The classic pairing of peanut butter and jelly might be one of the most iconic duos in American food culture. Often people refer to hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries as food that embodies the USA but I would argue peanut butter and jelly captures the nostalgia and food culture of the states. However, the surge in peanut allergies has taken its toll on the PB&J combo and it is estimated that "over 4.6 million US adults have a peanut allergy" (1). Despite the swell, Americans still consumed over 634,000 tons of peanut butter in 2020 (2). There is something classic and undeniably delicious about a savory, nutty spread mixed with a tangy, bright, and sweet jam - it just works.
Americans are not alone in taking notice of this delicious combination. In Turkey, this duo comes in the form of tahini and pekmez. Instead of peanuts, the star of the show is the sesame seed that is made into a paste known as tahini. A bit more liquid in texture, tahini provides the same savory and creamy notes offered by ground peanuts. The sweet ingredient cuddled into the tahini is known as pekmez: a concentrated syrup commonly made of grapes or carob. It is served at kahvaltı (Turkish breakfast) as a spread for bread, spooned over creamy desserts, or even packaged in snack pack form for kids to eat on-the-go (see photo below). Much like peanut butter, tahini is adaptable and has the ability to swing to both the savory and sweet side while consistently adding a creamy and meaty quality to every dish. Perhaps tahini and pekmez could serve as a happy alternative to those adverse or allergic to the American version of savory and sweet.
A Few Things I am Loving and Reading:
1. You might not know that the wasabi you're eating at your favorite sushi place is likely, "a mixture of ground horseradish, Chinese mustard, and green food coloring." Learn more here.
2. This week, I made Alison Roman's Sticky Apple Cake and it is delicious. I wanted to make the cake for a friend of mine who just found she is having a baby girl, yay! I thought this cake would be a fun way to celebrate. See video of how to make it below.
3. Jerusalem artichokes/sunchokes (yerelması) are in season in Turkey and I am so excited to make this recipe! See the picture below of Slow Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes (Sunchokes).
4. Learning about the water footprint of seeds vs. nuts might inform your next trip to the grocery store. Read more here and check out the graph below to see the amount of water used to produce pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. Perhaps moving towards more seeds might be better for all of us and the environment.
Peanut allergies affect over 4.6 million adults in the US, study finds https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/09/health/peanut-allergy-study-scn/index.html
Total U.S. Peanut Consumption (1000 Pounds) http://www.peanut-shellers.org/pdf/consumptioncharts.pdf