Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Coconut Cod Chowder


Every once in a long while, the blue moon variety, I will tackle an unfamiliar recipe that sounds like an interesting mix of unusual flavors and follow it – untypically – to the letter. Even if the recipe said an item was “optional” I was going to include it. No substitutions. No cheating. No shortcuts.

That’s exactly what I did with this Coconut Cod Chowder.

My sister gave me the recipe. “I just loved it,” she said.

And her bridge club loved it. Another sister and her husband loved it. Okay, that’s enough recommendations for me. I’ll try it. Lent is coming and I want new fish dishes.

After scanning the ingredient list, I had to check the pantry and the fridge for anything I might need. Turmeric? Check. Cardamom? Check. Coriander? Check. Coconut milk? Check. Cod? Check.

I needed to get leeks, fresh ginger, baby potatoes, a serrano chile pepper and oyster crackers. Although I did have some ginger in the freezer, I thought getting new ginger a better idea.

I have to admit, it was really, really good. What my sister didn’t tell me was that it tasted even better the next day. Now, you know.

What makes this thick soup so good is the mix of the spices with the coconut milk and the surprise spritz of citrus. It has enough zip, balanced by the creaminess of the milk.  I, too, loved it.

There are just a couple things I’d adjust the next time I make it. I will cut the potatoes into at least quarters and the fish into smaller pieces. And I think I would add just a little more heat, either with another chile pepper or hot pepper flakes. Maybe even another seafood. Clams? Shrimp?

I’m sharing this recipe, originally from Bon Appetit, just as my sister gave it to me. I have to admit, though, that I didn’t use ghee. The Bon Appetit experts allowed that good ol’ butter was just fine.

(Ghee is the foundation of Indian cooking. It is cow's butter that has been heated low and slow, then strained, to remove all the milk solids; essentially, it’s clarified butter.)

I hope you give it a try. It’s worth it. And don’t be tempted to delete the toasted oyster crackers or the lime. Both additions are perfect. If you try it, let me know.

Did Mr. Rosemary like it? He said so.  And the man doesn’t lie.


Coconut Cod Chowder

From Bon Appetit

Makes about 4 servings

1½ lb. skinless, boneless cod or halibut fillets

2½ tsp. kosher salt, divided, plus more

5 Tbsp. ghee or unsalted butter, divided

2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise

6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 (3") piece ginger, peeled, cut into matchsticks

¾ tsp. ground turmeric

¾ tsp. ground coriander

½ tsp. ground cardamom

1 serrano chile, thinly sliced

12 oz. baby Yukon Gold or red potatoes, halved

2 (13.5-oz.) cans unsweetened coconut milk

2 celery stalks, thinly sliced, plus leaves for serving (optional)

1½ cups oyster crackers

1 tsp. paprika

2 limes, divided

Season cod all over with 1½ tsp. salt; set aside. Heat 3 Tbsp. ghee in a medium Dutch oven over medium. Cook leeks, garlic, and ginger, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add turmeric, coriander, and cardamom and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chile, potatoes, coconut milk, 1 tsp. salt, and ¾ cup water; bring to a boil (still over medium). Immediately reduce heat so soup is at a bare simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly askew, and cook until potatoes are barely fork-tender, 10–12 minutes.

Carefully nestle reserved fish into pot, spoon some broth over, and cover, leaving lid slightly askew. Cook at a bare simmer 4 minutes, then stir in celery. Cook until fish is opaque and flakes easily, about 5 minutes. Taste chowder and season with more salt if needed.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 2 Tbsp. ghee in a small skillet over medium-low. Add crackers and stir well to coat. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add paprika; toss to evenly coat.

Slice 1 lime in half and squeeze juice into chowder. Taste and season with more salt if needed. Ladle into bowls, breaking fish into large pieces. Scatter celery leaves over chowder if using and top with crackers. Slice remaining lime into wedges and serve alongside.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Brunch is Served! Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata

Let's talk about eggs. I love them. You'll always find a couple cartons of eggs in my refrigerator.  (Eggs. And butter. All kinds of cheese. Half and half, too. Probably sour cream.)

