Fresh peanuts — a member of the bean and pea family and commonly known as a nitrogen-fixing legume crop — grow in quite a different fashion than most of their counterparts.
Unlike fresh green beans and crisp sweet sugar snap peas that are developed above ground and emerge from the petite flowers, fresh peanuts come from a network of roots below the soil.
Unearthed this time of year as a fresh product, the outer shells have yet to fully cure, and the edible seeds within this crop deliver a crunchy, yet slightly moist, finish. Texturally reminiscent to that of fresh coconut, these fresh peanuts are a rare find that are only available for a limited window this time of year.
The flavor of fresh peanuts is much milder than those which have been roasted and/or salted, or even raw but have had time to fully cure.
Enjoyed when tossed in a salad, in steamed rice or in an Asian style pasta dish, fresh peanuts can be consumed right out of the shell, or slightly warmed in an array of dishes.
This week I incorporated my fresh peanuts into a stir-fry, with all ingredients sourced from the Her Family Farm at the Saturday Santa Barbara farmers’ market.
Chinese long beans, elongated eggplant, sweet potato, Thai basil, and Italian frying peppers are all cooked together with my fresh shelled peanuts. The ingredients are tossed in a soy-sweet chili sauce to tie it altogether.
You can serve these peanuts over steamed rice, cooked soba noodles or all on their own.
Fresh Peanut Stir-Fry
4 tablespoons sesame oil
1 medium sweet potato, cleaned and cut into half inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh peanuts, pods discarded
2 Chinese eggplants, cut in half lengthwise and cut into half-inch pieces
1 bunch Chinese long beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound Italian frying peppers, topped and seeds shaken out as much as possible (can also just leave whole and eat them off them stem after cooked)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1 cup loose Thai basil leaves, can chop but I usually leave whole
In a wok or large sauté pan, turn to high heat and add 2 tablespoons of your sesame oil. Add sweet potato and cook for about 2 minutes. Then add peanuts, eggplant, long beans and peppers. Drizzle top with remaining sesame oil and toss well. Continue to cook for about 5-6 minutes, tossing regularly.
Then add soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and toss well. Cook until all ingredients reach desired tenderness. Turn off heat, toss in basil and serve.
Yield: Serves 2.