When I saw that Cathy at My Little Kitchen had chosen beans (or, more specifically, legumes) as the featured ingredient for this round of Is My Blog Burning?, I was flooded with ideas. Hummus? Black bean quesadillas? Dal? Roasted chickpeas? Panzanella? As a near-vegetarian and a poor student, I rely on beans as a cheap, delicious protein source, so I make all of these dishes regularly. I have also been planning to create my own recipe for casado, the dish of black beans and rice (with assorted sides) that I was served every day of my recent trip to Costa Rica.
Then, just a few days ago, I treated myself to a cheap lunch at a local sandwich joint, and skeptically ordered something called spicy Thai peanut and black bean chili. It was rich and zingy, wholesome and surprising. I decided to recreate it as closely as possible for IMBB?
I started by examining recipes for groundnut stew and West African peanut soup in Sundays at the Moosewood Restaurant, but the final product has only a few elements in common with Moosewoos recipes. You will see that this recipe is highly improvisational, with amounts listed very approximately. I tossed this dish together from ingredients on hand, taking mental notes as I went.
I admit to being startled at the resemblance of the finished dish to that yummy, exotic, but comforting chili I was served earlier in the week. And with two legumes, this soup is doubly qualified for this edition of IMBB! Thanks, Cathy, for spurring me to give this a try!
Thai peanut and black bean soup
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 large white potato, diced (I used Yukon Gold)
1 sweet potato, diced (I used leftover roasted slices of sweet potato,
chopped and added with the soup stock))
1 medium carrot, sliced (I used a handful of baby carrots, sliced)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red chile, seeded and chopped fine *
2 teaspoons Massaman curry paste
4 cups mild vegetable stock
1 tablespoon vodka
3/4 cup natural (or old-fashioned) peanut butter
3 cups cooked black beans
water as necessary
* I don’t know the variety of chile I keep on hand, but they are the long, slim, ferocious kind that are sometimes served in Kung Pao dishes. They are known in my family as “the little red pods of death.” Dried chiles would work well, too, I suppose.
Heat a large pot over medium heat; add 1 – 2 teaspoons oil. Add onions, sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, and sweat until just translucent. Add potatoes (white and sweet) and carrots; cook until a golden fond develops on the bottom of your pot. Add ginger, garlic, and chile. Saute until fragrant, 2 -3 minutes, deglaze with vodka. Cook off the alcohol for a minute or two, and add vegetable stock, scraping pan to loosen fond.
Turn down heat to low; cook until potatoes soften. Stir in peanut butter. You may like to thin it first with a small amount of water or stock, which reduces clumping, but I hate to dirty an extra dish and prefer to stir like crazy, so I plunk the peanut butter right into the pot. Add black beans. Taste for seasoning: you may prefer more salt, or some hot sauce. If the soup is thick and lumpy, thin down with water.
Serve hot, topping each dish with cilantro and scallion. These additions are not garnishes, but legitimate ingredients making enormous contributions to the flavor of the dish. Lime wedges to squeeze over the soup would be zingy and refreshing, too, although I did not have any.
The restaurant served this with fresh tortilla chips, which complemented the silky texture of the peanut broth and the chunkiness of the vegetables. Tonight, I ripped open a bag of Goya brand garlic cassava chips to serve on the side. Delicious!
Another time, I think I would add some diced green chiles and maybe some tomato paste to the last stage of the saute, for an extra burst of flavor.