I made a thing and the thing was really really good. I love being able to say that on this blog!! Y’all know how rare it is for me to be the head chef, but a few weeks ago Will was really stressed with schoolwork, so I had to take the reins on the cooking train. Each time I share a new recipe that I’ve made with you lovely people, it reminds me why I started this blog AND shows me how far I’ve come, personally, in the last three years. Particularly if that recipe is as wonderfully delightful as this one was. There is a certain satisfaction from making something so tasty that you are happy to eat it for days and days, and to even pull it back out of the freezer to eat a couple weeks later. And who knew that type of recipe would have collard greens hiding in it? Even I cast a light of doubt on the poor greens, hesitating about their contribution to this recipe. However, fear not, for this recipe will complete you, particularly if you are of the vegetarian or vegan variety and cannot partake in its very friendly counterpart, African Beef Stew.
Now as always with me, the process of making a meal is guaranteed to be an entertaining endeavor. I have accepted that it is my fate to make a large mess, forget an ingredient, or generally need Will to come to my rescue in any given cooking situation – I think this contributes to their rare occurrence in our household. In this instance, the problem was a situation where Will and I were at equal guilt capacity. I had selected the recipe relatively last-minute (maybe it was that morning and maybe I wasn’t planning to go home before making dinner…) and had asked Will on a very academically stressful day, which of the ingredients we had in stock. Neither of us were home, so we were both aiming in the dark. We were surprisingly accurate except …
We were both convinced we had tomato paste. As I discovered after prepping almost everything and measuring ingredients out so I wouldn’t have to scurry while cooking (scurrying is my least favorite thing to do, as I am quite slow-moving in the kitchen), we in fact did not have a small can of tomato paste in the cupboard. In fact, we had no tomato products in the house (not even ketchup). I considered for a brief moment that the stew would be acceptable without it, before quickly convincing myself it was worth running back out to the grocery store for a less-than-5-minute-less-than-$5 can of tomato paste.* Thanks Farm Fresh for being so close by. By the time I got back, Will was on his way from class, of course not just 5 minutes after my desperation run to the store, but it was okay. He walked through the door in the exact moment I need collards washed and cut, which he did with expediency I do not possess. And at the end of the night, this stew was absolutely worth the wait and the multiple grocery store trips – we feasted on it for days and are even eating the last batch out of the freezer for lunch today. Vegan, vegetarian or carnivore – this is 100% worth your consideration on a cold winters eve!
*For the record, it was in the freezer in a Seal-A-Meal bag. I would’ve had no idea it was there, even if I had seen it. It was unlabelled.
Cooking Notes: We added extra collard greens, since we had them in our fridge and had no other recipe to use them in. We also serve this with basmati rice, which we highly recommend. I also used half of a large red onion, because we happened to have it on hand – I’d probably recommend a regular yellow onion, but sometimes you do what you have to do to use up what’s in your house. I also chose not to individually smash sweet potatoes on the side of the pot, but instead smashed half of them with a potato masher – expediency, folks.
Peanut & Greens Vegan Stew (adapted from Budget Bytes; serves 6)
1 tbsp veggie oil
4 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger
1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled
1 medium onion
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 6-oz. can, tomato paste
1/2 cup natural chunky peanut butter
6 cups veggie broth
1/2 bunch (2-3 cups, minimum) collard greens
1/4 bunch cilantro, optional – for garnish
2 cups rice
Peel and grate the ginger, then mince the garlic. In a large soup pot (or Dutch oven), saute the ginger and garlic in veggie oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until soft and fragrant. Dice the onion, add it to the pot and continue to saute. Dice the sweet potato into half-inch cubes, add it to the pot and continue to saute a few minutes more or until the onion is soft and the sweet potato takes on a darker, slightly translucent appearance. Season with the cumin and red pepper flakes. Begin bringing water for rice to a boil.
Next, add the tomato paste and peanut butter, stirring until everything is evenly mixed. Add the veggie broth and stir to dissolve the tomato paste/peanut butter mixture. Place a lid on the pot and turn the heat on high, bringing the soup to a boil. As you wait for this, prepare the collard greens by rinsing thoroughly, removing the stems, then cutting them into thin strips. Toss them in the pot when they’re ready. The water for your rice should be boiling (soon) – once boiling, add rice, lower heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
As the soup reaches its boil, turn the heat down to low and allow it to simmer without a lid for about 15 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft. Once the potatoes are soft, take a potato masher and smash half the pots worth of sweet potatoes to thicken the soup. Taste and add salt if needed. Scoop 1/3 to 1/2 cup of rice into a bowl, ladle stew over top and garnish with cilantro – enjoy!