Senegalese Peanut Soup
July 20, 2010
A few weeks ago I received the triple whammy of birthday presents. Drew surprised me by building me a sturdy kitchen island (the man sure knows the way to my heart), my parents gave me a cherry red immersion blender and Drew’s mom, Debra, gave me a variety box of spices from Penzeys.
If you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to give you this small piece of advice: If you find yourself in a cooking slump, go buy a few fancy spice blends. There’s nothing like some Chinese Five Spice Powder to perk up your stir fries, or a sprinkle of Ground Turkish Sumac Berries to give your toasted pita chips a kick or a dash of Szechuan Roasted Pepper-Salt on some grilled potatoes. A pinch of Vietnamese Cinnamon on your morning oatmeal, perhaps?
Personally, I find myself in some sort of cooking slump at least once a week. At least. The type of slump that results in a weekly bowl of black beans and rice which usually does nothing more for me than kill my hunger. My least favorite type of eating. But last week I discovered that a bit of Ancho Chili Pepper and some Red Chipotle, maybe even a touch of Adobo seasoning for added depth, will bring that meal up to a whole new level. A level of actual taste and flavor.
On top of that monumental breakthrough, I also had an immersion blender to reckon with. I have been blenderless for quite a few months now, but to be perfectly honest, when my blender bit it, I wasn’t actually all that sad. In fact, I was secretly happy. Smoothie making was on hold and obviously I had no way to purée soups, but I did not miss for one second having to clean the thing. Or the whole annoying process of ladling a chunky soup into it, inevitably spilling it over the sides and causing a mess, and doing that over and over until the entire soup is silky smooth. Maybe other people don’t feel such disdain toward a kitchen appliance, but I do. Soup, something so simple and satisfying to make, became a chore.
So whoever the genius is who invented the immersion blender, gets a gold star in my book. Right up there with the creator of the ice cube tray and the shower puff. It is essentially a blade on a stick with a few different speeds and a button. Stick it into a pot of soup or some smoothie fixings, press the button and blend. No ladling, no mess, no fuss. It’s as if it was specifically invented with me in mind.
I was stuck in my cooking comfort zone before these presents arrived at my doorstep, and that’s never a good place to be for very long. Now I find myself looking to the spices first instead of the raw ingredient or wondering what I can blend next. The outcome tends to be similar, but a different approach can make it feel, and taste, brand new.
So allow me to leave you with this recipe. It was the first thing I made with my new blender and spices, despite the southern heat. Isn’t there something about how eating spicy food cools you off? I’m not sure where the recipe came from originally, my mom sent it to me ages ago and told me it was one of the best soups ever. And she’s right, as mothers usually are.
Senegalese Peanut Soup
15 ounce can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken or veggie broth
3 heaping Tablespoons natural creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon peanut oil
2 onions, chopped
1 inch piece of Ginger, peeled and minced
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
A 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
• In a blender or with a trusty immersion blender, combine chickpeas, 1/2 cup broth and peanut butter and blend. Feel free to keep some of the chickpeas whole for added texture.
• In a large pot, heat the oil. Sauté the onions and ginger until onions are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cumin, sauté a minute longer. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups broth, the tomatoes and the chickpea mixture, simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with cayenne and serve sprinkled with cilantro.