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West African Peanut Stew September 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 4:41 am

Although it is still sweltering here, I’ve got a few soups lined up in my cooking queue.

To start, I needed some veggie stock. Although it’s pretty much the easiest most non-recipe requiring thing in the world, I took a note from Jacques Pepin and tossed together 10 cups of water with 4 chopped carrots, 3 celery stalks, 2 chopped onions, a few chopped cloves of garlic, a handful of parsely, 1T herbs de provence, and eventually some salt and pepper. This delicious stock boiled softly for about an hour and was ready to go.

Since we don’t have compost currently, my new plan is to keep all veggie scraps in a bag in the fridge and boil some stock once a week. Super easy to do, and as long as you’ve got the carrot/celery/onion combo you are good to go. And all three veggies have good shelf life so this is really cheap and easily done in any house.

I made this soup from the New York Times, with a few modifications (substituting some neglected heirloom tomatoes for plum tomatoes, spinach for kale). After eating the finished product (and it’s great), I think it would great with some shredded chicken. In fact, the chicken could easily be left out to make a great, hearty vegan soup.

  1. Cook 1 chopped onion, a few cloves garlic, 1T minced ginger in 2T corn oil until onions are clear.
  2. Add in 1/2 pound chopped chicken and cook for a few minutes.
  3. When chicken has cooked around edges (don’t need to cook all the way out, plenty of simmering time to go!), add in 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper.
  4. Bring 6 cups veggie stock (or water will do) and 1 pound sliced yams to a boil, then reduce heat to a soft boil.
  5. Throw in about 2 tomatoes, cored and chopped and a bunch of spinach (or shredded kale or collareds), simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. Mix in 1/4 cup peanut butter, plus some, to taste.
  7. Eat with crusty bread. Feel very satisfied with yourself:

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ajo blanco! September 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crankychef @ 2:13 am
Tags: , , , ,

I haven’t posted since early summer, before I took a trip to Spain that was culinarily amazing.  Since then I haven’t been cooking too much because I moved into a new place (with a beautiful antique Wedgewood oven that is crankier to deal with than even myself) and have been working, frankly, too much to cook at the end of the day.

I made some gazpacho when I got back. It was the worst. I felt discouraged.

Today, I have made up for that loss. I made a nice ajo blanco, essentially a white gazpacho of bread, almonds, and garlic. Given my recent kitchen failures, I didn’t want to curse myself by taking photos of the process, so instead I have the finished soup (which looks, frankly, like milk).

This is so simple. I’ve never actually had this dish before so I have no clue whether it is authentic tasting or not, but I am happy with it:

Soak chunks of crustless baguette (~3 cups / 1 baguette) in cold water for 5-10 minutes. While soaking, make an almond powder (ideally, a flour) with 1 cup blanched almonds. You can blanch them yourself by quickly immersing in boiling water, then submerge in cool water and remove the hulls. But I used slivered, blanched almonds which cost just as much without the work. Combine almond flour with 2-3 cloves garlic and 1/2 t salt in a mortar and pestle. Don’t got one? Do your best with a glass and ceramic bowl. Ideally, you should create a paste. I absolutely did not, and this came out fine. By the time you are done mashing, your bread is all soaked and you should squeeze all the excess water out of it, and blend to a paste in a food processor. Then add the almond-garlic paste to the bread and blend. Then add about 1/3 cup olive oil, blending in slowly. Blend in about a cup of chilled water. At this point you should have a nice milky soup, add up to 1T sherry or white wine vinegar and up to 1/2 cup more chilled water to taste. Chill for at least an hour. Serve with homemade croutons (from the cut-off crusts!) and some grapes, melon, or other mild summer fruit.

The recipe above will yield about 4 cups of soup total. The soup is light and refreshing, but also quite rich. At first bite I thought the 3 cloves of garlic were in fact too much, but after a few bites the flavor mellowed significantly. A small bowl was perfect with our dinner, accompanied by an olive plate, green salad, lamb mint sausage, and labneh.

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