Spring has been reticent here in Chicago. With each seasonably warm day comes a discouraging string of unseasonably dark, cold, and windy days. But we must make lemonade out of lemons! And so I’ve come to view the capriciousness of the seasons as a time to continue my hibernation, cooking up big vats of richly flavored soups, ideally full of my favorite winter vegetable – sweet potatoes!
This deceptively hearty soup is in actuality quite light and invigorating, with its abundance of vegetables, deeply layered flavor profile, and decisively spicy kick. It provides you with a cherry little bowl of nutrition, no matter how dour your climate may presently be. I also love it for its vibrantly orange color and ability to rally the spirits on a frigid, gloomy night in April where you find yourself wondering why you’ve chosen to live in a climate where such temperatures dare to show themselves past March.
As always, homemade vegetable stock really does make all the difference. If you can’t find the exquisitely sharp, aromatic wonder that is hot smoked Spanish paprika at your local specialty grocery store, I highly recommend ordering a jar from The Spice House. Their spices are not only fresher than anything you’re likely to find at the supermarket, but also much cheaper.
African Sweet Potato & Peanut Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 massive white onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
5 carrots, chopped
2 massive sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked Spanish paprika
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, plus more to taste
a few grinds of black pepper
15 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock (homemade preferred)
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
a few green onions, chopped
brown rice, for serving
1.) In a large Dutch Oven or pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to take on some color and glaze the pan; 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, and spices. Give everything a few big stirs to evenly coat the vegetables with the spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally .
2.) Add tomatoes and stock and scrape up all of the yummy browned bits from the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes; until vegetables are fork-tender.
3.) Using a potato masher or a large fork, break up as many chunks of sweet potato as you can into smaller bits, giving you a richly textured pot of potato bits.
4.) Increase heat to medium and add the peanut butter. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until peanut butter is thoroughly combined. Serve over brown rice and with green onions sprinkled over the top. As usual, this is even more delightful the next day, when the flavors have had a chance to mesh together and mellow out a bit.