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East Texas chef extols virtues of peanut butter East Texas chef praises spread's virtues during its national month

By Angela Ward award@news-journal.com
Nov. 2, 2010 at 7 p.m.


PITTSBURG - While most people associate peanut butter with sandwiches and snack crackers, the instructor at a local culinary school has good news for peanut butter lovers (and what better time to get it than during National Peanut Butter Lovers Month).

Peanut butter is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes, Charles Reeves, director of the Julia Truitt Culinary Art & Hospitality Program of Northeast Texas Community College, said. Folks do the protein-packed spread a disservice when they think of it only as jelly's team mate.

"Peanut butter is frequently used in sauces, especially for Asian foods," Reeves said. "It provides a smooth base that enhances, but doesn't overpower, the other flavors in the meal."

While peanut butter is relatively high in fat, it's a "good fat" that provides a lot of nutrition in each serving, he said. It's generally more heart-healthy than ingredients like cream or regular butter, but gives a similar richness to soups and sauces.

"Peanut butter can help make exotic or extra spicy foods more palatable to American tastes, because it's a familiar food that's easily digestible," Reeves said. "So I like to use it as a gateway to help introduce people to more adventurous cuisine."

Another primary use of peanut butter is in baked goods and candies, where the relatively mild flavor enhances the sweetness of ingredients like sugar and chocolate.

"We use a lot of peanut butter, both in our desserts and our main dishes," Reeves said. "I'd encourage people to think of it as a kitchen staple and use it for more than just a sandwich spread."

In another East Texas town, the owners of Nutty's Gourmet Peanut Butter are teaming with Grand Saline Main Street to host a peanut butter festival at which they will attempt to break the record for the world's largest peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The event is in conjunction with a peanut butter food drive for the East Texas Food Bank based in Tyler.

The sandwich construction process is scheduled to begin early Saturday morning since the bread actually has to be baked on site to comply with world record rules, said store owner Keith Parsons

"We expect the process to take most of the day," Parsons said. "We'll have to wait for the dough to rise, bake the bread in a large convection oven and then finally we'll spread the peanut butter and jelly onto the bread with long boat oars."

The event will include a carnival with rides and midway games, a music stage that will showcase regional talent throughout the day and numerous vendors.

"This should be a fun day and a fun way to raise funds for a worthy cause," he said.

Peanut Sauce for Grilled Beef, Chicken or Shrimp

1 1/2-inch piece gingerroot, peeled and minced

1/2 head garlic, peeled and crushed

2 pounds creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup light soy sauce

2 tablespoons chili oil

lime juice to taste

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl. Mix well and season to taste. Store in a sealed container until ready to use. Keeps for several weeks in refrigerator. Use as a marinade for beef, chicken, shrimp or vegetable kabobs. Makes 2 quarts.

Source: <a href= "http://www.peanutbutterlovers.com">www.peanutbutterlovers.com</a>

If you go

What: Great American Peanut Butter Festival

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Nov. 13

Where: Nutty's Gourmet Peanut Butter, 233 N. Main St. in Grand Saline

Cost: Peanut butter donations for food bank requested, but not required

Contact: (877) 688-8977

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