Soup Night: African Peanut Soup

      African Peanut Soup
      Serves 6-8
      The taste of the peanut butter is almost unrecognizable here, but it adds a depth of flavor that you don't want to miss. Don't skip the sesame oil; it provides a flavor note I can only describe as haunting, and essential. And sesame oil also adds authenticity: along with peanuts, sesame seeds were introduced into the US by slaves from Africa, who called them benne. The soup is equally good and equally nutritious with or without the chicken.

      Make Ahead? Sure. But hold off on adding the chicken until dinnertime, so it doesn't get rubbery.
      For Large Crowds. This is very easy, and very economical, to expand, especially if you opt for the vegetarian version.
      For Vegetarians: Use vegetable broth, skip the chicken.

      2 tablespoons salad oil
      1 tablespoon sesame oil
      1 large onion, chopped
      1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
      3 garlic cloves, chopped
      4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
      2 cups water
      2 cans (14-15 ounce) diced tomatoes, undrained
      1 tablespoon curry powder
      1/2 teaspoon black pepper
      1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
      1/2 teaspoon salt
      1/2 cup uncooked rice
      1/2 cup peanut butter
      2-3cups diced cooked chicken (optional)

      1. Heat the salad oil and sesame oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic, and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth, water, tomatoes with their juices, curry powder, black pepper, pepper flakes, and salt, and simmer uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes.
      2. Add the rice and cook, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
      3. Add the peanut butter, whisking until dissoslved. Taste and add seasonings, if needed.
      4. Add the diced chicken, if you wish, and bring the soup back to simmer before serving.