We had an exhausting but wonderful day, and I felt like making something nourishing and festive, but simple. I decided on my old standby, West African Peanut Stew.
It's SO perfect, even in the summer heat. Maybe especially in the summer heat. Give it a try -- it's customizable, so it should please almost everyone who likes peanuts.
2 to 3 cups water or low-sodium broth (tonight I used chicken)
2 cups protein of choice (tonight I poached a little bit of chicken in the broth, then added raw soaked chickpeas to make up the rest of the quantity -- they cooked in the broth)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small bell pepper, minced (optional but totally authentic)
Vegetables as desired: tonight it was about a cup of cauliflower florets and about 2/3 cup of sliced carrots, but green beans really shine in this soup
about a cup and a half of juicy diced tomatoes -- canned are fine
about a cup of peanut butter -- I prefer unsweetened and chunky, but go with your heart here
about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chili flakes (or cayenne to taste)
salt to correct seasoning, if needed (I never do)
juice of a lemon to correct acidity, if you feel it needs it (I did tonight)
chopped cilantro leaves, if you like them and want the color contrast (I did tonight)
cooked couscous or rice to serve alongside or under
If your protein of choice isn't cooked, poach it until it is. Cut into bite size and set aside to add later.
Put onions, garlic, and any hardy veg that you would like to be soft into broth and simmer until done to your liking. Add other vegetables in time to get them done to taste.
About two minutes from having the veg done, add the tomatoes, peanut butter, reserved proteins, and spices. Simmer, stirring, until peanut butter loosens and thickens the sauce into a uniformly creamy gravy. I really like a silicone spatula for this because it keeps the mixture from sticking at all to the pan.
Taste and correct seasonings as you please. Dish will be mildly spicy, with gentle acidity playing peek-a-boo behind velvety peanut butter flavor. Serve alongside or atop your couscous or rice (or millet, or whatever.)
Feel that all is well in the world, and you have gotten a hearty dose of protein and vegetables and whole grain (if you use brown rice or whole wheat couscous, which are actually much better than refined versions with this dish) with all that peanut oil.
Oh! And don't be afraid to scale this down, or to scale down the amount of peanut butter, if you are cooking for fewer than four big eaters, or if you don't want so much fat in... it does fine if you free-form it.
That's it! Enjoy!
Edited to add: I think the leftovers lose a lot in translation: the flavors get too muddied and homogenous. Pat told me he'd knife-fight me for them, and he doesn't seem to share my opinion. Soooooo... I'd recommend making less of this if you have less people, but Pat would probably make a big batch and eat all the leftovers. Your mileage may vary.