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African Peanut Soup

(adapted from Vegetarian Times, 1995)

This is really a pretty soup--juicy and intense, earthy and piquant. In Ghana, it's called Nkate Nkwanin, in the Twi language. It can serve equally well as a provocative first course for 8 people...or as luncheon with salad and bread for 4. It is traditional in celebrating the 7 days of Kwanzaa in the United States. Many thanks to Canadian poet and novelist Jerry Newman for recommending it to me. Also thanks to Barb Rimoni, in Haifa, Israel, who noted from her years in Africa that crushed peanuts are far more traditional than processed peanut butter, which is either unobtainable or much too expensive for most people there. Of course it's the peanut butter that gives the sensationally rich texture....

Garnish: crushed peanuts

In a large soup pot, heat the oil, then sauté the onions, green peppers, and garlic until they begin to brown. Cut in the tomatoes and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, til they cook down. Pour in the remaining tomato juice and the stock. Bring to a boil, add the rice, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir in the peanut butter until it melts and the broth is smooth. Reheat to a simmer, then ladle into bowls and sprinkle with crushed peanuts.