A rich and savory West African chicken stew is an unexpected way to use up winter vegetables
Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB


Superabundant dispatch: West African chicken-peanut stew and this week’s news nibbles

By Heather Arndt Anderson (OPB)
Feb. 23, 2024 2 p.m.

It’s time to reimagine winter vegetables

OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for a West African style chicken-peanut stew with winter vegetables.

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Since the “Superabundant” Ameraucanas have just regaled us with the first egg songs of the season, we know that spring is right around the corner. Like other livestock, chickens aren’t often portents of good smells (they certainly can’t compete with the daphne), but they have their moments — especially when they’ve been simmering in a stew pot for a few hours. Yes, spring chicken season is upon us, and since it’s also the end of Black History Month, why not give the winter vegetables a proper send-off with a West African-style chicken stew with tender hunks of sweet potato, pumpkin and winter greens? Each of these ingredients are well represented in the cuisines of West African countries, but two of them originated in the Americas — do you know which ones? Read on to find!

Dwindling farmlands, Oregon’s outdoor concessionaires, a windfall for the hungry, a bittersweet retirement and good things in markets (and burgeoning gardens!)

E-I-E-I-Oh dear

Despite land use laws that aim to protect Oregon’s farmland from developments related to agriculture, the state’s farmland acreage dropped by 5.5% over the past five years, amounting to a loss of over 660,000 acres. OPB’s Alejandro Figueroa reports on the issue.

A busy week for snack vendor news

If you’ve always dreamt of running a hot dog stand in a national forest (and who hasn’t!), this might be your lucky break: the Siuslaw National Forest has announced that they’ll be awarding a five-year permit to a concession stand owner at the Devil’s Churn Day Use Site (the application deadline is April 3). In less refreshing news, Crater Lake Hospitality, the Aramark subsidiary tasked with selling snacks to visitors of Oregon’s only national park, is losing its contract with the National Park Service unless it remedies the numerous management infractions that pose safety risks to both staff and visitors.

A win-win (-win-win)

Last week, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley announced that the Oregon Food Bank will receive $70,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service — a huge win for both the state’s food-insecure and the Oregon food producers who feed the region. Oregon Food Bank is calling it a “quadruple win.” KOIN’s Jenna Deml (a former OPB intern!) has the story.

Bon voyage to a beloved Vancouver standby

After 29 years, the owners of Vancouver, Washington, restaurant Beaches have decided to retire and close their waterfront eatery. OPB’s climate and environment editor Courtney Sherwood shared her thoughts on the closure. “From the vantage of Portland, Beaches is a quirky, themed suburban restaurant. But it’s also a hub of a lot of social and business activity for a segment of Southwest Washington. When I worked at The Columbian, this was where Rotary Club members or bank execs took people to lunch, where newspaper editors took reporters they were trying to recruit, where families gathered for a meal that was more interesting than the average suburban chain. People I know in Vancouver — especially retirees and longtime community members — are having strong emotions about this news.”

Good things in markets

OK yes, it is still winter for a few more weeks. Technically. But so many of our so-called “winter” ingredients are really transitional — the roots and greens that exemplify winter survival re-emerge as sweet, tender centerpieces in springtime dishes. Reimagine a potato as a crisp-skinned fingerling with fresh chervil. Have a pile of sautéed escarole with lemony cream sauce and a poached egg. Try fresh little carrots with cumin yogurt and mint leaves. Eat crisp radishes with creamy butter and a nubby bread studded with plump wheat berries. Enjoy the changing season! (Also, the citrus is still very good.)

Ready the garden for spring

In the “Superabundant” garden this week, the red-flowering currant has begun to bloom and chickens have begun laying eggs again, so if you go by nature’s cues to mark the change of seasons, it might finally be time to take down your holiday lights (we say, acknowledging that when we point a finger, there are three pointing back at us). We also picked up a few baby chicks (a white Brahma and two Sapphire Gems, for those keeping track) — by the time they’ve grown into pullets the weather should be warm enough for them to come out of their cozy brooder.

We’re also cleaning up the veggie beds, adding a layer of compost, and direct-sowing seeds of cool season vegetables like peas, carrots and radishes; herbs like parsley, chives and cilantro; and early greens like cress, arugula, sorrel, chard, lettuce and bok choy. Since progress will be slow at first, we favor a “set it and forget it” approach to gardening this time of year — just pop everything under the hoop covers and look forward to peeking in on them after a few weeks.

Recipe: West African style chicken-peanut stew with winter vegetables

A rich and savory West African chicken stew is an unexpected way to use winter vegetables

A rich and savory West African chicken stew is an unexpected way to use winter vegetables

Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB

Chicken stews are ubiquitous in West Africa, and this one combines elements from some of our favorites. Groundnuts (aka peanuts), coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes and a generous hand with the spices all play beautifully with vegetables we typically think of as winter foods, like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and sturdy greens. Though these ingredients are well known in West African cooking, in some cases it was their American analogs that were adapted into the cuisines of enslaved Blacks in the South. Winter squashes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes and chiles all originated in Central and South America but the African continent already had its own domesticated cucurbits (gourds and melons) and it had yams — a starchy tuber unrelated to (but commonly confused with) sweet potatoes.

Though not all African ingredients can be directly swapped, you can use any greens, sweet potato and winter squash you like here — we happened to have kale, white sweet potatoes and Black Futsu squash on hand. Serve with rice or fufu. Makes about 8 servings.

NOTE: If you can’t eat peanuts, use egusi (a type of melon seed sold in international markets) or ground pumpkin seeds instead. You can also leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth for a vegan version.



2 tbsp coconut oil

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp minced fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

2 tsp sea salt

1 tbsp ground coriander seed

1 tbsp ground cumin seed

1 tsp cayenne pepper (use sweet paprika if you don’t like heat)

1 tsp fenugreek

2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground grains of paradise

1 tsp Ashanti pepper (you can sub black pepper)

½ tsp ground cardamom seed

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

1 12-oz can coconut milk

2 bouillon cubes (chicken or Maggi)

2 tbsp crab paste (optional but adds depth)

2 small sweet potatoes, cubed (about 2 cups)

½ small winter squash or pumpkin, cubed (about 2 cups)

4 cups chopped greens such as kale or collards

½ cup chunky peanut butter (or ground egusi or pumpkin seeds)


  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sauté the onion, ginger and garlic until the onions begin to turn translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Season the chicken thighs with the salt and add them to the pot. Brown the chicken (but don’t worry about cooking it through) about 10 minutes on each side.
  2. Stir in the spices and cook for a few seconds until they begin to smell toasty and fragrant. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock/broth, coconut milk, bouillon cubes and crab paste. Stir to combine, then add the cubed sweet potato and squash. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the sweet potatoes and squash are tender but not falling apart (the chicken will be shreddable at this point), about 30-35 minutes. Add the kale and cook until it’s tender but still nice and green, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the peanut butter and stir until it’s melted into the stew (but don’t let it scorch!). Taste and adjust seasoning as needed, then serve. This stew is even better the next day, but reheat it gently to avoid burning the peanut butter.

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