published Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Side Orders: Peanut soup warms soul

What is it about soup that satisfies the soul, warms the toes and takes the chill off of a cold winter evening? All it takes is a few choice ingredients, some heat from the stove and you have it made. It makes a complete meal when served with a salad and a slice of hot garlic bread. Hungry yet?

Years ago, I found a recipe in an old cookbook and brought it back to life. You know the kind of cookbook I'm talking about ... one that you stowed away in favor of new cookbooks with more modern ingredients. But there's nothing better than going to the back of the bookshelf or, in my case, the drawer of an old chest, to find cookbooks with pages crusty from ingredients spilled years ago and never cleaned. Maybe it was some melted butter dripped by accident over the page. Or bacon grease spattered over the binding.

In the case of the old cookbook I pulled from the bottom of the drawer, the page with my favorite soup recipe was smeared with a little peanut butter, most likely, since the recipe for African Peanut Soup was front and center. I can't even tell you the name of the cookbook since the cover has been torn from its plastic binder rings. But I do know the reason for keeping the old rag was none other than this particular recipe. I used to make the soup frequently and took it to work where a few co-workers loved it. I could make it anytime, and we could have it whenever the craving came calling.

The recipe says to use either vegetable or chicken broth, but I always use chicken broth. And it also calls for smooth peanut butter and I always use the crunchy version. I also add some cooked chicken to the mix if I have it. And yes, in case you are wondering, peanut butter and tomatoes do marry very well in this soup.

West African Peanut Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, very finely diced

2 large green peppers, finely chopped

6 large cloves garlic, minced

1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes with juice

8 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup uncooked rice

1 (18-ounce) jar creamy peanut butter

Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, bell pepper and garlic until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, vegetable broth, pepper and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add rice to soup and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 25 minutes, or until rice is tender.

When rice is cooked, whisk in peanut butter, return to a simmer and serve. Garnish with chopped roasted peanuts, if desired. Makes about 8 servings.

I've shown you mine, now will you show me your favorite soup recipe? Shoot me an email, and I'll share it with readers.

If you're planning a Mardi Gras celebration this year, don't forget one of the most beloved foods ... the King Cake. It's a Mardi Gras tradition. And if you give Rembrandt's Coffeehouse an advance call, they'll have one for you, made by hand and ready to take home. Mardi Gras happens Tuesday, and the cakes will be sold through Monday. Bluff View spokeswoman Michelle Kephart suggests calling and placing an order early at 265-5033, ext. 3.

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