I tried the soup at the recent opening of Kathy Katz's Cooper Street 20/20 and I was hooked. I actually was hooked when my sister told me about it last summer. She and her husband discovered Katz's soup downtown at the Memphis Farmers Market.
I asked Katz, who is Cooper Street 20/20 chef/owner, how she came up with African peanut soup. She said she found the recipe in The Commercial Appeal at least 10 years ago. It was from The Brushmark restaurant at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.
"I guess when you think about stewed tomatoes, onions and peanut butter, (you think,) "What the heck is this all about?'" Katz said.
She began making the soup without the chicken, which was in the original recipe, for catering jobs because she wanted it to be a vegetarian soup. "I make it exactly like the recipe minus the chicken. We tried to do some variations."
Every once in a while she'll put in some siracha, but then people go, "Oh, it's too hot."
They use crushed red peppers along with the spring onions and, now because it's off season, locally-grown hydroponic tomatoes. She uses creamy peanut butter instead of the chunky kind.
If they don't use their own homemade vegetable stock, they use a commercial brand with no MSG added. .
The soup is thick. "That thickness is just us cooking slowly and cooking it down and adding the peanut butter. We don't use any roux or thickener. It just does that on its own."
Katz began selling the soup in containers at the Memphis Farmers Market. "The second people taste it, they either love it or hate it. And most people love it. The soup is supposed to be served hot. I have people at the market who take the lid off and drink it as they walk away."
She began serving the soup when she was chef/owner of 20/20 restaurant at Southern College of Optometry.
There are no tables and chairs at Cooper Street 20/20," which is "a commissary" where customers pick up prepared soup, spreads, hummus and entrees to take home, she said. It's open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
All soups sell for $6 for 16 ounces and $9 for 32 ounces. Katz and Stephen Sciara do all the cooking.
Cooper Street 20/20 is at 800 South Cooper; 901-871-6879.
Source: Commercial Appeal
by Michael Donahue Friday, January 18, 2013