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Peanuts showing up on more menus

From salads to desserts, restaurants are putting peanuts to use

When peanuts make the news these days, it usually has something to do with allergies. But even as restaurateurs increasingly attempt to accommodate customers’ special dietary needs, this crunchy legume continues to grow in popularity.

Peanuts are showing up across all foodservice sectors. The National Peanut Board cites Technomic’s MenuMonitor showing that the listing of peanuts on menus jumped 44.6 percent between 2006 and 2010.

Recent chain listings include the Manchu duck small plate with hoisin, smoked bacon, Asian cress and honey peanut vinaigrette at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, peanut-ginger slaw at Houlihan’s, and Thai chicken salad at Panera.

On the independent side, Jeremy Sewall, chef of Island Creek Oyster Bar in Boston, offers a peanut butter frozen yogurt topped with toasted peanuts.

“We try to stay as seasonal as we can,” Sewall said, but added that can be tough in the winter.

Fortunately, peanuts are available throughout the year, and Island Creek Oyster Bar’s customers like the frozen peanut butter dessert, he continued. “We sell a lot of it.”

Sewall prepares the dish by combining peanut butter with mascarpone cheese, milk, yogurt and a little sugar, and then freezing it in an ice-cream maker.

At 3 Vines Café in Sleepy Hollow, Ill., a South African peanut soup is on the menu.

To make the soup, chef Eric Feltman sweats chopped onions in peanut oil. Next, he adds fresh ginger and cayenne pepper, followed by carrots, chopped sweet potatoes and vegetable stock.

When the vegetables are tender, he purees them and adds tomato juice and peanut butter — and possibly some sugar, depending on how sweet the other ingredients are.

At service, the soup is topped with chopped scallions.

Peanut soup is a long-standing favorite at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in Roanoke, Va. To prepare the dish, celery and onion are first sweated in butter, and then flour is added to make a light roux. Chicken stock is added to the mixture, cooked for half an hour and strained. Then the liquid is returned to the heat, and peanut butter, lemon juice, Kosher salt and celery salt are added. The soup is heated and garnished with ground peanuts.

Of course, peanuts are required in a number of East Asian dishes, including Pad Thai, Malay satay and Chinese Kung Pao chicken.

They’re also part of the jiaozi, or boiled dumplings, at China Poblano in Las Vegas. The dumplings are stuffed with pork, water chestnuts, diced shrimp and peanuts.

At BLT Burger, also in Las Vegas, the five-spice chicken salad includes cilantro, Napa cabbage, carrot, peanuts and cucumber.

Hatfield’s in Los Angeles makes a chocolate caramel semifreddo with salted peanut crunch and bitter chocolate sorbet.

In Atlanta, Canoe features a barbecued quail accompanied by chilled winter greens and boiled peanuts flavored with star anise, while Restaurant Eugene serves butterhead lettuce and shaved radish with smoked peanuts, confit pork belly and peanut flour.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].

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