Posts Tagged ‘Kwanzaa food’

Year’s End (or Year’s Beginning) Peanut Soup

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008


I don’t see New Year’s Eve as a time for complicated cuisine. (Of course, I don’t actually see ANY holiday as a time for complicated cuisine. I’m a pretty basic cook!) I like to make something simple and spend the evening with friends and family.
It often snows on New Year’s Eve in Hawley, Massachusetts. In fact, it did today! Very small groups gather on my quiet street, grateful for congenial company and a wood stove. And no, we don’t always stay up until midnight. As my mother is wont to say, it’s always nearly midnight SOMEWHERE.
My simple new dish this New Year’s Eve is creamy peanut soup. Peanut soup is a classic dish for Kwanzaa, which ends on New Year’s Day. Like many Kwanzaa dishes and traditions, this soup is part African and part American: although peanuts are native to South America, early Spanish traders took them to Africa, and they returned to the Americas with slaves.
My version of peanut soup is adapted from a recipe from Colonial Williamsburg. It offers just a little spice and makes a cozy supper when served with cornbread near a warm fire.
Happy New Year–and Joyous Kwanzaa!


Creamy Peanut Soup
2 tablespoons sweet butter (plus a bit more if needed)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1-1/2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock, warmed in a saucepan
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1 /2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
3 splashes half and half (about 1/4 cup)
chopped peanuts or crumbled bacon to taste for garnish
In a 4-quart pot, melt the butter. Sauté the onion and celery pieces over medium-low heat and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft (3 to 5 minutes).
Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes more. If the flour begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, add a bit more butter.
Pour in the chicken stock. Turn up the flame, and bring the stock to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to medium, and boil gently, partly covered, until the soup reduces and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the lid from time to time during this process, and stir frequently.
The next step depends on how you feel about the consistency of your soup. Several peanut soup recipes I saw (including the one from Colonial Williamsburg) asked the cook to strain the soup at this point, being careful to extract as much flavorful liquid as possible. If you are set on serving a smooth soup, you can also pulverize the soup carefully in a blender or food processor.
Personally, I rather like having little pieces of food in my soup so I bypassed this step altogether. My friend Raymond tells me that he has tried the soup both ways (he works hard in the kitchen!) and much prefers the blended version so I will probably try that next time, but I enjoyed the soup the way I made it.
Whisk in the peanut butter and the pepper flakes. I found that 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper added a lovely tang to the soup. If you love spice, add more; if you are not a spice person, leave it out. Continue whisking until the peanut butter is mixed into the liquid and the mixture comes just to a boil.
Whisk in half and half to taste, and continue to heat the soup just until it is warm; do not bring it to a boil.
Ladle the soup into bowls, and top with peanuts or bacon. Serves 4.


Our Apple Tree

Hawley on New Year's Eve: Our Apple Tree

Truffle in the Snow
Truffle in the Snow