During my kid years, "fancy" food caught my attention. Think oddball stuff like half a banana upright inside a ring of pineapple (was a maraschino cherry on top? probably) and something called "ants on a log" – celery filled with peanut butter, raisins lined up all in a row on top. Fancy, eh? Let's bet: a "creative cooking for kids" book was involved.
Stirring together this kicky Thai-Style Peanut Butter, I couldn't get those "ants on a log" off the picnic tablecloth in my mind. It's still peanut butter, just amped up with the heat of chile and the brightness of lively citrus, but a step or two or a mile beyond the familiar favorite.
Could it win over people who are only so-so about peanut butter? (Who are there people and how can we be related or even friends?) Negative. But me, peanut butter lover for so long, I loved this stuff and snacked on it a dab at a time for several days.
"Ants on a log" is for kids. This, this is for grown-ups.
RECIPE for THAI-STYLE CELERY & PEANUT BUTTER
Time to table: 15 minutes
Makes 6 tablespoons Thai-Style Peanut Butter
THAI-STYLE PEANUT BUTTER
5 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (I used sambal oelek)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Celery ribs, trimmed but left whole
1 carrot, grated
Black sesame seeds
THAI-STYLE PEANUT BUTTER Mix all the ingredients.
CELERY STICKS Spread the peanut butter into each rib, filling to the sides but not overflowing or mounding in the center. Cut each rib into lengths. Grate a carrot onto a cutting board, stir in a few sesame seeds. Dip each length into the carrot-sesame seed mixture.
MAKE AHEAD Can be made two to three hours in advance, just cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
The recipe specified "natural" peanut butter, that's the unsweetened stuff and I happened to have some on hand, so used it. But y'know, after 50+ years of being a peanut butter fiend, I miss the sweetness. So I started with 4 tablespoons of natural peanut butter, then added a tablespoon of my favorite Trader Joe's chunky peanut butter. Perfect. But for you? Adjust to your own taste.
If you're going to plate the celery, cutting a sliver off the rounded side of the celery creates a flat surface that won't wobble all over a plate.
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