Sunday, January 25, 2009
Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup
Once upon a time, in the good old days before ginormous chain stores choked the life out of small local businesses, we had a great independent bookstore in our town, which was for years our go-to place for birthday gifts, holiday shopping, or just killing a little time. Besides the acres and acres of reading material, there was the added attraction of breakfast, lunch or dinner at their charming cafe, where you could sit down, rest your feet, pore over your new books and eat something yummy, like their signature African Peanut Soup. Now, there are lots of recipes for peanut soups out there, in cookbooks and on the interwebs, but their rendition was particularly spicy and delicious, and (as a purely aesthetic bonus) was always served in those thick, old-fashioned mugs that you find in diners.
Recently, my dear friend Valerie Clark mentioned how much she missed that soup, and paid me the signal compliment of requesting that I recreate it, which I have in all good faith attempted to do. To begin with, I looked at several different versions, including the one in Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, and went from there, changing up the seasonings and adding some extra vegetables along the way. At the last moment I decided to throw in some greens, which turned out to be a stroke of genius, because A. they add flavor, nutrition, and do really nice things for the texture, and B. I'm obsessed with kale (of course, you can leave it out if you want, but I'll definitely include it in future batches). Also, feel free to add more heat if you want it spicier, especially if you don't have hot chili oil on hand; this came out just about right for us, but everyone's different!
Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup
~ 1 tsp. hot chili oil
~ 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 heaping tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 cups chopped onions
~ 1 cup diced carrot
~ 4 cups diced sweet potatoes (about 2 large)
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh tomatoes (or 1 15 oz. can diced, fire-roasted if possible)
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, curry powder, cumin, thyme, smoked paprika
~ 1/2 tsp. each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
~ 1/4-1/2 tsp. hot sauce or cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ Fresh black pepper
~ 1 cup dry red wine
~ 5 cups vegetable broth
~ 4 thinly sliced scallions
~ 1 cup natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
~ 4 cups chopped kale, spinach, chard or collards (I like kale best)
~ In a large, deep pot, heat the oils and saute the garlic and onions over medium heat for about 3 minutes.
~ Add the carrots, sweet potatoes and seasonings and stir thoroughly. Continue cooking another 5 minutes, adding a splash of water to prevent sticking if necessary.
~ Add the tomatoes and the wine and raise the heat to high, stirring constantly to deglaze the pan.
~ Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until the vegetables are completely cooked.
~ Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender, or transfer in batches to a food processor before returning to the pot.
~ Turn the heat to medium-high, then stir in the peanut butter, scallions and greens. Combine thoroughly and cook another 5-10 minutes, until the greens have wilted, but still retain some of their chewy texture.
~ Enjoy with some nice, crusty bread, a glass of red wine and a good book.
~ NB that this also excellent ladled over grains like rice, millet and/or additional vegetables.