I used to think that peanut butter was reserved for sandwiches and cookies. My mother certainly never used those jumbo-sized jars of creamy JIF for anything but spreading over Roman Meal whole-wheat bread. My father went so far as to add it to smoothies, which, as a kid, I thought was terribly daring. He claims he likes to dip peanut butter sandwiches into pea soup, but I've never seen him do it. I think he just wanted to see me shudder. I'm not a fan of peas.
When I lived in France for my junior year-abroad, one of my friends made a dish that she had learned about while living in Africa. She promised me I'd love it, and given the quality of her previous culinary adventures, I figured I had nothing to fear. I hovered near her, helping her cut the onions, garlic, peppers, and broccoli that she then sauteed in a pan. It smelled lovely.
Then she got a jar of peanut butter and tossed an enormous dollop of it into the pan. I swear I almost screamed. The thought of broccoli, a vegetable that only tasted good smothered in butter or cheese sauce, mixed with a sandwich spread made me queasy. She saw my look of dismay and assured me that the tastes would blend together and it would still taste good. When it was ready, she even took a big bite of it and said "yum." Needless to say, after the first bite I loved it.
That was almost twenty years ago, and I haven't stereotyped a vegetable or sandwich spread since. This isn't exactly the same recipe, since it changes depending on what I have in the fridge.
Chicken peanut stew
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, cut into small pieces
2 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large tomato
1/2 cup peanut butter*
1/2 cup peanuts
1 lb. spinach
tomato for garnish
Sauté the carrots, onions, potatoes with a little olive oil. Add the vegetable broth and simmer for about five minutes. Add the chicken thighs in a layer on top and simmer for another ten minutes, or until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through. Add more vegetable broth if necessary.
Stir in the tomato, peanut butter and peanuts and cook until the mixture becomes creamy. Add the spinach and stir until it wilts.
If the mixture is too thick, add more vegetable broth or water until it reaches the desired consistency.
*Coloration may vary depending on what kind of peanut butter you use. Try to find peanut butter that doesn't have any added sugar.
I put fresh tomatoes from the garden in the soup, including a big beefsteak tomato. These romas should be ready soon.