Tuesday, February 12, 2008

CSA week eleven - curried peanut-squash soup

The thought just jumped into my head yesterday: "Doesn't African peanut soup use squash?" and suddenly peanut soup was all I wanted. Even if you can't use squash in it, I was going to make some. As it happens, there are plenty of recipes for peanut soup that call for squash, butternut squash primarily. But a summer squash I've got so a summer squash I'll use.

My next concern was the peanuts. I knew that the peanuts were substituting for something called "groundnuts" and I wondered if there was a better simulation than just stirring in a couple tablespoons of Skippy. A bit of research turned up the fact that peanuts are in fact replacing an ingredient called Bambara groundnuts, but they're doing it in African agriculture. People just like peanuts better as a crop and as an ingredient. Peanuts have even taking over the name; when you're in a West African village market and you ask for groundnuts, you'll get peanuts. I was still confident that a jar of peanut butter wasn't the best substitute and I was fully prepared to mail order some boiled peanuts from South Carolina and make my own non-roasted paste. But, yes, the peanuts are supposed to be roasted. I did learn that the all-natural unsweetened unsalted ground-on-demand peanut butter from the health food store is the closest approximation so I did learn something useful out of all that research.

Most peanut soup recipes use tomatoes or tomato juice or at least salsa, but I've made that sort before and I really don't like the combination. Non-tomato varieties are rare, but I found one I liked the look of here. I'm not sure the curry spices are entirely traditional but what the heck.

I made the recipe as written, but realized too late that the 20 minutes simmering was too much for a summer squash. So I added a cup of bay scallops with the peas to give a similar firm bite to a not-overcooked-squash. The end result is pretty nice with a lot of different interesting flavors playing well together.

You could easily use vegetable broth instead of the chicken to make this a vegan dish. Or add chicken to make it more substantial. Using a citrusy Singapore curry blend instead of a straight Madras mix would be an interesting variation. I might add some chunks of white fish filet to that, too. Now I'm thinking that the Singapore variation would be really good; I'll have to remember that one for next time.

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