Today, I am grateful for being able to explore the world through my tongue.
In my area, I can eat at restaurants that serve food from all corners of the globe--China, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Taiwan, Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Morocco, Ireland, Italy, France, Russia, Mexico, El Salvador, Somalia. And that's just the ones I know of offhand. Most are owned by first generation emigrants, their children or grandchildren. We are also lucky enough to be able to shop at grocery stores that carry products from around the world, and on several occasions I've gotten verbal recipes or tips from fellow shoppers who are happy to share information about their homeland's foods. Last night I went out of my usual flavor go-to's with an African dish, which was unusual, spicy and complex. A definite do-over.
I had a sweet potato and two boneless chicken breasts to use up, so was looking around the 'net for something different. I found several recipes for sweet potato-chicken stews with peanuts or peanut paste from various African nations, which looked pretty cool. From what I've read, there are lots of regional variations, and I apologize for not being knowledgeable enough to do more than lump them all under "African" instead of being country or culture specific. I settled on this one, http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/member/views/AFRICAN-SWEET-POTATO-STEW-WITH-RED-BEANS-1251816 but added more vegetables to make the focus more on vegetable than chicken. I read that eggplant is often added to a groundnut stew in Ghana. The eggplant sort of "melted" into the sauce after the long cooking. My chili powder was very strong, but another might differ. I'd add one teaspoon to start, and taste and adjust after the stew has cooked for a while. Don't skip the chili, lime and peanut butter, which really enhance the layers of flavor. Reducing the peanut butter to just one tablespoon was plenty, giving the sauce richness and a great flavor with the zing of the lime. It looked like sludge, but was very tasty!
African Spicy Vegetable Stew with Chicken--Serves 4-6
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
2 onions, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 tsp fresh chopped ginger
1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 small can diced tomato
2 box low-sodium chicken broth
1 small can hot green chilis
1-2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 can black beans
1 Tbs. peanut butter
2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
juice of one lime
red pepper flakes, optional
1. Put the diced eggplant into a large colander. Generously sprinkle with salt, and toss well. Let sit for an hour to get rid of bitter juices. Rinse under running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Some dampness is fine.
2. Spray a large pot with cooking oil. Brown the eggplant over high heat, then add the onion and red pepper. When the vegetables are almost tender, add the garlic and ginger. Saute some more until the eggplant softens, adding some chicken broth if necessary.
3. Add everything else except for the black beans, peanut butter, chicken and lime. Simmer over medium heat for at least one hour or more, or until vegetables are very soft. Taste for salt, add as needed.
4. Add the black beans. Put the peanut butter into a small bowl, and whisk in 1 cup of the sauce from the pot. When everything is blended, put into the pot and mix well.
5. Add the chicken, simmer on low heat just until cooked, probably five minutes. Squeeze the lime juice in, and stir.
6. Serve over rice. Add red pepper flakes for more heat, if wanted.