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An African peanut soup with the taste of nostalgia

By Joe Yonan
Washington Post
VEGGIES10
DEB LINDSEY - FOR THE WASHINGTON POST
West African Peanut Soup was one of the most popular recipes in the ”Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant” cookbook, published more than 20 years ago; it has been simplified for the updated “Moosewood Restaurant Favorites.”

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  • West African Peanut Soup

    Adapted from “Moosewood Restaurant Favorites: The 250 Most-Requested, Naturally Delicious Recipes From One of America’s Best-Loved Restaurants,” by the Moosewood Collective (St. Martin’s Press, 2013).

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    1 small onion, chopped

    1 small celery stalk, chopped

    1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

    1 tablespoon peeled, grated fresh ginger root

    1 1/2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce, plus more to taste

    12 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces

    1 1/2 cups water

    1 1/2 cups tomato juice, preferably low-sodium

    1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

    2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish (optional)

    1 green onion, white and green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (optional; garnish)

    POUR the oil into a medium soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and salt; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the ginger and Tabasco.

    ADD the sweet potatoes and water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

    ADD the tomato juice and peanut butter. Use an immersion (stick) blender to create a creamy, pureed soup. (If you use a regular blender instead, work in batches and remove the center knob in the lid, placing a paper towel over the opening to avoid splashups. Pour back into the soup pot.)

    STIR in the chopped cilantro and warm through. Taste and add salt and/or hot sauce as needed. Garnish servings with green onions and cilantro leaves and serve hot.

    MAKE AHEAD: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months. Reheat over medium-low heat (defrost first if needed).

    PER SERVING (based on 4): 320 calories; 10g protein; 29g carbohydrates; 20g fat (4g saturated fat); 0mg cholesterol; 390mg sodium; 6g dietary fiber.

    Yield: 4 1/2 to 5 cups (3 to 4 servings).



I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never eaten at Moosewood Restaurant, operated by a 19-person collective in Ithaca, N.Y.

The place has been waving the flag of vegetarianism – in all its tofu-and-brown-rice glory – for some 40 years now. It was advocating for local and organic food long before either idea was fashionable.

Like so many other places with a penchant for natural cooking, Moosewood has felt familiar, though, thanks to the group’s many cookbooks, starting with Mollie Katzen’s 1977 classic, “The Moosewood Cookbook.”

I was 12 when it came out, and in those days I was mostly cooking up chicken-fried steak, so I didn’t pay much attention to what became one of the most popular vegetarian cookbooks of all time.

It was “Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant,” the 1990 cookbook that focused on the restaurant’s weekly ethnic meals, that made its way into my repertoire and introduced me to Sichuan peppercorns, tahini, roti and the like.

Who’d ever heard of peanut butter in soup? West Africans, that’s who. “Sundays at Moosewood” was a primer in global cuisine from a vegetarian (or pescatarian, to be more accurate) perspective.

Now that the collective has another book, “Moosewood Restaurant Favorites” (St. Martin’s Griffin), I paged through to see whether some of my favorites are there.

Sure enough, there was the West African Peanut Soup, slightly simplified. With its layers of spicy, earthy and bright flavors, it’s nostalgic and modern, all in one.

Kind of like Moosewood itself, I realized.

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