It’s winter, and winter calls for a chowder. Which is awesome, because I love chowder. With miso soup, chowder is tied at the absolute top of my favorite soup list.
Sunday evening, after spending a few hours wandering around on a windswept beach with beautiful golden grass and elegant sand dunes, I needed something warm and hearty but not too heavy. The temperature was in the upper 40s at the beach, but fog was rolling in. The dampness cut through, and I needed to warm up. Chowder to the rescue! I had Ecuadorian chorizo and a couple of poblano chiles on hand, so I decided to make a vaguely Latin American chowder using those. Instead of regular potatoes, I used sweet potatoes. It was a choice based entirely on convenience, but added an interesting bit of sweetness to the hearty, otherwise savory chowder.
I roasted the poblano chiles in the toaster oven. This extra step does add a smoky, roasty flavor to the chowder, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Unless you can roast the poblano chiles on a charcoal grill, that is–if you have access to that luxury (an envy of all NYC apartment dwellers, let me tell you :P), definitely roast the chiles. They’ll take on the flame-grilled awesomeness and add another dimension to the chowder.
Poblano chiles can be a Russian roulette. I roasted three chiles, and tasted each before adding them to the pot. One was super-duper spicy, way too hot to put the entire thing in the chowder. The other two were completely mild. I set the spicy one aside for another use and used the two milder ones in the chowder. You might want to taste yours and decide how much to put in, depending on how spicy you like your chowder to be.
Sweet Potato, Chorizo, Roasted Poblano & Kale Chowder
DASH diet considerations: The sweet potato, chorizo, roasted poblano and kale chowder is a hearty winter soup with zesty Latin American flavors. A tiny bit of chorizo per serving (about one DASH diet serving of meat) is enough to give the soup a savory, faintly spicy backbone. Both sweet potatoes and kale are a good source of potassium; overall, it’s a veggie-filled soup of 3 vegetable servings.
As is the case with many soups, it can be on the high side for sodium. I used Better Than Bouillon for chicken stock, and with that option, this chowder has about 460 mg of sodium (from the soup base, salt and chorizo). For a complete DASH diet meal, pair it with a crusty whole wheat bread.
3 vegetables & fruits
1 meats & fish
¼ fat & oil
460 mg sodium
While the peppers roast, heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes until the onions are slightly translucent and soft.
Add the chorizo and break it up into small chunks with a spoon or a spatula. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chorizo pieces start to brown, for about 3 minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes and cook briefly, stirring to coat everything in the oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the chicken stock to the pot. Cover and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are cooked through.
Remove the poblano chiles from the oven. Once cool enough to handle, remove the stem and seeds, then dice. Set aside. (You might want to check the spiciness level of the chiles here and adjust how much of the diced poblano chiles you add to the soup.)
When the sweet potatoes can be pierced easily through, add the kale and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, until the kale is wilted.
Add the milk, sour cream and roasted poblano chilies. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until everything is heated and the flavors are melded together.
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake. This is a flourless version that I sometimes make for breakfast. It’s basically cabbage-laden scrambled eggs, but with strategic use of mix-ins and toppings, you can make it taste a lot like okonomiyaki without the weight of the flour and oil. Okonomiyaki eggs would be a good, quick but reasonably healthy dinner option for those of you who are “breakfast for dinner” types. Try it!
Additional toppings include bonito flakes, nori flakes and mayonnaise. You can also mix in chopped scallions, cheese, dried shrimps and/or kimchi for more variation. Did I say this is versatile?
Okonomiyaki Eggs (Fauxkonomiyaki)
DASH benefits: Okonomiyaki eggs (fauxkonomiyaki) add a full serving of vegetable to breakfast, along with a lean protein from eggs. It does have bacon, but one strip is more than enough to give the okonomiyaki eggs for two a serious savory punch. Go easy on the okonomiyaki sauce, which is pretty sweet.
Dashi powder is optional, but its savory, slightly oceanic umami really does make the overall flavor profile of the fauxkonomiyaki. It keeps forever in the pantry, and is a great soup base for miso soup, so investing in a small package might not be a terrible idea. This is a classic brand. In this recipe, you can substitute it with a pinch of salt if you don’t have it on hand.
We are frequent patrons of craft beer bars. What that entails, aside from the potential of beer bellies, is leftover French fries. They are such a ubiquitous side dish at pubs and bars they are difficult to avoid. We usually try to limit our fat intake by one of us subbing the fries with a side salad and sharing the two sides, but subbing isn’t always possible. (We don’t always behave rationally, either, lol.) Anyhow, I often have leftover fries in the fridge. I could crisp them up in the toaster, but reheated fries are never as good as right out of the frier. Enters tortilla Española.
Authentic recipes slow-cook sliced potatoes in olive oil, which gives the potato tortilla a beautifully creamy texture and satisfying heft. This version with French fries has a less creamy, fluffier texture, but the richness of the fries does make for an easy yet indulgent breakfast. I usually use onion, but here, I’m using two onion relatives, leek and shallot, for an extra flavorful twist.
DASH Meal: Tortilla Española with Leek & Shallot
DASH considerations: Tortilla Española with leek and shallot is on the indulgent side. Pair it with a side of cut-up vegetable or fruit to balance out the higher fat content, and go easy on oil for other meals of the day. In summer, this would make an awesome lunch with chilled gazpacho and a hunk of country bread.
1.5 vegetables & fruits (2 if you count fries as a vegetable serving...)
1 meats & fish
1.5 fat & oil
Make this hearty chowder when you end up with a giant head of cauliflower that doesn’t fit in your fridge and you don’t know what to do with, like I did. Cauliflower replaces the potatoes that typically show up in chowders, and it does a surprisingly good job of substituting them. Garlic, thyme and just one strip of bacon give the cod chowder the savory, aromatic backbone it needs. I skipped making the bechamel and left the chowder more on the soupy side, but you can add that at the end if you prefer a thicker chowder.
This may be a weekend meal–it does take a fair amount of chopping, and the somewhat active cooking time is on the long side. The good news is that the chowder will be even better after it sits in the fridge overnight. I made a big pot and plan to eat the rest later in the week.
Serve it with some crusty bread. Go ahead and add an ale, too. (I did!)
Cauliflower Cod Chowder with Garlic and Thyme
DASH benefits: This filling chowder has loads of vegetables and lean protein without the fat and heaviness from the butter and heavy cream found in a lot of chowders.
Heat the olive oil in a big pot and add the bacon, onion, shallot and garlic. Turn the heat to medium.
Saute, stirring often to prevent the alliums from burning, for 6-7 minutes, or until they are fragrant and softened.
Strip the thyme leaves off the stem and add to the pot. Saute for another minute until the thyme starts releasing the aroma.
Add the celery, carrots and red pepper to the pot. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes, or until they start to soften.
Turn the heat to high and add the water to the pot. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are cooked through.
Add the milk and bring the pot to just before a boil. (Try not to let it boil too vigorously, or you’ll get milk scum floating on top--which is not a problem for me, but some people find it unpalatable.) Taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.
Keeping the pot at just below a boil, add the cod. Submerge the pieces gently and add the cauliflower pieces. Let the pot simmer until the cod chunks are cooked through and opaque, for 5 minutes or so.
Stir in the sour cream and add salt and/or pepper if needed. Serve with crusty bread.
The chowder should keep in the fridge for 5-6 days. (Just make sure to reheat it thoroughly every time.) It can also be frozen and reheated later. I turned this into a quick and tasty Jamaican curry soup a few days later and had it over basmati rice. Yum!