Sometimes the only way to start something is … just to start. So here we are — starting up the kitchen with a pot of soup. I haven’t written my bio or said what Dr. Jenny’s Kitchen is about or taken the requisite photos of this soup in process. But I made it, wrote down my recipe, and have been eating a lot of it. This blog has to begin, and this is the beginning … of healthy food to make you feel good — and a whole lot more. Here we go!
… A while back I lived for a few years with a bunch of good folks at Tree Toad Farm in the hills of Western Massachusetts. I did a good deal of the cooking for the eight of us Toads and whoever else happened to be passing through the kitchen. In the colder months this meant there was always a big pot of soup on the stove. The co-op down the road served an “African Peanut Soup” that everyone loved. This was my version that became an instant hit on the farm. It’s really filling, warming on a cool day, and has a wonderful balance of flavors. My nephew, Jed, age 8, gobbles up this soup! (Don’t be daunted by all the ingredients — it does not take long to make.)
PEANUT SOUP (a la West Africa and Western Massachusetts)
- 1 large onion
- 6 cloves garlic (or more!)
- 2-3 inch chunk of fresh ginger root
- 4 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 red bell pepper (or any color)
- 14 oz. can garbanzo or kidney beans (or ones you’ve cooked yourself)
- 1 cup chunky peanut butter (no sugar added!)
- 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 1 cup approximately of shredded, cooked chicken or diced tofu (optional)
- 6 oz. baby spinach or other tender leafy greens (You can put in much more than the standard 6 oz. bag, of course! This is the bare minimum for greens. And it’s also just fine to use frozen spinach.)
- Vegetable or chicken broth of any kind (see note below)
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- juice of one lime
- Tamari or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (see below)
Dice the onions, garlic & ginger or just whiz them all in a food processor. (First peel the onions and garlic of course, but no need to peel the ginger.) Saute these until soft in the coconut oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. While this is happening, chop your sweet potatoes into bite-sized chunks. Toss cumin and curry powder into the pot, and give a stir to roast the spices just a bit. (If you like things spicy, add a bit of whatever kind of chile you like.) Now put in the chopped sweet potatoes and enough chicken or vegetable broth to cover. Add the coconut milk. Simmer the sweet potatoes until tender. While they’re cooking, roast your bell pepper by putting it directly on the burner and turning carefully. Either an electric or gas stove will work for this. Just DO NOT WALK AWAY while your pepper is roasting. You can skip this step, but I like the smoky flavor it adds. You just want the skin charred a tiny bit. When it’s cool enough to handle, remove the seeds and chop.
Once the sweet potatoes are soft, add the beans and chicken or tofu, chopped bell pepper, tomatoes and peanut butter. Stir to make sure any stubborn lumps of peanut butter are mixed in. Mush them against the side of the pot with the back of your spoon. At this point you will probably want to add some water until the soup is the consistency that you want. When the soup has heated up again, simmer just for a few minutes and then turn off the heat. Stir in spinach and chopped cilantro, Cover the pot so the greens wilt. Now add lime juice and Bragg’s to taste.
* A note on broth. Use whatever you have!! If you are making your own bone broth or vegetable stock – fantastic! If you have canned broth or bullion cubes in the cupboard, those are okay too. If you need to use plain old water, just do that and add a bit more spice if you want. The key is to make the soup here, however it gets done!
** A note about Bragg’s Liquid Aminos … I don’t know how long Bragg’s has been around, but I can’t remember a time without the big bottle with the yellow & red label sitting handy, next to the stove. There is something about Bragg’s that I find indispensable in many soups and stir-frys. It seems to have just the right “darkness” to balance out the “brightness” of lemon juice, tomato, and vinegars. Bragg’s is made from soybeans, and soy sauce or tamari are acceptable alternatives, but I find them saltier and somehow more aggressive in flavor. You can also just use salt! But be forewarned … it might not be the same without Bragg’s …