Peanuts are the nuts next door. Macadamias hail from Hawaii, cashews from India and Brazil nuts, from, well, Brazil. Macadamia’s star with white chocolate in gourmet cookies and cashews are super lavish, reserved for special occasions for most of us. Peanuts, on the other hand, are grown in the South and keep company in ballparks, circuses and cracker jack boxes.
But this legume is not untraveled. Originally from South America, peanuts have been at home in ethnic cuisines for centuries. They form the base for spicy sauces and salads in Thailand, are ground into moles in Mexico and appear in Indian chaats.
No doubt, they’re incredibly versatile. They’re at home on top of salads; swirling around a hot wok; baked in cakes, cookies and pies; or blended in a food processor.
- Runner Peanuts—The common peanut grown in the South. Runner peanuts represent nearly 80 percent of all peanuts produced in the United States eaten out of hand or made into peanut butter.
- Spanish Peanuts—These red-skinned peanuts are a bit smaller than runners and find their way into lots of snack mixes. They have a higher oil content that the runners.
- Virginia Peanuts—This variety is a gourmand’s peanut. They are larger and juicier and make great hand-to-mouth snacks. Virginia peanuts are often flavored and considered the queen of the peanut family
- Valencia Peanuts—Usually roasted in the shell and salted, Valencias are grown in New Mexico and used in peanut butter.
By Chef Steve Petusevsky