For a college student of middle American, meat-and-potato origins, learning vegetarian cooking in the 1980s was like traveling to another country. Peanut butter was a culinary mode of transportation, a bridge to other cultures.
Peanut butter is ridiculously pedestrian, and feels like a wholly American ingredient — it even had its own mythology. Yet it underwent a revelatory transformation when paired with ginger, garlic, and peppers.
I can’t remember the first time I made a recipe like this, but it was surely in my collegiate Co-op House, and variations on the theme became a regular for the next 15 years. I think it first got sidelined by picky young eaters, but later I ignored it because of its intricate pairing with nightshade peppers.
In fact, it had pretty much faded into memory until I was browsing Caroline’s No Nightshade Kitchen and looking for inspiration. My daughter happened to be looking over my shoulder at the recipes under consideration, and she wanted the peanut soup. So off we went. It has fast become a house favorite.
My version compared to Caroline’s utilizes several of the rare Nightshade ingredients that I highlight in this post about essential ingredients for no nightshade cooking. Subtract the greens, the Grains of Paradise, the Indian long pepper, and the Beetuto and you’ll more or less have Caroline’s recipe. (It is tasty all by itself, but she did tell me to “make it my own!”)
- oil for sauté
- one medium yellow onion chopped roughly
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 rib celery
- two carrots, grated or thinly sliced
- 1 sweet potato, grated or thinly sliced
- 3/4 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
- 3/4 teaspoon Indian long pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon dried ginger powder
- 4 cups vegetarian stock or water
- 1/2 cup Beetuto
- 1/2-3/4 cup peanut butter
- 1 bunch of greens, preferably collard, chopped into spoon-sized bits
- salt to taste
1Prepare your veggies. Everything but the greens are going through a blender, so it doesn’t have to be pretty. Wash your carrots and sweet potatoes well. Remove blemishes and gnarly bits, but otherwise leave the skins on.
2Grab a soup pot with a thick enough base to allow a sauté without risk of burning. Add the onion and the celery to your oil. After five minutes or add the garlic and ginger. Once this mixture is translucent, add carrots and sweet potato.
3Stir fry for a few minutes, until you get behind on the moisture and the veggies begin to stick. Turn down the heat so there is no risk of burning, then add the spices, the Beetuto, and half of the liquid. Bring to a simmer and cover, cooking on low until the largest chunks are soft and squishable by a fork. Because veggies can vary in moisture content, keep an eye that your pot is not running dry or too hot.
4Put the other two cups of water or stock on to boil and toss in the chopped collard greens. Cover and simmer until the texture is right. (Collards can vary re necessary cooking time, so check to make sure they match your desire. Turn them off a few minutes before perfection.
5When the vegetable blend is tender, add the peanut butter and process using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender. I like the mixture silky smooth. Return to your soup pot. Add the greens and the liquid they cooked in to the pot. Bring to a brief simmer to pull the dish together, adding salt and liquid to your desired specifications.
If you don’t have stock or bouillon, add an extra celery rib, carrot, and a bit more onion to your veggie mix.