That's Nuts

A weekly dose of nutty history, pop culture, and recipes from Lee Zalben, aka The Peanut Butter Guy.

That's Nuts: A Nutty Alternative to Roux

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What turns a boring broth into an exciting soup or stew? Usually it's the chopped veggies, meat, herbs, spices, and noodles that you add to it. But don't forget about the broth itself! Thickening it adds more body, texture, and flavor to your soup.

You can thicken a broth by cooking something starchy, like noodles, rice, or potatoes in it. Some people add plain flour, and some cook up a roux (flour and butter, sautéed together in a pan) to thicken their soups. But there's a simpler and, some might say, healthier way to thicken a soup—nut butters!

Ground peanuts have been added to soups in South America and Africa for centuries. Innovative Italians have used ground pignoli or pine nuts in a myriad of dishes. Many a French chef has won acclaim for their chestnut purees. Native Americans tribes from California were even known to have used ground dried acorns in their soups.

Enter almond butter to the soup thickening world. It's an excellent choice because the flavor accentuates others without taking over. Don't get me wrong, I love soups and stews thickened with peanut butter—but they often taste, well, peanut buttery. If you're looking for a thickener that adds protein and body to your soup without stealing the show, almond butter might be for you.

Do you add ground nuts or nut butters to your soups or stews? Got any delicious combinations?

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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