Peanuts - A Love Story

By: Chef Asha Gomez
Chef/Cookbook Author 

The food I put on a plate brings together the culinary roots of two special places where genuine hospitality and meaning are crucial ingredients. These two Souths - the Southern tip of India and Georgia here in the US are over nine thousand miles apart and would seem to be in separate universes. Surprisingly, I have found their shared aspects - a warm humid climate, abundant produce varieties, expanses of rice acreage, and busy coastal communities along with a spirit of sharing, a gift for entertaining and storytelling, a talent for creating bounty out of an often modest pantry, and a sincere embrace of simplicity, blend easily in my South by South cuisine. These combined southern cultures, which value gathering family and friends around a festive table, and my abiding appreciation of the expressive capabilities of cherished foods are the touchstones of my cuisine.
Over the years, I’ve traveled around the world and cooked in kitchens around the globe. Much of my cooking has found inspiration in these international influences.
Peanuts, like rice, are a universal ingredient found in cuisines all over the world. It transcends boundaries of class, status, and cultural limitations. I’m often amazed at the humble peanut and it’s versatility. My youngest recollection of peanuts is going to the beach at the age of five, waiting in line for the street hawker who roasted peanuts in an iron skillet over a wood fire. It was the highlight of my trip to the beach. Fast forwarding to adult years here in Georgia, excitedly finding boiled peanuts on roadside stalls off the highway. Needless to say it’s been a lifelong love affair with peanuts.
Recently, the Peanut Board asked me to develop three recipes for the Global Plant Forward Summit at the Culinary Institute of America. We had people from all over the world join in on the virtual session and it was heartwarming to share my love of peanuts - their nutritional properties and the delicious dishes we can make with them. We made a salad with Thai peanut dressing using peanut butter, highlighting a simple pantry ingredient that is readily available in all our kitchens.

Asha’s Salad with Thai Peanut Dressing

Next up, a Pumpkin and Chickpea Peanut Curry where green peanut oil was the star ingredient and raw peanuts are ground to a smooth consistency with the addition of coconut milk to make a creamy curry.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Peanut Curry

We ended with Chai Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies that brought together some of my favorite spices: cardamom, black pepper, and clove, it may just be my favorite cookie of all time.

Chai Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanuts have a rare combination of humility and versatility, at once comfortable playing a supporting role as well as being the star of a dish. They are comfortably familiar and found universally in cuisines around the world. Peanuts also create great food memories.
What’s your favorite peanut food memory?
Asha Gomez 
Chef/Cookbook Author                         

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