Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Covid Cafe: The Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce


Good day to you, chefs of Covid Cafe. Yesterday I made this exceptional sauce, from the cookbook From Harlem to Heaven, by JJ Johnson and Alexander Smalls. Remarkably, I had all the ingredients on hand except for the vegetable stock, so I substituted homemade chicken stock, which lends this glorious concoction extra depth. I can't wait to try it with chicken and sweet potatoes.

We still have two jars
of our first pandemic purchase

JJ Johnson writes: In cooking school, we were taught the five French “mother sauces” as defined by the twentieth-century master of French cooking, Auguste Escoffier: béchamel, velouté, sauce espagnole (a simple brown sauce), sauce tomate, and hollandaise. 

The foundational sauce to the Afro-Asian flavor profile is what we call the Mother Africa sauce: West African peanut sauce. I’d like to urge you to stop reading this article and whip up a batch of it right now.
The Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce The Mother Africa (Peanut) SauceThe Mother Africa (Peanut) Sauce

You can pour it over a bowl of rice. You can dice up a sweet potato and mix it in as a stew. It tastes delicious with the meat of the chicken thigh crumbled into the mix. This sauce will keep for five days in the fridge and you can eat it every day, in a different way. It’s an easy back-pocket sauce that you can’t mess up. It’s both comfort food and comforting to cook. Give it a try.

So I did. Here's the plan...

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 white onion, diced
1/2 cup large-diced carrots (1 medium carrot)
1 plum tomato, chopped
1/4 cup finely diced celery (1 rib)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (1⁄4 bunch)
1 bird’s-eye chile, seeded and minced (1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened, creamy peanut butter
4 cups vegetable stock

1.   Heat the oil in a 4-quart pot over medium heat, add the cumin, and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly. The cumin will become very aromatic and a few shades darker.

2.    Add the onion, carrots, tomato, celery, garlic, bay leaf, cilantro, chile, salt, and lemon juice, stirring to coat the vegetables in the toasted cumin oil. Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. 

3.    Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Once the tomato paste is incorporated, add the peanut butter and cook until the oil separates from the peanut butter, about 5 minutes. 

4.    Add the stock and stir, making sure to bring up all of the tomato paste and peanut butter from the bottom of the pot so it is well blended. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for 45 minutes. 

5.    Remove bay leaf. Using an immersion blender, puree the sauce in the pot until smooth. Season with salt to taste. 
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September Tomatoes

The whiskey stink of rot has settled
in the garden, and a burst of fruit flies rises
when I touch the dying tomato plants.

Still, the claws of tiny yellow blossoms
flail in the air as I pull the vines up by the roots
and toss them in the compost.

It feels cruel. Something in me isn’t ready
to let go of summer so easily. To destroy
what I’ve carefully cultivated all these months.
Those pale flowers might still have time to fruit.

My great-grandmother sang with the girls of her village
as they pulled the flax. Songs so old
and so tied to the season that the very sound
seemed to turn the weather.

 Summer melon,
salt and lime not pictured


Relaxing Cafe Music For Cooking - Jazz & Bossa Nova