Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato Peanut Stew

This is a nice, thick, stick-to-your-ribs type of stew that is bursting with flavor.  It is oh so comforting to snuggle up with on a chilly winter night.  The marriage of sweet potato and peanut butter is a match made in heaven and hot green chiles add a good kick.  Most of the sweet potato is blended together with everything else to create a luscious stew, and the last bits of sweet potato are cubed and added at the end to provide unexpected bursts of sweet potato flavor. 

Speaking of sweet potatoes, use the orange variety.  If you’re feeling ambitious, go ahead and roast your sweet potatoes.  If you’re crunched for time (like I always seem to be), wash/scrub your sweet potatoes (don't forget to pierce several times with a fork) and start microwaving them right away.  Then get out the rest of your ingredients and get started on everything else.  You should be able to have the soup ready to eat in about 30 minutes.  Serve with some crusty bread or a simple green salad, and you’ve got yourself a meal.  Oh, lastly,  I like my spicy foods, well, spicy.  If you have a low tolerance for spicy foods, start with just a couple tablespoons of chiles and go from there (or just use mild chiles). 

Spicy Sweet Potato Peanut Stew
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 4oz can diced hot green chiles
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 28oz can tomato sauce
Chopped cilantro for garnish, optional

First, cook the sweet potatoes.  Prick them in several places with a fork and microwave on high until just cooked through, about 7 to 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of water in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, 3 minutes or so.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute more, adding water by the tablespoon as needed to prevent sticking.  Stir in green chiles, ginger, allspice, sea salt and pepper.  Add the peanut butter, then add a little of the vegetable broth at a time stirring in the peanut butter as you go.   Add the tomato sauce and cook until the sauce just begins to bubble.  Turn the heat down a bit and let simmer for 6 minutes.

In the mean time, peel the sweet potatoes and chop into bit-sized pieces.  Reserve about a third of the chopped sweet potatoes and dump the rest in the pot.  Turn the heat down to low.  Use an immersion blender to blend into a smooth puree (Don’t have an immersion blender?  See tip below.).  Add the last third of the sweet potatoes, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Season each bowl with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro if desired.

Tip:  No immersion blender?  No worries.  You can still make this recipe.  You may want to let everything cool down for a bit.  Blend in batches making sure to leave the blender lid slightly ajar to let steam escape.  Otherwise the pressure will build, and stew will likely end up all over kitchen which would be very very sad.