A few of my closest relatives have an old family friend that was born in the Caribbean and makes an awesome peanut soup. I’ve heard about it at least three times. They talk about how amazing it is, how their friend is a chef, and how wonderful it is that it’s made from scratch – without a recipe. And yet, it’s so good.
They’ve tried to duplicate it time and again, but it never turns out. Somehow, it’s never right – no matter how much peanut butter is added or salt or…
I’m sure you have those moments, those connections with people that just seem to make it work, and yet… so unexplainable. They make that beautiful meal – so flawlessly, so… without effort. The key is: there is effort. And, they have figured “it” out. The recipe doesn’t need to be written down, because it’s been practiced time and again, over and over. It’s been perfected.
To be even more intense: I’m learning through this road trip that life is like that. That, people – individuals within a community – have learned that fine art of flawless effort and ease and practice. And meal-making. They’re in the career of perfecting “it,” of attempting to figure “it” out – a frustrating dance with choice and art and time.
Preparing this recipe reminded me of childhood days of helping my mom in the kitchen – making biscuits or gravy or stock. Poaching pears, rolling cookies, testing oil for frying. Sounds like life in the Southern US, right? It should, because it was. I grew up in Louisiana, making roux my mother’s way and stirring flour in a hot pan until it turned a deep shade of brown. It was a fine art of practice and patience and wrist dexterity.
Since then, my cooking style has simplified to include a more subdued palette – one that (hopefully) draws out the individual tastes of each item added and relies on their influence and texture to create a dish; a meal. Although this recipe isn’t quite as complex as roux-making, I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless. Bon appetit!
Cilantro-Kale Soup with Carrot and Peanut Butter Puree
For the base of the soup:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup white (or sweet) onion
1 cup kale stems
3 fresh garlic cloves, smashed flat and diced
a pinch crushed red pepper
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed and thinly sliced (entire bunch: stems plus leaves)
1 and 1/2 cups water, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
For the puree:
3/4 cup peanut butter
2 cups roasted carrots
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups water, divided
salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Place a large saucepan (or small stockpot) over medium heat. Add oil and onion and sauté until tender and slightly golden brown. Add kale stems, garlic, crushed red pepper, and 1 cup water. Cover pot with lid and cook until water has evaporated and kale stems are tender. Add paprika, cilantro, and 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook until water has evaporated (at least 95%). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Next, place peanut butter, carrots, cumin, cinnamon, and two cups water into a blender. Pulse or *blend* until smooth. Add remainder of water and continue pulsing/blending until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into soup base in large sauce pan. Heat on low until warmed through and serve.
Note: like most soups (and – tomato-based sauces), although this can be served immediately, it tastes better if served a day after it is prepared.
Makes: 4 servings