Local chefs help PB&J grow up

Jam city fund-raiser shows new ways to use this iconic combo

  • FEA-jamcity16-1

    Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

    Buy This Image

  • When you think of variations on peanut butter and jelly — those two beloved ingredients — you might only debate the merits of a creamy vs. a crunchy spread or consider swapping out traditional grape jelly for strawberry jam.

    But other folks are far more creative with the classic combination.

    And you can sample some of their wares at Jam City, Food for Thought’s biggest fund-raiser of the year, being held 6 to 9 p.m. May 25 at the Huntington Center. It’s a tasting event where many of the area’s most-talented chefs will offer unique dishes using peanut butter and jelly as integral ingredients.

    Food for Thought helps individuals and families who face significant food insecurity. Its mobile pantries deliver to 10 different sites in the region, bringing groceries to those who might not otherwise have access. Clients shop for their own needs from available items, including fresh produce that is often donated by local farms.

    Suya Flank Steak
    Suya Flank Steak

    Food for Thought’s mission and goals are summarized in its vision statement, said Executive Director Jill Bunge: “We envision a Toledo region where the hunger for food, respect, and belonging is met for all people.” Serving people thoughtfully — from considering how best to meet their needs to treating them with kindness — is essential.

    In addition to the mobile pantries, Food for Thought hosts Friday night pb&j-making sessions each week from 6 to 7 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 316 Adams St. Volunteers pack the sandwiches into lunch bags along with snacks, chips, fresh fruit, and cookies. The next morning, the organization’s representatives and volunteers distribute the sack lunches to people in the downtown area. Food for Thought prepares 16,000 of these lunches each year.

    And it is those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that serve as the inspiration for Jam City, billed as a “gourmet pb&j party.”

    Participants for 2017 include 7 Little Cupcakes, Adams Street Café, All Crumbs Artisan Bakery, Balance Pan-Asian Grille, Cocina de Carlos, Deet’s BBQ, Dégagé Jazz Café, El Tipico Restaurant, The Flying Joe, Granite City Food and Brewery, Macs N’ Melts, Maddie and Bella Coffee Roasters, Manhattan’s Pub ‘n Cheer, Registry Bistro, Revolution Grille, Rosie’s Italian Grille, Swig, and the Original Sub Shop and Deli.

    A few of the creations being planned: BPBJ Waffle (bacon and peanut butter waffle with raspberry jelly) from Fowl and Fodder, a vegetarian burger with peanut butter jam and a chicken burger with bacon jam from Pam’s Corner, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sushi Rolls from Fusion, and Pulled Pork Peanut Butter Molé Nachos with Bacon and Date Jam from Ye Olde Durty Bird. 

    The rest of the menu is a secret.

    “A lot of other folks are keeping their lips sealed” to retain an element of surprise, Ms. Bunge said. 

    “This is the most restaurants we’ve had,” she said, with 21 entrants vying to be Grand Jam-pion. The winner of the People’s Choice Award will earn a glass trophy created by Firenation Glass of Holland.

    This is the group’s fifth annual fund-raiser and its tenth anniversary.

    “Jam City will be the official birthday of Food for Thought,” Ms. Bunge said.

    Tickets for Jam City cost $40 and are available at or by calling 419-972-0022.


    Suya Flank Steak

    This has a bit of a kick. Tone down the chilies and red pepper flakes, as desired.

    2 flank steaks, about 8 ounces each

    1/​8 cup Suya Spice Rub (see recipe below)

    Additional fresh seasonings:

    2 tablespoons peanut or sunflower oil

    1 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated

    3 minced garlic cloves

    Sprig of thyme, leaves picked

    For pan:

    1 teaspoon peanut or sunflower oil

    Garnish: chopped roasted peanuts, chopped hot green chilies, chopped cilantro, pinch of red pepper flakes

    Place the steaks into a dish.

    Mix the Suya Spice Rub with the additional fresh seasonings in a bowl. Add the mixture to the steak dish and rub into the meat evenly. Cover the dish with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight.

