"We Have A Winner"
African Groundnut Stew
The Duo Dishes
Chrystal and Amir
It's been said quite a few times on our blog that I love Bravo's cooking competition show, Top Chef. Love! In fact, once a week I host a Top Chef viewing party with close friends who live just around the corner from my apartment. (Sadly, Chrystal is still an hour drive from me, so she hasn't been able to make down during the week.) At these viewing parties, we take turns whipping up a complete meal for the group, allowing us to flex our culinary muscles in the kitchen in the spirit of the show. Well, it was my turn to cook recently, and I needed a dish that would impress everyone. Frankly, I needed a dish worthy of a top chef.
I am happy to report that I found just that dish with this African Groundnut Soup. Originally conceived from Top Chef alum Carla Hall, this dish was her “Elimination Challenge” winning recipe back in Season 5. One of the things that initially drew me to the dish was its use of adzuki beans, which are a type of bean that I've actually never tasted before. They originate from Eastern Asian countries like China, Japan, and the Koreas, and they're loaded with a variety of minerals. Plus, like most other beans, these small wonders are packed with protein and copious amounts of fiber. If a black bean and a black-eyed pea were to have a baby, you'd have an adzuki bean. The best way to describe these little guys is exactly that, they're small, dark colored beans about the size of lentils. I found them easily at my local Whole Foods Market, and they were only $1.99 per pound in one of their bulk bins. If you are in a bind, you could substitute them for the above-mentioned black beans or black-eyed peas. Lentils, or even white cannellini beans, would also suffice.
The other prominent component to this dish is the use of a Chermoula, which is a spice marinate common in most North African countries like Algeria, Morocco, or Tunisia to name a few. This flavor blend utilizes several different spices and herbs, but it features garlic and cumin most prominently. You may balk at the lengthy ingredient list below, but don’t let it stop you from playing around with your own spice mixture. Even if two or three of these ground spies are missing from your spice cabinet, you’ll be able to make come up with a tasty alternative as long as you have cumin on hand. And everything else should be a breeze. The rest of the stew combines chunks of roasted sweet potatoes and red bell peppers with a creamy tomato broth that's been emulsified with peanut butter. What's also great about this dish is that it's vegan friendly. If you're a meat fanatic, don't fret. The finished product is a sensational, hearty stew with bold flavors and just the right amount of spice. You won't miss the meat in this one. Give it a try! You'll see why it was a real winner for Carla and me.
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 pound dry adzuki beans, sorted and rinsed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic, peeled and minced
6 inch piece ginger, peeled and diced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, un-drained
6 cups vegetable stock
3 bay leaves, separated
1 guero chili pepper, whole and pierced with a knife
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
3 poblano peppers
2 red bell peppers
1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup peanuts, salted and roasted, roughly chopped
1. In a large pot, add dry beans and 2 bay leaves. Cover with 6 cups of water and let soak for at least 6 hours to overnight. When beans are fully soaked, bring them to a boil in the same pot. Let simmer for 90 minutes, or until beans are tender. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile while the beans are cooking, stir together all the Chermoula spices in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Set aside.
2. In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in onions, garlic and ginger, and cook for 4 minutes, or until onions begin to turn translucent. Stir in 3/4 of the Chermoula and cook for an additional 4 minutes. Add can of tomatoes, vegetable stock, last bay leaf, and chili pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for one hour.
3. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until they become soft and browned. Combine roasted potatoes with the cooked beans.
4. On the same baking sheet used to roast the potatoes, place poblano and red bell peppers. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until blackened and charred on all sides. Place in a lidded, ceramic or glass dish, cover, and let sit for an additional 10 minutes, or until cooled to touch. Remove outer layer with your fingers, gently peeling way the thin skin. Remove stem and seeds and chop into thin strips. Set aside.
5. When onion mixture is ready, remove from heat. Fish out chili pepper and discard. Using an immersion blender, process mixture in the pot until smooth and creamy. Mix in peanut butter and continue to blend with immersion blender until well combine. Taste mixture and add more salt and pepper if desired. Return pot to the stove and turn on heat to medium, bringing the soupy broth to a light simmer.
6. In a large mixing bowl, or in the same pot used to cook the beans, combine cooked beans, sweet potatoes, the roasted peppers, all the herbs, lemon juice and zest, and remaining Chermoula. Stir well.
To serve, scoop about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture into a serving bowl. Ladle the hot onion-peanut broth around the bean mixture, adding in more of the broth until the bowl is full. Garnish with additional cilantro leaves and chopped nuts. Serve immediately.
About The Duo Dishes
We are Chrystal and Amir, otherwise known as the Duo–two passionate eaters, experimental cooks and college friends based in Los Angeles, California. Amir spends his days working for a powerhouse television network, and Chrystal hopped between television production to marketing and advertising before finally settling into a freelance career in the food industry as a writer and cook. But how did it all start? DuoDishes.com began in 2008 as a showcase of the foods we made for our LA folks. We mixed family traditions, regional fare and new ethnic flavors to create dishes that emphasize our love for a quick fix meal or an elaborate feast. We also explored our interests in all of the cultures around us, which now shows itself in our monthly Ethnic Exploration feature. Since then, we have been featured on NPR.org, The LAist.com, CulturePOP.com, and KTLA.com. We have worked with national and international brands–Bertolli and Alexia Foods–for recipe development projects. We have also been featured in three cookbooks, two radio programs and several online interviews.
Please visit Chrystal and Amir at their blog...you will love it just as much as we do!