Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Back to Basics: Crushed Peanuts

Funny thing about cooking- you might try an elaborate dish, try to replicate the professionally styled picture from a cookbook or cook a meal for 20 guests. Then one day you make something completely basic, like a pot of yogurt or a masala from scratch, and the big thrills seem to pale in comparison to this simple achievement and the accompanying sense of empowerment.

An event called Back to Basics celebrates just this feature of home cooking, where home cooks take small steps to self-reliance. The first round-up is full of useful how-tos. This month, the event is hosted at Served with Love.

I am contributing this jar of crushed peanuts or coarsely powdered peanuts, called danyacha koot, a staple in my kitchen and in many Maharashtrian homes. It consists of only one ingredient: peanuts.



Peanut powder, humble as it is, is quite the versatile ingredient. I use it in-
  1. Sabudana khichdi: Whether you choose to make this on the stove top or in the microwave, crushed peanuts are the star of this beloved Maharashtrian dish.
  2. Koshimbir: The Maharashtrian take on raita or salad. The way I make it, vegetables (carrots, cucumber, cabbage, tomato, beets) are chopped or shredded, and tossed with salt, cumin powder, crushed peanuts and minced cilantro. I often add either lemon juice or yogurt. The peanuts give flavor and texture to this quick salad.
  3. Vegetable curries: Toss a few spoonfuls of crushed peanuts into simple bhaajis or vegetable curries, such as eggplant-potato or ridge gourd curry and the result is a tasty, thick, luscious sauce for your vegetables. 
  4. Chutneys: Peanuts feature in a variety of chutneys of both the paste and powder varities and having crushed peanuts on hand makes it even easier to pull the chutneys together for breakfasts and brunches.
  5. Thai dishes: When I make Thai-inspired curries in a sauce that features peanut butter or coconut milk, crushed peanuts make a crunchy topping for the dish.
Making crushed peanuts is the simplest thing. (1) Roast, (2) Remove skins if desired/needed, (3) Grind or crush. 

If you buy red-skinned peanuts (the kind sold in Indian stores), roast the peanuts on low heat in a single layer in a heavy skillet. Let the skins get dark spots but don't let the peanuts burn. Let the peanuts cool down, then rub the peanuts lightly between your fingers to remove skins. Separate the peanuts from the skins- an easy way to do this is to blow gently and let the skins fly off but you will have to sweep them up if you do this indoors. Grind using a mixie, a food processor or a spice/coffee grinder. I don't pulverize the peanuts to a fine dust, instead leaving them quite coarse with chunks of peanuts intact. If you don't have any of these appliances, place the roasted peanuts in a sealed paper or plastic bag and thwack them to your heart's content with a heavy saucepan. Of course a mortar and pestle would also do.
    If you choose Thai peanuts, which are already skinned, you only need to roast and grind them.

    If you choose packaged roasted peanuts, the only thing required is to grind them. I have used all of these avatars of peanuts at different times, depending on what was available to me. The flavor of the small Indian peanuts is my what I like best.

    Store the crushed peanuts in an airtight container. Mine is a recycled glass mayonnaise jar that you see in the picture. In India, everyone seems to store this at room temperature; I store it in the fridge because (a) I don't go through it fast enough and peanuts can get rancid quickly, and (b) I am slightly paranoid and tend to store stuff in the fridge whether or not it is required.

    Three Links

    This weekend's ice cream was chocolate gelato- made with pantry ingredients- milk, cream, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder- with dreamy, stunning results.

    I waited several months for tomato season just so I could make Arundati's tamatar ka saalan and it was well worth the wait. We did not pause long enough to take pictures, but  give yourself a treat and try this rich curry if tomatoes are in season where you live.

    When I spotted this 12 key zen habits poster with fun little reminders, I printed it out right away and pinned it at my desk. I've been practicing #3 for several months now and it is oh so liberating. #2 and #6 are the most challenging. And #10 has never ever been a problem for me although most people I know struggle with it.

    Got an interesting link you want to share- a picture, recipe, idea or article that caught your eye recently? Share it in the comments if you like.

    18 comments:

    1. I so love these crushed peanuts for many things. curries, and as you said poha or khichdi etc.

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    2. Recipe: I made these and my friends haven't stopped thanking me.
      http://noshwithme.com/2009/01/brown-sugar-cookies/

      Picture: I had this one on my desk. http://ny-image3.etsy.com/il_fullxfull.15054439.jpg

      Link: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/show_tag?name=classic-insult

      Sandhya

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    3. Nupur you have put together well on the use of crushed peanuts and Maharashtrian families are addicted to them truly.

