Week of Soup: Peanuts with a Bite
I realize I wasn’t much of a lean mean posting machine last week. I have a very good excuse for the lag. I was busy preparing for this week. See, this week is one I’ve been anticipating/planning for almost a month and required a little advanced cooking. Now it’s finally time to kick off SFTF’s Week of Soup! And, boy, do I ever have some wing-dinger recipes for you!
My mom got me started (of course) on homemade soup when we used to can our own vegetable soup mix during the summer that then sustained us through the winter. She didn’t have any hard-and-fast recipe. Instead, whatever the garden was producing the most of that year is what inevitably led the chorus of flavors in the soup mix. Surprisingly enough though, my mom rarely made other soups once she had a full larder of the vegetable mix and her other stand-by, chicken corn/noodle. I didn’t care. I never got tired of that vegetable soup!
Once I left home for college and started working in the Allentown Fairgrounds Farmers Market, I took advantage of the “one hour until closing time so everything must go!” frenzy by collecting ever-changing assortments of fresh vegetables and fruits to take back to my roommates and our tiny kitchen. Since many of these vegetables where not the pick of the litter, having sat in the market stalls for three days, I often found myself with a sack of veggies that were in a “do or die” state. I had to do something with them right then and there or toss them in the trash. Since a poor college student never throws food in the trash, I got creative. Soup, my friends, was the answer almost every single time (except for the occasional salsa).
Thus ends the tale of how soup became my “thing”. I quickly learned that just about anything can go into soup once you get the basic concept down. In fact, after I’ve shown you a few tried-and-true recipes, I’m going to take you step-by-step through a challenge I’m issuing to myself. Without going shopping and with no recipe to follow, I plan on making soup at the end of this week with whatever’s left in my kitchen prior to my weekly Friday night grocery run. Should be interesting, right?
For now, I wanted to kick things off with my favorite soup of all time, Georgia Peanut Soup. Coincidentally, I ran into this soup for the first time also during college. There was a great vegetarian café, the Green Café, across the river in Bethlehem that stood in as my dinner spot when I went to listen to the bands at the Fun House. Their peanut soup was amazing. I dutifully asked for the recipe but was told it wasn’t really up for grabs since the cook just made it as she went along. Well, that was cool and all, but didn’t really help me out.
Honestly, I forgot about the peanut soup once I graduated and moved to Philly. That is, until I bought my copy of The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soups and saw what could only be a great starting recipe for my beloved peanut soup. After dabbling with it over the years, I think it’s just about a perfect replica of the Green Café’s version. It packs quite the punch of spicy heat with the rich creamy peanut flavor acting as a nice counterbalance. And of course all that peanut butter makes the soup stick to your ribs.
As with almost all soups, the vegetables in this recipe can be traded out for something similar that you might have on hand. Turnips could work in place of the potatoes, and peas could easily stand in for the corn. Just be sure to use the chunkiest peanut butter you can find and add the chopped roasted peanuts to garnish; there’s just something special about getting those nutty crunchy bites!
GEORGIA PEANUT SOUP
Adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Soup
2 T. peanut oil
1 large onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 t. cayenne pepper
2 bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 c. minced carrots
1 1/2 c. chopped potatoes
3 celery stalks, sliced
3 1/2 c. vegetable stock
7 T. chunky peanut butter
2/3 c. corn kernels
salt and freshly ground pepper
roughly chopped roasted peanuts to garnish
Heat oil in a large soup pot. Once hot, add onion and garlic and cook for three minutes. Add the cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for another minute.
Add the bell pepper, carrots, potatoes, and celery. Season lightly with a little salt and pepper. Stir well and cook for four minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vegetable stock, peanut butter and corn kernels, stirring until thoroughly combined.
Season well with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender. Adjust the seasoning one last time before serving and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.