Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Way Beyond PBJ: Gourmet Peanut Butter Sandwiches

Bobby Jay's Peanut Butter, Mango Pickle Relish and Banana Sandwich

Who doesn't like peanut butter? If it's you, or if you have a peanut allergy, stop reading (well, not so fast; sesame butter (tahini) is an interesting and worthy substitute). But if, like me, you love the stuff, read on for some ways to use it that you may not have considered.

Although I love peanut butter, I have never been a fan of peanut butter and jelly. Even as a child, I found the sweetness of the jelly (classically Smucker's grape) to clash with the savory goodness of the peanut butter. So over the years I have sought other accompaniments.

I am not going to devote much space to the selection of peanut butter. Everyone has his or her favorite already. Mine are Cream-Nut and Trader Joe's organic made with 100% Valencia peanuts. I like the freshly ground kind that you find at health food stores, but find it turns hard and grainy in the fridge and is tough to use for sandwiches (although a few seconds in the microwave can give you a spreadable texture). Generally I use creamy unless I am doing a pretty plain version with nothing but spices added, in which case I prefer chunky.

Similarly, I am not going to make bread recommendations. Anything you like is fine, although for me it has to be toasted. So here are some of my favorites:

  • PB with toasted (untoasted work, too, but less well I think) sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • PB with sliced banana PB with mango chutney (I prefer hot but mild is OK)
  • PB with jalapeño jam (any jam or jelly will do, but make sure it's great)
  • PB with smoked paprika (again, I prefer hot but sweet is OK)
  • PB with Cajun spice blend
  • PB with za'atar (a thyme and sesame seed-based Middle Eastern blend)
  • PB with Branston Pickle (this is pretty weird stuff, even for me)

Garlic powder makes a great addition to the simpler ones, especially sliced banana. Just put it on a little before eating so it blooms. Fleur de sel is great, too, especially if you're using unsalted PB. But my current signature PB sandwiches are Indian-inspired;

  • PB with lime-chili pickle and sliced banana
  • PB with hot mango pickle relish and sliced banana (pictured above)

The banana cuts the salty spiciness of Indian condiments in a way that produces a savory balanced flavor and perfect texture. I plan to try ginger pickle relish soon, and am sure it will be great, too. These are very idiosyncratic flavors and I am sure they will not be to everyone's liking, but that's what's exciting about food, isn't it?

But why stop there? In the future I will be trying some Chinese products, like Sichuan chile paste, and perhaps other Southeast Asian products (think Satay).

I'm sure some readers will have their own combinations, and would love hearing them. As well as feedback on any of the ideas noted above. Please share.

Bobby Jay


Mary said...

Who knew?

Bobby Jay said...

At the suggestion of a reader, I ventured into the pb + meat arena, using crisped prosciutto (slices cooked for about 20 seconds in the microwave) on toast and pb. Nice.