Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was the last destination I visited before the coronavirus lockdown. I went for a travel conference, and honestly wasn't expecting too much from the city. But I was wrong. The revitalized and clean downtown really impressed me. I found fantastic interactive museums, an old and new capitol building, and a lively spirit that flowed through the city, likely due to hometown Louisiana State University's (LSU) football team winning the National Championship.
You can't go to Louisiana and not enjoy decadent Cajun fare. In the mid-1700s, French-speaking settlers from Acadia, Canada's maritime regions, driven into exile by British forces, came to rural Louisiana. Hence the nickname Cajuns, as descendants of the Acadians. We all know Cajuns love to party and their dishes ooze with flavor.
After I returned, VisitBatonRouge,the city's tourism organization, was kind enough to send me a box of Cajun cuisine product samples. The package made my day during the quarantine. It also contained a booklet of Red Stick Recipes. In case you are wondering, Baton Rouge means red stick in French. The name dates back to 1699 when French explorers noted a red cypress tree stripped of its bark that marked the boundary between Houma and Bayou Goula tribal hunting grounds. They called the tree "le baton rouge," or red stick.
A recipe in the booklet came from the kitchen of Saskia Spanhoff at Cocha, one of Baton Rouge's fine restaurants, and caught my eye. Being housebound, a stew sounded perfect and would make good leftovers. So, I followed the directions and loved it. I strongly encourage others to try the recipe brimming with fresh ingredients, colorful peppers, and an abundance of flavorful spices. You'll love the hint of peanut butter. As an added bonus, the preparation creates a delightful aroma throughout the house. While the recipe is designed for Vegans and Vegetarians, I added a bit of cut-up (cooked) chicken pieces for added protein.
This recipe is a keeper and one I will make again.
AFRICAN PEANUT STEW
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Yields: 8 servings
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 medium yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 medium orange bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped- optional
2 small carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp ginger, fresh, peeled, grated
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½" pieces
1 ½ cups edamame, shelled (I used frozen)
¼ cup peanut butter
5 oz choice of fresh spinach, kale, collard leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
½ t. salt
Coarse ground pepper, to taste
Add cut-up cooked chicken- optional
Garnish with grilled okra, toasted peanuts, squeeze of lime
Heated olive oil in a 4-quart pan over medium heat; add onion, bell peppers, carrot, and celery. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes
Add garlic, ginger, and curry powder and sauté until fragrant- about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes and a bay leaf. Cook uncovered about 3 minutes.
Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 8-10 minutes.
Stir in edamame and peanut butter. Cook until thoroughly heated, about 2 minutes.
Stir in greens until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Can be served with brown or wild rice.
Many thanks to VisitBatonRouge.com.