Sunday, March 29, 2009

i'll take any excuse

two wednesdays ago,
i fell victim to
a common problem
i like to call:
forgot to watch the weather
a sin amidst the global
warming crisis,
which demands - in addition
to caring more about our 
environment - constantly
staying closely acquainted
with the local meteorologist.

i was wearing a zip-up
hoodie, which the day
before would have been fine,
but that day, so warm that
even sitting inside was 
unbearable, made
me want to 
unzip and remove
the hot and oppressive
shirt (at work) and
spend the rest of the 
day in a tank top.

it was horrible. 
but as i drove home -
the offending straitjacket
thankfully strewn on the 
passenger seat beside me -
i thought,
spring is here.

but i was wrong.
as much as we want to 
fight it and get excited
when we wake up to birds
chirping, as they occasionally
have been, or see gorgeous
yellow daffodils in the store,
or slip on our 
faithful flip-flops,
we can't. 
because there are still days
like today, when it is cold,
raining and so foggy,
we can barely see the building
across the street.

and while i'm unbelievably
anxious to stop wearing my
coat, i'm thankful for one
thing that this prolonged
winter gives us: soup.

i love big pots of
anything that comes
together to be warm and
comforting and is even 
better when made a day
ahead - perfect in my book.

african peanut soup
is one of my favorites,
one of the few recipes that
i've repeated year after year,
shared container-fulls 
with my mom,
and frozen into perfect
one-person servings
for easy lunches.

and very familiar,
onion and red pepper
provide the base for 
this tomato soup.
it is fortified with
a large handful
of brown rice,
which adds some
needed heft.

and just when you
start to think,
this is thinner
than i would prefer,
you stir in 
the secret weapon,
chunky peanut butter.

the peanut butter
helps thicken
the soup.
but it also
gives the tomatoes 
an underlying
that while may
sound odd,
is entirely welcome.

i'm sure
you could use smooth peanut 
to just as good
but i like the crunch
and texture that the
bits of nuts 
add to the mixture.

together the tomatoes and 
peanut butter
fuse into an unexpectedly
successful meal - 
a real meal, not just
an appetizer or first
course - that i often
taste and day-dream
about in the days before
simmering up a new batch.  
and that, i believe is the hallmark
of a good recipe, and why i return
to this faithful standby
time and time again.

sure, you can hold onto
the recipe until
next year.
wait until it is truly
not spring hiding
behind the cold.
but i really believe
that a few spoonfuls of this
will make you feel
better about the 
fact that, in this house 
at least, we're all 
still wearing
heavy socks.
winter coats.
on top of our
zipped-up hoodies.
african peanut soup
over the years, i've tinkered with this recipe, originally found here. that's the great thing about soups, you can easily adapt them to whatever you have in your kitchen or to better suit your tastes. i've made batches without the red peppers, added sweet potatoes and once, pureed the whole thing before adding the rice and peanut butter. also like most soups, the flavor thrives when prepared a day or two ahead of when you plan to enjoy it.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 can (28 ounce) crushed tomatoes, with liquid
8 cups chicken stock
15 grinds fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 cup brown rice
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

in large saucepot over medium heat, warm olive oil. add onion and red pepper and cook 15 minutes, or until slightly caramelized, stirring often. add garlic and cook 2 minutes. season with kosher salt. add tomato paste; increase heat to high. cook 1 minute, or until tomato paste has deepened to rust color, the vegetables are coated and you can smell the paste. add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, pepper, chili powder and cayenne pepper. over high heat, bring mixture to a boil. reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered 30 minutes.  

stir in brown rice; cover and simmer 30-45 minutes, or until rice is tender. whisk in peanut butter until completely blended (it may take some vigorous whisking). season with salt and pepper. when ready to serve, divide soup among bowls and top with dry roasted peanuts.


ybf721 said...

Your African Peanut Soup sounds wonderful, did you save me any???

brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
brooke said...

thank you. but no, this time it got us through many meals. next time, there will be a tupperware (probably yours) with your name on it.