African-Inspired Gluten-Free Soup

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Several years ago, I spent two months in Africa. It was an experience that changed my life.

The moment I stepped off the plane, I felt some sort of recognition deep in my soul; a vague familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

I was awestruck by the vistas that ranged from vibrant, almost over-saturated reds, greens and purples to bleak, sun-bleached, dusty whites with very little visual contrast.

Africa is a continent of diversity and dichotomy. The land is rich with resources, and yet many of the people struggle daily for a meager amount of food that barely feeds their family. As the people eke out their living, they fill their days with music and color. Rather than carry their burdens with hunched backs, the women of this continent stand tall and proud; heads held high, backs strong and straight.

I think of my time in Africa often and plan to return to this magical continent someday.

This gluten-free sweet potato bisque recipe reminds me of some of the stews I ate in Africa. It is faster and easier to prepare for us than for them and reminds me that we have much to be grateful for.

Recipe note: It is quite common for peanuts or peanut butter to be used in some African dishes. I find that the flavor of sunflower seed butter is closer to what African peanut butter tastes like; it has the same roasted richness. Sunflower seed butter also keeps this dish peanut- and nut-free. This is a very creamy soup despite the lack of dairy. I like to garnish the soup with cilantro and sriracha for a bit of heat—you can use any kind of hot sauce you like or leave it out if heat is not your thing.

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Bisque

Serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (4-ounce) can mild green chilies, drained
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1½ lbs), peeled and diced
4 c. gluten-free chicken broth
½ c. creamy or natural sunflower seed butter
Salt and pepper to taste
½ c. cilantro leaves, chopped
sriracha sauce

In a Dutch oven or soup pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chilies and cook for another minute. Add the sweet potatoes, chicken broth and sunflower seed butter, raise heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend in batches in the blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve garnished with cilantro leaves and sriracha.

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