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.
In Frankfurt, green sauce (grune sosse or grüne soße in German) is ubiquitous. The somewhat tartar-like sauce with a ton of herbs magically manages to be refreshing and hearty at the same time. Simple boiled vegetables like potatoes and broccoli get a serious upgrade with a dollop or two of this stuff–add a slice or two of ham, and you have a complete, satisfying meal. In this adapted version, I use common ingredients (think Greek yogurt instead of quark) and fewer herbs (bye bye, borage and burnet), but the bright, herby and hearty sauce comes out pretty close to the real deal.
A few years ago, we spent a couple of nights in Frankfurt on the way to and from a year-end vacation in Paris. One night, we went to an apfelwein inn where we sat on a communal bench, elbow-to-elbow with locals and tourists alike, drinking from a beautiful ceramic jug of the German hard cider. It was a cold winter night but inside the warm, steamy inn, the atmosphere was jovial and convivial, just as I’d imagine an old roadside inn serving locals and travelers hundreds of years ago.
I had a giant plate of schnitzel with boiled potatoes, topped with a local green sauce. A delightfully bright, herby and creamy sauce made with (I guessed) sour cream and a ton of herbs, the sauce was a perfect accompaniment to the earthy potatoes and hearty schnitzel. Apfelwein kept flowing, our tummies got full, and we trekked back to our hotel happy and satiated.
When Hubby picked up a can of genuine apfelwein from a beer store nearby, all this fond memory came back, and I had to make some schnitzel with this green sauce to go with the cider. I got a-Googling. As it turned out, the Frankfurt-style green sauce contains a hard boiled egg, which gives the sauce a subtle savory body and extra richness, similar to how boiled eggs work in tartar sauce.
I also found out that the green sauce calls for quite a few types of herbs, some of which I hadn’t even heard of. Since I didn’t want to end up with a fridge full of wilting herbs, I decided to get just a couple: Watercress, which is easy to consume in a salad; parsley, which can go into a stock or chimichurri sauce; and chives, which is totally versatile. Despite the omissions, the sauce came out pretty close to what I remembered. I love this sauce!
Bright, Herby Frankfurter Green Sauce
DASH considerations: The Frankfurter green sauce might not be particularly great when seen from the DASH perspective. It does somewhat depend on what you compare it to, though: As a substitute for straight sour cream, for instance, this is a much lighter version with less fat and sneaky addition of greens. However, you wouldn't be eating a cup of this stuff, so it's kind of, sort of, negligible in the grand scheme of things...
DASH servings (for 2 tablespoon of the green sauce):
I would just count it as 1/2 serving of fat and maaaaaybe 1/4 serving of vegetables. The rest ends up being pretty miniscule.
Boil, cool and peel the egg. Chop the egg roughly.
In a tall-sided bowl (I used the plastic container that came with my immersion blender), combine the egg, sour cream, Greek yogurt, watercress, parsley, chives and lemon juice. Using an immersion blender, blend until the ingredients form a more or less uniform, smooth mixture. (Add the extra virgin olive oil along with all the other ingredients, if using.)
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
There are so many possibilities with this sauce:
The first night, I served it traditional, with boiled potatoes, broccoli and a chicken schnitzel (that uses mustard instead of an egg as the coating agent, a neat trick I learned from Blue Apron).
It’s fantastic as a sandwich spread. I made a ham sandwich with cucumber and lettuce on bread smeared with this sauce for a hiking lunch, and it was glorious.
It would be lovely on top of potato pancakes, in place of sour cream.
We made a tasty New Year’s Eve appetizer of smoked salmon and cucumber on crackers with a dollop of the green sauce. Nom nom!
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!
When I made jerk chicken in the oven the other day, I lined the baking pan with rounds of sweet potato and carrots before placing the jerk-marinated chicken on top. I added some extra jerk marinade dollops on the vegetables, then roasted the whole assembly for 40 minutes at 375 degrees. This gave me a good amount of ready-to-go veggies for the next few days.
This salad uses some of that sweet potato. A quick, creamy and tangy dressing made with remaining jerk marinade and some coconut flakes on top complete the picture. If you don’t have jerk chicken or jerk-roasted sweet potato, I think plain grilled chicken and roasted sweet potato would work just fine in this salad. Sprinkling a bit of jerk spice mix might be a good idea if you are using plain ingredients. The jerk dressing and coconut flakes really livens up the otherwise workaday autumn/winter salad (not that there’s anything wrong with that, either)!
In a large bowl that can accommodate the entire salad, place the jerk marinade, sour cream and lime juice. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Add the jerk chicken, egg, arugula, sweet potato and cucumber in the bowl. Toss to mix.
Taste and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Top with the coconut flakes.
Since I was bringing the salad to work for lunch, I didn’t dress it. I just made the dressing, packed the salad, and brought them separately so that the arugula wouldn’t get soggy. For the dressing, I used one of those tiny jam jars you see at hotel breakfasts–it works great. 😀