8-year-old has a way with peanut butter

Staff WriterFebruary 23, 2011 

Margalit Mermelstein of North Raleigh inherited a love for competitive cooking from her prize-winning parents.

Felice Bogus and Robert Mermelstein have filled almost six shadowboxes with ribbons won in cooking contests at the N.C. State Fair. They have won a gas grill, a spa visit and even trips to national cook-offs.

Their 8-year-old daughter has already claimed 10 State Fair ribbons. Now she's guaranteed to make a $2,500 deposit in her college fund as one of five finalists in the Jif's Most Creative Peanut Butter Sandwich contest. In March, Margalit will travel to New York for a judged event, where she will find out whether her Wushu Chicken Tacos will earn her a $25,000 college scholarship.

Asked whether she was nervous, Margalit responded: "Kind of." But minutes later, she makes it clear she's at ease in the kitchen. About the trip to New York, she asked her parents: "Can I bring my own chef's knife?"

Using that 6-inch knife, she practiced her recipe Monday afternoon. She diced roast chicken. She blitzed garlic cloves in the food processor. She puréed spoonfuls of Jif creamy peanut butter, sesame oil, chili paste, water, sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

"Taste it and see what you think," her mother said. "You always have to taste it."

Margalit dipped her spoon into the food processor, took a thoughtful taste and declared: "I like it."

She got the idea for her creation while waiting to eat at a taco truck. After cooking slices of yellow squash in the microwave and pieces of asparagus in a skillet, she assembled the dish: meat and vegetables atop flour tortillas and drizzled with sauce. When her father tried to add more peanut butter sauce, Margalit objected. "Daddy, don't put too much peanut butter sauce," she said.

"Don't mess up the masterpiece," her mom chided.

Note: Margalit's recipe is to the right under Related Content.

andrea.weigl@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4848

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