Peanut Butter Soup

When Amanda first suggested this blog as something for us to do together, despite our distance, I was definitely excited. The next question after “Do we really want to do this?” (which was a resounding “Hell Yes”) was “where do we start?” Amanda and I really seem to bond over our love of flavorful and exotic spices and so we knew we wanted to start with something new. We chose African inspired dishes because it had both a combination of interesting flavor layers and it was certainly a cuisine I had never cooked before so it was something new and exciting with intriguing familiarity.

We chose to do different recipes for this week’s installment as it was a bit last minute and my newly relocated pantry was a bit lacking. While Amanda was able to make a beautiful and interesting Moroccan Chicken, I was looking for something somewhat simple to start with ingredients I had on hand and something on the healthy side (having just moved across country my pants were/still are a bit tight from road snacks). So I decided on a simple, vegetarian Peanut Butter Soup recipe which, although not traditional, is inspired by the West African dish.

I decided to use the recipe adapted from Hurry the Food up at http://hurrythefoodup.com/african-peanut-soup/ however, after 2 harried trips to the crowded grocery store I returned home only to be unloading my groceries from the car and saying to myself disappointedly “tomato paste!” I had forgotten to grab it and I then decided I was going to improvise because I certainly wasn’t going to deal with people any more that day.

So, before I began to cook the actual soup, I had to fashion some tomato paste substitute out of my only tomatoes in the house, a can of diced tomatoes. Apparently to make a workable substitution tomato paste the steps are very simple:

  • One 8 oz can of tomatoes
  • Puree in blender or food processor
  • Cook in a saucepan over medium heat for around 12-15 minutes until liquid is reduced enough that it will not add too much liquid to the dish.

I found that one 8oz can of tomato gave me around 1/4 cup of tomato paste.

Now I was ready to start on the soup, which was quite easy and quite delicious. The recipe on the the website was straightforward. To up the nutrition content, I added a few handfuls of spinach leaves as I ate the leftover portions.

If you have never tated this dish before, it tastes exactly as you wish it would. One giant, steaming bowl of peanut buttery goodness that would be the perfect comfort food for a cold day or really any day.

Wine Pairing:  To combine with the nuttiness in the dish I was craving a white wine tonight, which I can say I have never craved before. Generally I tolerate white wine if it is included in an tasting cases I order. However, tonight I paired this with a chilled Chenin Blanc which provided a light tartness to cut the strong peanutty taste as well as added an extra layer of temperature change.

 

Moroccan Chicken

Here we go with our first distance dinner! For a new adventure, Merideth and I wanted to try a new cuisine: African dishes. Picking this large and varied continent for our first dish also gave us the chance to be creative with our choices. I chose Moroccan Chicken, with warm spices typical to the region. Something I learned from this dish was to read the recipe fully before starting- I showed up late for our Skype date because I didn’t plan for the hour baking time!

Moroccan Chicken

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Ingredients

  • 6-8 chicken thighs
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1 medium sized diced red onion
  • 4 tablespoons Moroccan seasoning blend
  • Dried apricots
  • Raisins
  • salt and pepper to taste

Moroccan Seasoning Mix:

  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cloves

Directions

  1. Heat a large saute pan on high heat with 1 tsp olive oil.
  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, add to hot pan, skin side down, and saute for 3-4 minutes or to a deep golden brown color.
  3. Remove and set aside, place in a crock pot or Dutch oven.
  4. Add onions and garlic to saute pan and saute for 2-3 minutes; add chicken stock and coconut milk and stir.
  5. Whisk in Maverick Moroccan spice and flour, bring sauce to a boil. Add sliced apricots and raisins and pour over chicken.
  6. Place in pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and cook for 1 hour.
  7. When serving, make sure you give everyone some apricots and raisins on top!

(adapted from Blue Canyon Moroccan Chicken)

Wine Pairing: In order to complement the chicken and the exotic spices, I had a delicious Marsanne from my local sustainable winery! A new wine for me for a new recipe.

Verdict:

Delicious! I have a confession: this picture is from when I made the dish a second time! The warm spices are perfect for a cool day.