      One tip to avoid clean up when deskining roasted peanuts. Put the roasted peanut in a thin plastic bag or a large handkerchief (steal from the man at home). Tie up to form a potli/ bag. Rub between palms. Once done completely pick up the peanuts, transfer from one hand to other. The finger acting like a sieve leaves you with just the roasted deskined peanuts. Will try to do a demo once the model returns home:)

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    4. thanks for the zen habit list...makes a lot of sense and colourful too...am so glad you tried out and liked the tamatar ka saalan. :)

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    5. thanks for the 12 zen thing looks so interesting,..:-)

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    6. Nupur, even I stock up on a plain peanut butter/paste which I use quite often in curries like baghare baingan, qorma etc. These simple nut pastes give such a good body to gravies and an exceptional taste.
      Thanks for letting us know about such useful event.

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    7. The zen list is the best! Though I wasn't sure I understood what #6 meant. Disconnected from what?
      -Anu

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    8. I normally use roasted unsalted peanuts available in the store. It's a lazy way to flavor your dishes. Though the times that I have put them in a mixie, they seem to become a thick blob of peanut paste due to the moisture - any tips to avoid that?

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    9. Oh yes, Maharashtrians love their 'danyacha koot'!

      Finely powdered or Crushed peanuts mixed with soft jaggery to make laddos or even simply spiking the C. peanuts with red chili powder and salt and mixing in a dollop of fresh home made yogurt to make a quick 'chutni'
      Now a days I bring Planters roasted peanuts (lightly salted or plain) and just zap them in the coffee grinder to make 'koot'. comes out real nice.

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    10. Nice, Nupur.. especially the Zen habits link.
      @Sandhya (comment #2): thank you for the links!! Classic insults was particularly hilarious.. made my day!

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    11. The danyacha koot is a staple in my kitchen too. I keep it in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid. Thank you for the link and a basic Maharashtrian pantry essential. :)

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    12. ohh- that's the goddess Leonie poster- I saved it a while ago but didn't end up printing it.. I really need to work without checking other 'internet-y' stuff..

      Oh and I am now craving some chocolate gelato- Thank you very much Nupur! (:-))

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    13. Hey you beat me to it...was planning to post danyacha koot as well :)
      Thank you for a very detailed entry, you've covered all types of peanuts. I too prefer the Indian peanuts but find it too messy so I use the thai peanuts.

      @Anjali: Thanks for the tip, it is going to come in very...er...handy :)

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    14. I made coconut-saffron ice cream last weekend and I just loved it - so simple yet so creamy & tasty. I'm going to try the gelato this weekend.

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    15. I love sabudana khichdi with a smattering of crushed peanuts!! Yum! Thanks for pointing to the Back to Basics event too. Good one!

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    16. Priya (Yallapantula) MItharwal- Hmm- poha, I've ever added crushed peanuts to that, but it would be tasty :)

      Sandhya- Ooh, thanks for the links, all very interesting, and I must memorize some of those quotes from the last one ;)

      Anjali- Great tip, thanks for sharing it!

      arundati- Yes, that's a great recipe, I must make it a couple more times before tomato season is over.

      notyet100- Glad you like it :)

      Mona- I stock up on peanut butter too, and it is wonderful, but crushed peanuts have a different texture than the paste. The basic event is such a clever idea.

      Anu- I'm quite sure it means disconnected from distractions/interruptions like the phone, internet and TV. Because the impulse to check mail every 2 minutes while trying to get work done can be irresistible (or is that only for me?)

      Manasi- Oh yeah, ladoo and chutney both should be top on the list.

      Nisha- Glad you liked it.

      Jaya Wagle- I'm going to learn a lot from your event, thanks for starting it.

      Lavanya- LOL always glad to create gelato cravings ;)

      aqua- Noooo please post your version too, everyone has different tips for using even such a simple thing. Thanks for hosting the event.

      Pavani- So glad you like the saffron coconut as well. The gelato is wonderful, hope you enjoy that one as well.

      SS blogs here- Yes, the peanuts make it special.

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    17. this is a nice tip, of having crushed peanuts as handy. :). and thanks for sharing those links Nupur.

      Siri

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    18. I have been concerned about the Peanuts going rancid that I don't store any in the crushed form. I don't use crushed peanuts that often. But this is a nice way to make sure they are used often.

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