Friday, April 2, 2010

West African Peanut Soup and Banana Fritters

 This meatless, gluten-free dinner is fast, frugal as all get out, and good for you to boot.  The best part about it is that it tastes fantastic.

The Soup:  West African Peanut Soup may be the recipe I have been making longer than any other.  I found it in my early twenties in the Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant: Ethnic and Regional Recipes from the Cooks at the Legendary Restaurant, and I have never looked back.  There is another similar recipe in the same chapter called Groundnut Stew - almost the same ingredients, but chunkier, not pureed.  Kids almost universally love this.  I leave the cayenne called for in the original recipe out, and put a bottle of Tabasco on the table for those who are inclined to spice.  The chives or scallions are also added at the table.

2 cups chopped onions
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
1 cup chopped carrots
2 cups chopped sweet potatoes
4 cups veggie stock, chicken stock, or water
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
salt to taste (how much depends on if your tomato juice was salted - I'd start with a 1/2 teaspoon)
1 cup chopped scallions or chives

1.  Saute onions until just translucent.  Stir in fresh ginger.  Add the carrots and saute a couple more minutes.  Mix in the potatoes and stock or water, bring the soup to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

2.  In a food processor (or, even better, with an immersion blender - man, I want one of those!), puree the vegetables with the cooking liquid.  Return the puree to a soup pot.  Stir in the tomato juice and peanut butter until smooth.  Reheat gently, stirring often.  Add more water, stock, or tomato juice if a thinner soup is desired.  Taste the soup.  Its sweetness will depend on the sweetness of the carrots and sweet potatoes.  If it's not there naturally add the sugar.  Salt to taste - make sure to add enough.  Serve with tabasco sauce and plenty of chopped scallions or chives on the table.

The Fritters:  I'm on a bit of a fritter kick.  It has something to do with this sack of whole grain cornmeal that's been in the freezer for a while - I've almost used it up!  As I've mentioned, I'm trying to use up the contents of the freezer so that I can defrost it and fill it up again this summer.  Cornmeal mixed with stuff and fried - that's a fritter.  The salmon patties I've been making with canned salmon are basically a fritter.  I was planning to make weed fritters this week.  Sounds weird, huh?  Our local food coop gets fresh spring nettles at this time of year that a local person picks, de-thorns, and brings in.  They are supposed to be very healthy and tasty.  I tried to buy some yesterday, but we've been having such stormy weather that it seems the picker hasn't wanted to pick them lately.  You can also make fritters out of dandelion greens, but they didn't have any of those either, and the little yellow-flowered weeds that fill my yard are some other yellow composite, not dandelions.  A dandelion impersonator, I suppose.

With the soup, I decided to make African banana fritters.  I found the recipe on RecipeZaar, my favorite online source for recipes.  These are simple as can be (5 ingredients), and delicious.  I rolled them in cinnamon sugar.  Both my kids, neither of whom likes bananas, loved these.

On bananas:  we don't eat a lot of bananas, because, as I said, my kids don't like them, and we do strive to make foods that must be air-freighted from across the globe an occasional treat.  At this time of year, however, there aren't a lot of fruit choices.  The quality of California citrus and kiwis is declining, so I stop buying them.  California strawberries are becoming available, but they're mostly not very good and I always try (and usually fail) to hold out until we get the first really good ones from our CSA in June.  My husband starts complaining that there is not any fruit to pack for his lunch.  When I ignore him, he eventually goes out and buys his own dang bananas.  So there you have it.  I am a banana nazi, but I try not to get "all hard-core psycho" about it (I saw the phrase "all hard-core psycho" on the blog Chile Chews, and it has become part of my internal dialogue ever since.).  What do you get "all hard-core psycho" about?

This post is linked to Pennywise Platter Thursday at The Nourishing Gourmet.

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  1. I am all over those banana fritters!!! I will make the soup for Rick and I. I have some tomato juice that I just haven't been able to figure out what to do with. (I am not all that into bloody mary's!) The whole things sounds really good together, too.

  2. This is one of my favorite Moosewood recipes, too. Thanks for resurrecting it for me. Alas, I never make it anymore because one of my kiddos doesn't like peanut butter. Did I first have this with you? I need to make this for Thompson & I soon. We both love it. And it freezes well. A farmer's market vendor (Peggy of Macro Mama) makes the most amazing corn fritters. She offers them with a soy ginger dip or a chipotle aioli. Both are fabulous. Corn is not on the kiddos list either, so I have never attempted these. I'm not sure if she uses cornmeal in the fritter or not. They are divine. A favorite GrassRoots Festival food, too.
    Yummy memories, yummy meal. Thanks!

  3. Yum! That soup sounds fabulous, and vaguely familiar... I'm putting it on my meal plan for next week.

    I tend to get "all hard-core psycho" about strawberries. Rebecca loves them, but to buy them before June is just wrong, wrong, wrong.