!  I can’t say that it tastes as good as the pure, ground in-house stuff from Sonoma Market that I typically choose.

My new love affair with peanut butter powder is bordering on obsession, I am afraid.  At first I simply ate it like I always have, spoonful by spoonful, by the light of the fridge. I am now finding myself scattering the pure powder like fairy dust over almost everything.  A decadent spoonful on my morning oatmeal is breakfast bliss, while a few hefty sprinkles on ice cream is downright dangerous.  Peanut butter powder in my chocolate-banana smoothie is truly to die for and, oh my, a warm mug of steamed vanilla milk is over-the-top tasty with a big scoop of peanut buttery happiness stirred in.

Just when I thought I couldn’t find one more delicious way to use my newest foodie fetish, my Panang curry got a whole lot more delicious with a significant dusting of the stuff.  While this powdery product isn’t quite as salty and lush as the real deal, and sadly doesn’t have the crunchy bits of whole peanut that I love, the lack of guilt is oh-so-scrumptious!

Foodie event of the week

Meadowcroft Wines’ Annual Mardi Gras Party is as authentic as it gets!  The festive celebration begins with a parade through the gardens at Cornerstone, complete with beads and floats.  The party will include live music by Rhythmtown Jive who will get the crowd dancing.  The menu is pure New Orleans, with crawfish Etoufee, red beans and rice with Cajun sausage, and true king cakes flown in from New Orleans.  Tickets are $60 per person and $40 for wine club members.  The admission price covers wine, food, music, parade participation and more fun than you could possibly imagine. Tickets may be purchased by calling the tasting room at 934.4090.

On the Menu

Chef Rob Larman is cooking up a sure-to-be-yummy “Cioppino Dinner” at the Valley Wine Shack this Friday, February 8.  The traditional feast will include Dungeness crab, fish and shellfish all spooned over creamy polenta. The meal begins with a Caesar salad of little gem lettuces and will finish with blood orange olive oil cake with fresh berries and lemon curd.There will be a great selection of Cioppino friendly wines available for purchase by the glass or the bottle.  Be sure to call 938.7218 and reserve your space.  The dinner is super affordable at $35 per person.  The Valley Wine Shack is located at 553 West Napa Street.

The Sonoma Community Center has begun accepting submissions for the “Third Annual Beer-vana: Nirvana for Beer Lovers,” an amateur beer brewing competition and tasting party, to be held at the Sonoma Veterans Memorial Building on April 6. Amateur beer brewers are invited to enter their original brews for judging in one of ten nationally recognized beer categories. The deadline for entering is 5 p.m. Friday, March 15, in the Sonoma Community Center office, located at 276 East Napa Street. More information and competition entry forms can by found online at Sonomacommunitycenter.org, by calling 938.4626 x 1, or in person.

Panang Chicken Curry

Peanut butter powder adds a rich, exotic flavor to this curry.

Serves 6

  • 3 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 8 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 2 large leafy sprigs Thai basil or regular basil
  • 1 1/2 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/3-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2×1/4-inch strips
  • 1 8-ounce can bamboo shoots, drained
  • 4 teaspoons tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons PB2 peanut butter powder
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Steamed rice

Heat 1/2 cup coconut milk, Thai red curry paste, and kaffir lime leaves in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 3 cups coconut milk, onion, and basil sprigs; bring to boil. Continue to boil until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add chicken, bell pepper, bamboo shoots, tamarind paste, fish sauce, peanut butter powder, and sugar. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, stirring often, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Kristin Jorgensen is one of Sonoma’s most passionate, food obsessed residents. In this weekly column, she covers all the delicious happenings, foodie events and restaurants in Sonoma, the rest of Wine Country and beyond.  Email her with comments, questions, or your food related events at foodandwine@sonomasun.com.


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