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.
Kabocha is a Japanese green-skinned, flattened-looking squash/pumpkin with an intensely sweet flavor and a pleasantly dry texture. It doesn’t turn into watery mush like some pumpkin varieties do, even when cooked in liquid, and the earthy sweet flavor is wonderfully intense. It’s a pretty unique combination of flavor and texture. If you can’t tell, I really love it. It makes me happy to see them turn up in regular grocery stores here in the U.S.!
I found a great kabocha at the grocery store recently and have been enjoying it in a varieties of ways–simply roasted, simmered in soy sauce and a bit of maple syrup, and this dill-spiked creamy kabocha salad. It’s sweet without any sugar, thanks to the super-sweet kabocha. In DASH diet, daily limits for sugar is pretty low, so this is a boon to people with sweet tooth (like me!). The (differently) sweet yet green aroma of the dill adds a nice complexity to the kabocha salad. Additionally, the red pepper gives just the right amount of refreshing crunch and peppery bitterness to balance out the creamy base and sweetness.
It’s an easy salad that packs a surprisingly sophisticated harmony of flavors. (I also love the bright colors: Deep orange kabocha, red pepper and green dill make any dull plate pop.) I’d recommend using a Japanese kabocha if you can find it, but if not, other pumpkin and squash varieties may work, though the texture will be wetter. You may need to reduce the amount of yogurt-mayo mixture.
Dill Kabocha Salad with Red Pepper and Greek Yogurt
DASH considerations: This dill kabocha salad is wonderfully sweet without any added sugar, thanks to the natural sweetness of the Japanese pumpkin variety. Another plus from the DASH diet perspective is the lower fat content achieved by using half mayo and half Greek yogurt. Swapping out some of the mayo also gives you more control over how much sodium goes in.
2 vegetables & fruits
½ fat & oil
Dairy serving is negligible.
I had a couple of Chinese eggplants that needed to be eaten. If cooked in oil, eggplants soak up it (that’s partially why they are so tasty). So, stir-frying them or roasting them with a drizzle of oil would likely eat up more than half of the daily oil limit of DASH diet. I wasn’t sure what to do with them. That is, until I remembered the grilled eggplant salad we like to get at Thai restaurants. That sounded like the perfect low-fat solution to my eggplant conundrum.
I decided to roast the eggplants whole in the oven without the oil, and use the Japanese technique of quick-poaching über-thinly sliced meats to further reduce the fat content. This technique, called shabu shabu, somehow retains the meaty umami but drains away a lot of the fat in just a few quick seconds. It’s a perfect technique for DASH eaters! I threw in a bunch of Thai herbs for good measure, and the result was a bright, refreshing and satisfying salad with creamy, earthy eggplant chunks and umami-packed beef slices.
Thai Eggplant & Shabu Shabu Beef Salad
DASH benefits: This bright and savory Thai eggplant and beef salad uses oil-free roasting and quick-poaching techniques to drastically reduce the amount of oil. Lots of different textures and flavors keep every bite interesting: The creamy eggplant, crunchy cabbage, savory beef, refreshing lime, slightly kicky chili and bright herbs. Since the sodium content is on the high side, I’d pair it with plain jasmine rice for a light but satisfying dinner.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. (I used my small toaster oven.)
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.
Poke a few holes in the eggplants to prevent them from bursting in the oven.
Roast the eggplants on a pan for 20 minutes. Check for doneness. They should feel limp and a knife inserted in the middle should feel no resistance.
While the eggplants roast, place the cilantro, basil, red onion, scallion and jalapeño in a large bowl.
Mix the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl to make the dressing.
Poach the beef slices in the boiling pot of water for 10-15 seconds each, until just cooked through.
Add the beef to the bowl of vegetables.
When the eggplants are cooked through, cut them into bite-sized rounds or half moons. Add them to the bowl of vegetables and beef.
Pour the dressing over the eggplant mixture, add a few generous grinds of white pepper, and toss to combine. (You’ll likely have some leftover dressing.)
Place the shredded cabbage in salad bowls. Place the eggplant mixture on top. Top with fried shallots, if using.
*I buy my meats from Korean and Japanese stores when I need them sliced super-thin. (I'm talking as thin as delicate deli meats, if not thinner.) I've tried asking neighborhood American butchers for custom thin slices, but they tend to be still too thick for shabu shabu poaching method. If you don't have easy access to Korean or Japanese store, your best bet is to use ground beef, pork or chicken instead. Poached shrimp works, too (and that's actually pretty authentic, according to a Thai cookbook I have!).
Leftovers: Actually the Best Part!
The eggplant mixture actually improves overnight. Like, way better. I had the eggplant salad minus the cabbage (plus a couple of cocktail tomatoes) for lunch the day after, and the extra marinating time really did it wonders, especially the eggplant that soaked up all the flavors of the dressing and the herbs. I highly recommend making this salad (up to step 10) the night before, if you can pull if off.
Grill ’em, If You Can
The salad would be even better if you can roast the eggplants on a charcoal grill. This is how it’s done in Thailand and some Thai restaurants in the US. Smoky char really adds to the overall complexity of the salad. Sadly this isn’t an option for me, given the lack of outdoor space in my NYC apartment. I should try adding some smoke powder next time.