Sunday, December 09, 2007

Carver's Peanut Butter

A friend last night was excited that he had won a free cookie for knowing the answer to who invented Peanut Butter.
"It's George Washington Carver," he said. "I learned that in 5th grade!"

I'm glad he got a cookie, but frankly, I think it's silly for us to assume that an American in the late 19th, early 20th century invented something that I'm sure has been around since people started planting peanuts! Let's tell the Asians, South Americans and Africans that an American invented Peanut Butter and see what they have to say...

It is interesting, however, that George Washington Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. Among the listed items that he suggested to southern farmers to help them economically were adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder and wood stain. (from wikipedia.) He's a pretty interesting guy.

West African Peanut Soup

Peanut soup appears on the menu in many African countries. This smooth, creamy version thickened with both peanuts and peanut butter gets its sweetness from yam. A warm reddish brown, the soup is fragrant with sweet spices, intensely flavored, earthy and piquant. Europeans brought peanuts from South America to Africa in the early 1500’s where they caught on quickly because of their similarity to the native African bambarra groundnut. In the U.S. it has become traditional to serve this soup when celebrating the seven days of Kwanzaa. Substitute vegetable stock for a deliciously rich vegetarian soup.
To serve 8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon each: chopped garlic and
ginger root
2 teaspoons each: ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch each: ground cloves and cayenne pepper
1 (15-ounce) can chopped plum tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh diced tomatoes
2 large yams, peeled and cut-up
3/4 cup roasted peanuts
6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock), simmering
½ cup peanut butter
½ bunch cilantro, leaves chopped
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Optional garnishes: diced fresh tomato, cilantro sprigs, and chopped roasted peanuts

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onion until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon,
cloves, and cayenne. Sauté together 2 to 3 minutes to release their fragrance. Stir in the tomatoes and yam, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally about 5 minutes to meld the flavors.

Add the hot stock and peanuts, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat. Using a food processor or blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return the soup to the saucepan. Whisk in the peanut butter and chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper and heat through. Top each serving with the (optional) garnishes. Serve piping hot.

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