Fall and Winter are my two favorite times of the year. Yes, I am one of those weirdos who is not particularly fond of the Summer. Daylight savings depresses me, always has, and I don't know why. When stuff starts turning brown and the wind whips up, I get energized. Chilly days and nights by the fire are what I like. Throw in a little (or a lot) of rain which we desperately need here in California and I'm happy as a clam. Which brings me to the subject here, chowder. Ever since I had my go round with food poisoning last Summer, I've been eating a vegan diet. I have gone vegetarian on occasion but for the most part I cut dairy and eggs out. Cooking Indian food, this is no big whoop as it's one of the easiest cuisines to enjoy where one doesn't even think of missing the meat or the milk. There's plenty of stuff to enjoy without all that.
But then, last month I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. It's been 24 years since my last time at the cancer rodeo which was when I first started cooking Indian food. I was diagnosed in my 30's, a non smoking, non drinking vegetarian runner. Of course there was the little matter of getting exposed to radiation as a baby, one of the nifty medical tricks they came up with in the 50's which didn't do me any good as it turned out. I got notified about this back in the 80's and so have always kept a close eye on things which saved my ass more than a few times. Back in 1990, I had surgery, and chemo and it was during the midst of all that that I switched from macrobiotics to Indian food and I never looked back. Gradually on the advice of a Chinese herbal doctor I started adding fish and meat to my diet after I finished chemo (something about my ying warring with my yang) but I've never been a massive meat eater. I'm the one who usually eats the vegetables on the plate first.
In the last month I've had two surgeries, a big one, and a little one. My medical team at UCSF knows that I eat a mainly vegan diet and of course they all know about my Indian food and have been expecting to be cooked for, but the day before my surgery, the nurse practitioner advised me to make sure I had some adequate protein. I fixed myself some eggs and vegetables, quick and easy, but the one thing I couldn't get out of my head was soup. Nothing this time of year is better on a cold night than hot soup! The day I got out of the hospital I started planning a soup menu. Butternut squash, borscht, wild mushroom, and of course chowder.
Chowder requires fish, and I hadn't been eating fish since the last thing I ate before food poisoning was fish, you can understand why. However it was time to kick over the fish phobia and get back to the swimmy stuff again. I decided I'd cook myself a chowder. So, I did. I made a few clam chowders, but then some wild caught salmon came into view. Granted, I was a little nervous seeing as my last tangle with salmon didn't end so well, but this was a chowder I'd made many times in the past, and this was salmon I would cook myself, so why the hell not?
Chowders, usually feature clams, crab, lobster, some sort of seafood, but in fact they can be made absolutely vegan or absolutely not vegan. The basis is always a simple thick vegetable base to which any number of things including fish and dairy products can be added or not. All you need is an immersion blender, a food processor or some other sort of pureeing device and you're good to go. It's that easy!
Here's What You Need:
3 ribs of celery
3 yukon gold potatoes
4 cups of water, chicken, or fish broth
2 cups buttermilk (or not, this is optional)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh chopped dill
2 ears of fresh corn or frozen corn
1 lb of fresh salmon
2 strips of bacon or 2 Tbs olive oil, or butter
Here's What To Do:
Wash the leeks thoroughly.
Cut off the roots at the bottom, then slice them thinly on the bias. Only use the white part.
Peel and chop the potatoes.
Set the vegetables aside.
If you're using bacon, chop it into small pieces.
Heat a large soup pot on the stove and drop the bacon ( or olive oil or butter) in.
Cook the bacon down until it starts to brown, then add in the chopped vegetables.
If you are not using bacon, melt the butter, or heat the olive oil.
When they're good and hot add in your vegetables.
Stir things around and cook them down until the celery and the leeks have softened.
When they're nice and soft and translucent add in 4 cups of either chicken broth, fish broth, or water.
Bring the soup to a boil then turn everything down to simmer. Put a lid on the pot and cook it gently for about 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, cut the kernels off the corn.
Set them aside.
Take the salmon and remove the skin. Cut it into bite size pieces.
Set it aside. Make sure you set it far anough away from certain people who are just waiting to take advantage.
When the potatoes are nice and soft, puree the soup using an immersion blender or some other device.
You want your soup to be nice and thick, if you need to thin it a bit just add a tad more water or broth.
Here is the parting of the ways. If you want your soup to be vegan ignore the next step.
Add in 2 cups of buttermilk.
Mix everything together.
When the buttermilk is thoroughly incorporated add in the corn kernels.
Stir them around so that they cook through.
Add in 3 Tbs of chopped fresh dill.
If you still want a vegan chowder you can stop here, or add in some sauteed fresh mushooms and be done with it. Delicious totally vegan gluten-free soup with no artificial thickeners.
However if you're using salmon there's one more step.
Add in the salmon.
When it's done. serve it up.
I served this with a green salad. and homemade buttermilk biscuits. I made this soup for myself the day after surgery so you know it's easy and nutritious. Sometimes I make it vegan, sometimes instead of salmon I add in fresh clams or oysters, either way the soup is always a winner. Now that I'm in recovery mode and back to cooking and writing again, I'm all set for all the wonderful fall vegetables. Coming up next. Pumpkin, Kerala style and three count em three dals in one! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori