Sunday, February 23, 2014

West African "Peanut" Soup (with Tahini)


It's been a few weeks since I've been able to tinker around in the kitchen thanks to a busy February that is just flying by.  Even though Chicago temperatures are supposed to be in the teens tomorrow, last week's rain followed by this weekend's abundant sunshine are surely signs that we'll all come crawling out of the woodwork soon enough.  

So tinker I have.  I decided to formalize a somewhat bizarre flavor mixture that I've been concocting the last few months by adding tahini to spicy udon noodles coated in chili paste.  I really like the richness of the tahini with the chili, kind of a more intense version of pad thai.  I know, it sounds like something only pregnant women would eat in the middle of the night.

When I came across a recipe for West African Peanut Soup, I immediately went for an adaptation of my new guilty pleasure by first replacing the peanut butter with tahini, and serving it with rice noodles.  The result is sort of a fusion between the West African and Thai dishes, but with a sesame rather than peanut base.  I had a little bit of trouble emulsifying the tahini paste with the broth of the soup, and I'm not sure if this was a unique problem for tahini versus peanut butter.  I didn't find it to affect the texture of taste at all, so ignore the "graininess" of the images.  Feel free to try a more traditional recipe for West African Peanut Soup that uses unsalted peanut butter.  It can be served with rice, or no starchy side at all.  I did serve up a bowl over rice, but found I much preferred the more substantive noodle texture with the creaminess of the soup.

Ingredients (makes 5-6 servings):
recipe adapted from Cookie + Kate
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 3/4 cup tahini paste (or unsalted peanut butter)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup collard greens, roughly chopped (or kale)
  • 2 tbsp. sriracha or chili paste
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup rice noodles or basmati rice for serving
  • peanuts for garnish

In a large pot bring the 6 cups of stock to a boil.  Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger and salt, and cook for 20 minutes.
In a large, heat-proof bowl, combine the tahini and tomato pastes.  Ladle in about 1 cup of hot broth, and stir to combine.  Add the mixture to the pot of stock to combine completely.  If this doesn't seem thick enough for you, repeat the process again with more tahini and tomato paste.  The broth will also thicken as it simmers.
Stir in the chili paste and collared greens and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.  Serve over noodles or rice.


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