I love butter. Really. I love nut butter. Crunchy, creamy, raw, and pure spread made from crushed nuts, seeds, and legumes (that’s right, peanuts!). Coming from a very simple supply chain (butter <- nut <- tree <- earth) and not be to be confused with “true” butter (one that comes from <- cream <- milk <- cow <- ?), the nut butter has acquired a permanent residence status in my pantry and my diet. I eat it almost daily and often straight off the spoon.
There has been a huge growth in the nut butter popularity in the last few years as grocery stores made room (finally!) for spreads made from almonds, hazelnuts, and other nuts, pushing aside the iconic (and ironic because it’s not even a nut) peanut butter. The variety available today in health food stores is astonishing, ranging from wide-spread almond butter to hard-to-find walnut and pecan butter. It’s important however to read the label before buying to make sure you are aware of the ingredients. Pure nut and seed butters will have only one ingredient – raw nuts (seeds) or dry roasted nuts (seeds). No salt, sugar, palm oil etc. If you’re looking for an interesting flavor, there are nice options available with cocoa powder, espresso, and dry fruits (dates, cherries, currants) in lieu of sugars.
As a side note, owners of high-speed food processors have an option to make nut butter from scratch at home simply by grinding dry nuts for few minutes until they start releasing oils (the keyword phrase being: high-speed). These oils tend to separate from solids over time so don’t be alarmed when you find that butter you bought at a store has a thin layer of oil at the top. Just use spoon to mix it thoroughly before eating.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise if I tell you that nut butter (almond) was the first item I bought when I moved into my new apartment two weeks ago to put in my deserted pantry (joined by four other butters a week later). Moving is never easy especially when going to another continent because most edible kitchen supplies have to be left behind. When I had an idea to add My Pantry section to Blushing Beet, I was struggling with coming up with a list of items that I should write about, how to organize them and what should be order of preference. Now that I have to start stocking my own pantry supply from scratch, I realized that I can just write about the items as I’m buying them and that would result in the most logical order (well, ehm, logical to me).
Inspirations for eating:
- eat by spoonful, but not more than two per day as it is mostly fat (although its the good kind!)
- spread on sandwiches, crisp breads, crackers and top with slices of bananas, apples, peaches etc.
- my favorites: almond-banana-crispbread, peanut on apple slices or carrot sticks, cashew-peach-toast
- add to smoothies for extra protein and flavor
- whip into a magic mousse for dessert (recipe at GKS)
- use in savory dishes as dressings and sauces
- tahini (sesame butter) is a must for hummus but also makes nice salad dressing when mixed with lemon juice and honey
- almond butter can be mixed with maple syrup and soy sauce to make an interesting sauce to dress warm sautéd veggies
- peanut butter is used in variety of south-asian dishes
- add to cookies, cakes, granola and other baked goods for extra flavor and to replace all or portion of regular butter (not a cheap substitution but very tasty)
When I tried peanut butter for the first time (at the age of 13 shortly after moving to US), I found it disgusting and couldn’t understand why would anyone eat it. Years later, I gave it another try and found it mildly tolerable. Now I’ll fork out $15 for a tiny jar of delicate pecan or walnut butter when I feel like I deserve a treat. The point is, if you hate something the first time you try it, give it another try. And then one more try. I learned that it takes me about three times to try something before I decide whether I like it or not. So if you try something as odd as pumpkin seed butter (its green!), and decide that you don’t like it, don’t throw it away and try it at least two more times later. You might be pleasantly surprised.