Peanut butter does not have the reputation of being the most versatile ingredient. It is most well known for being the star of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ants on a log, and various dessert foods, but I’d like to start this post out with a big thank you to Africa for showing us a side of peanut butter that we’re not used to seeing. A sexy side. A dangerous side. A soup side.
Now, I’m having a bit of trouble gathering my thoughts for this post for several reasons, including:
-It’s Friday night and just hearing the sound of drunk strangers outside my apartment is giving me FOMO
-Sports Center is on on mute in the background and I need to stay up to date on breaking NFL news. Also, they’re interviewing Tom Brady. Lord have mercy.
-I just finished a White Russian that I so classily mixed in a party cup
But despite these distractions, I will bravely press on share with the world wide web my maiden voyage of African soup.
After a fantastically relaxing yoga class on Tuesday night, I hit up the Real Food with my apprentices/guinea pigs, Luebe, Nova, Mel, and my long lost brother Mark Lee. You’ve already heard my lamentations about the grocery store, so I’ll spare you this time. The ingredients for this soup were the easiest to find so far, except for the beans issue that Kim pointed out. I don’t know who has the time or the wherewithal these days to let beans soak overnight, so I opted for canned black beans. Also, the stupid store was out of traditional sweet potatoes so I bought the Japanese kind. Besides the fact that they had an affinity for karaoke and Sailor Moon, I couldn’t really tell a difference from regular sweet potatoes. Because I didn’t have time to find a suitable side dish that I felt was in keeping with the theme of the meal, my crew and I opted for steamed carrots, green bean stir fry, and the very traditional African appetizer of brie cheese and baguette. We also popped open Nova’s finest bottle of red wine to imbibe during the preparation.
Mixing the curry paste and the cinnamon in olive oil produced a positively tantalizing scent that filled my kitchen. Being the envelope pusher that I am, I added extra curry paste to the mixture.
The rest of the recipe was relatively straightforward and went off without a hitch (well, without many hitches). We had a bit of a burning scare which was ameliorated by frantically dumping my glass of wine into the pan to deglaze it and unstick the sweet potatoes from the bottom. Perhaps this cooking blog is teaching us to be innovative and quick on our feet in the face of adversity or danger. Other deviations from the recipe include using chicken broth instead of veggie broth and adding cubed chicken, which I browned in the curry/cinnamon mixture.
As the delicious smelling concoction came to a boil, the creamy, peanuty broth began to thicken with the starch from the potatoes. I gave the soup a generous handful of cilantro which I would have doubled had it not been for Mark Lee’s less than enthusiastic opinion of the greatest herb on Earth (which led me to the conclusion that I distrust anyone that doesn’t like cilantro. And lefties). As the window of my kitchen began to fog up, I wondered how the self righteous blogger that gave us this recipe ever considered this to be a summer soup. I decided that I distrusted her as well.
After a sufficient simmer while the vegetables finished cooking, I ladled up the concoction to myself and my trust critics (Luebe and I added sriracha and extra cilantro, like a boss). My first thought was “good flavor, but the peanut butter is overpowering”. As I pressed on, it began to really take on a thai flavor, somewhat like tom yum kha soup with the creaminess of the peanut butter being reminiscent of coconut milk. My guests seemed to enjoy the soup, especially Nova, whose affinity for peanut butter rivals Jenna’s. When asked to give it a grade, the group unanimously awarded it a solid B. However, as an addendum to this rating, when I brought the soup for lunch the next day everything had jujshed (see definition below) together overnight and gotten more flavorful and spicy. My co-worker, for whom I brought leftovers, said that the soup was “crackin'”. I’m not fluent in ‘hood, but I assume this was a compliment. For this reason, I now give the soup a B+ and will probably make it again. Next time, I will use less peanut butter and more of the original spice mixture.
Overall, this dish was below our level of cooking expertise, but still pretty darn yummy. Looking at these pictures as I post this (it’s now Saturday morning, as I was too tired to be confident that what I was typing was coherent), my stomach is growling and I wish I had a steaming bowl right now. I believe that I’m the only person who’s made this so far, so best of luck to everyone. And Justine, type up your god damn lettuce wraps review – don’t be the weak link on the team.
Peace, Love, and Peanuts,
Jujsh: (v) a Lewis family word that I don’t know how to spell, referring to when ingredients sit for an extended period of time and mingle with each other causing them to become more delicious.