Spicy Chowder for a Snow Day
On Friday morning I was awoken by the sound of my phone buzzing with a text message– it was an SVA Alert– all offices were closed due to the inclement weather. So, as an SVA employee, this meant– snow day! I put on my boots and trudged a half mile through the mixture of slush and powder to my studio, where I worked until late afternoon. As I made my trek home, my boots soaked through, I knew that I needed some warm comfort food for dinner. I did a mental survey of what I had in the pantry and fridge and quickly decided on a tomato-based clam chowder. Warm, spicy, and it would require no additional trip to the market! I served it with homemade croutons made with some stale, leftover french bread. Sam made a salad of arugula, pear and cheese with a simple dressing of rice vinegar, olive oil and honey. Soup and salad– a perfect meal!
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Adjust the red pepper to your taste. Add additional seafood to make this a cioppino. Use fresh clams if you have them on hand, but whole baby canned clams taste good as well. Or, leave the seafood out entirely, and add some vegetable broth to make a delicious spicy vegetarian tomato soup.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- (Optional) 2 slices of veggie bacon, diced– I like this recipe for “faken”
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 Bay leaves
- 4 dried red chilies, crushed
- 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, (can substitute 2 1/2 teaspoons of dried)
- 4 medium red potatoes, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 bell pepper, seeded, diced
- 3/4 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 carton (26 oz) of chopped tomatoes (I use Pomi because their cardboard containers, unlike cans, are BPA free)
- 2 cups clam broth
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups clams (use fresh shucked if you can, but whole baby clams in a can will work as well– I know– I just warned against cans, but sometimes they are unavoidable, and the point is to avoid whenever possible to limit the toxins. Your fish market or even larger grocery stores like Wegmans also sometimes sell plastic deli-style containers of shucked clams.)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian, flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add veggie bacon, garlic, onion and red pepper. Cook until onions are translucent. Add bay leaves, oregano, carrots, bell pepper and cherry tomatoes, coating with the oil mixture, and cooking over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, clam broth, and chopped tomatoes. Add more liquid if necessary. Cook for ten minutes or until potatoes are cooked through. Add tomato paste and stir. Add clams, parsley and basil and cook over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread or homemade croutons (recipe below).
I always seem to have half a loaf of Italian or French bread leftover, and it goes stale before I can use it again. Croutons are a perfect solution– they’re great in soup or salad. I like to make mine extra large.
- 1/2 loaf of stale crusty bread, coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill (or your herb of choice)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (Optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a skillet, melt butter. Add oil. Add garlic and cook on low-medium heat until its aroma is released. Add dill and/ or any other herbs. Add bread to pan and coat with butter-oil mixture. Toss with parmesan, if using. Make one layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip each piece. Bake 15-20 more minutes, or until the edges are browned and the entire piece is crisp.