    Take the meat out of the fridge and leave it to return to room temperature for a few minutes while you heat a griddle pan over a high heat until very hot. Brush the pan with the 1 teaspoon peanut or sunflower oil.

    Add the steak to the griddle pan — it should sizzle on contact — and cook without disturbing it for 2 minutes, allowing it to sear evenly, then flip and repeat. (If you move the meat around during the cooking process, it will be likely to stick to the pan and won’t cook evenly.) Continue cooking meat until done to your liking.

    Remove the steak from the pan and leave to rest for 2 to 3 minutes before serving, garnished with the peanuts, chilies, cilantro, and red pepper flakes.

    Yield: Serves 2

    Source: Adapted from Zoe Adjonyoh, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen


    Suya Spice Rub

    “Suya is the king of spice rubs in Ghana, the flavouring of choice for the hugely popular street-food style of cooking on open charcoal grills,” writes Zoe Adjonyoh. “You can use this mix to marinate any meat or seafood of your choice before barbecuing or grilling.”

    5 1/​2 to 7 ounces smooth peanut butter

    2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

    1/​2 teaspoon smoked paprika

    1 teaspoon ginger

    1 teaspoon nutmeg

    1 teaspoon garlic powder

    1/​2 teaspoon cloves

    1/​2 teaspoon cinnamon

    1 teaspoon salt

    Mix all the ingredients for the spice rub together in a bowl. Store in the refrigerator.

    For up to 1 pound meat or seafood, use 3 to 4 tablespoons of the mix as a rub.

    Yield: About 1 cup

    Source: Adapted from Zoe Adjonyoh, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen


    Warm Couscous Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette
    Warm Couscous Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette

    Warm Couscous Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette

    This recipe was adapted from one originally published in Real Simple magazine.

    1 1/​2 cups vegetable broth

    1 tablespoon unsalted butter


    1 10-ounce box couscous

    6 tablespoons apricot jam

    4 1/​2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

    Freshly ground black pepper

    2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped

    2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

    1/​3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

    Bring the broth, butter, and 1/​4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium pot. Add the couscous and stir. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and remove from the heat. Let sit 5 minutes, then fluff the couscous immediately with a fork so it doesn't clump together.

    In a small bowl, whisk together the apricot jam, olive oil, white wine vinegar, 1/​4 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Add about three-quarters of the vinaigrette to the couscous and stir to combine. Taste and add the remaining vinaigrette, little by little, if necessary (you may not need it all). Be sure to add all the little chunks of apricot from the vinaigrette, as they tend to settle at the bottom of the bowl.

    Stir in the scallions, parsley, and sliced almonds. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or room temperature.

    Yield: 4 to 6

    Source: Adapted from Jennifer Segal,


    Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge
    Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

    Peanut Butter and Jelly Fudge

    1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk, divided

    1/​4 cup creamy peanut butter

    3 cups white baking chips, divided

    1/​3 cup finely chopped dry roasted peanuts

    1/​8 teaspoon almond extract

    3 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam

    1/​4 teaspoon lemon juice

    Few drops red food coloring

    1 drop blue food coloring

    Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Coat with no-stick cooking spray.

    Heat 2/​3 cup sweetened condensed milk and the peanut butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, just until beginning to bubble. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup white chips, mixing until melted and smooth. Stir in peanuts and almond extract. Spread evenly in prepared pan. Chill 1 hour or until firm.

    Heat remaining sweetened condensed milk, jam, lemon juice, and food coloring in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, just until beginning to bubble. Remove from heat. Stir in the remaining white chips, mixing until melted and smooth. Spread evenly over peanut butter layer. Chill 1 hour or until firm.

    Remove from pan using edges of foil. Fold down foil from sides of fudge. Trim 1/​4-inch from the edges of the fudge, then cut into squares. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

    Yield: 36 pieces

    Source: Adapted from

    Contact Mary Bilyeu at
 or 419-724-6155 or on Twitter @BladeFoodPage.