With eggs on hand (and all those other things) the possibilities for a meal -- any time of day -- are endless. I heartily agree with the American Egg Board: The humble egg is incredible. 

I don't have to adopt Egg Board's "Wednesday Is Eggsday!" promotion. We eat some form of egg almost every day of the week. On lazy days, Mr. Rosemary and I often have egg sandwiches for dinner. Eggs can magically transform last night's leftovers into a filling frittata. 

And I love this Spinach and Goat Cheese Frittata. It's one frittata that I don't just wing with: Untypically for me, I follow the recipe. And I've made this many times, and any guests we've had (not lately, of course) have loved it, too.

Don't turn up your nose (like Mr. Rosemary does) at the idea of goat cheese. It adds just a little bit of tang that makes you wonder, "What's in this?"

There is no meat in this dish, so to satisfy meat lovers, serve this with sausage links or a slice of ham.
I have mixed ground sausage in this dish, but I like it just as it is. 

I think what makes this dish unique is the addition of cottage cheese. Cottage cheese just melts right into the eggs and makes the frittata nice and fluffy.

Rachael Ray offers another version of this frittata, but it doesn't have tomatoes in it which not only add color but a bit of a juicy surprise.

Food and Wine also offers a version of this, with leeks and pancetta added. May have to try that one.

I can't credit the original source for this recipe: My sister gave it to me and a neighbor had given it to her.

I hope you give it a try. I'd love to know if you love it, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ham and Pinto Bean Soup ~ And Happy New Year!

The ham bone from our cozy, private Christmas dinner – a meal that could have fed maybe ten or so – became the base for this rich and hearty ham and bean soup that filled the house with such a tantalizing aroma as it simmered on the stove all day.

Ham and bean soup is the biggest reason we have a ham at Christmastime. And although it's an annual tradition, I love to make ham and bean soup, any soup, any time of year. 

I confess: I'm a  soup addict.

Actually my favorite ham and bean soup is Senate Bean Soup  Except for the kind of beans, the basic recipes are very similar.

But I had a bit of an overstock of pinto beans because a friend asked me to take several bags off her hands. Her father-in-law, a bean lover, found a deal too good to pass up and bought a whole case. “Please,” she begged. “Take some.”

What was I going to do with all those beans? I made baked beans over the summer a couple times, but even after the pandemic reorganizing of my pantry, I still had three bags to use.

I really didn't know the difference among all the variety of beans. I’m more familiar with the northern beans, or cannellini beans. I know many folks also use navy beans in ham and bean soup. Navy beans are similar to northerns in their flavors; they’re just smaller and slightly plumper.

Turns out that the biggest difference between northerns and pintos is color: The northerns are white and the pinto bean is a pinkish color that turns brown when cooked. 

Great Northern Beans are white. . . . 

 . . .and pinto beans are a reddish pink

The second biggest difference is that the hearty pinto bean takes longer to cook than the more delicate northern. But as long as the house smelled good and the filling soup was a perfect warmer upper on an early January day, that was all right with me.

Predictably, when I told Mr. Rosemary that I was using a slightly different recipe than I usually do for the soup, he rolled his eyes and wanted to know why I was changing from a known good thing. 

When I explained that I had this overload of pinto beans clogging up the pantry, he, as big a fan of non-waste as I am, was pacified. And when he ate the soup, two bowls worth, he was more than satisfied.

I did two different things from the original recipe. I added about ¼ cup of instant mashed potatoes to the soup towards the end of cooking. I like the soup thickened up a little, not to the pudding stage, but just a little thicker. Suit your own tastes for texture.

When I tasted the soup as it simmered, I found it a little bland, so I added a tablespoon a chili powder, not a lot for the size of the pot, but enough to spice up the soup a tad.

I also didn’t do one thing the original recipe called for: I didn’t add a Hungarian noodle-like dumpling called csipetke.  Csipetke is made from a dough of egg, flour and oil that is pinched into little pieces then dropped into the soup about a half-hour before it’s ready to be served.

Mr. Rosemary also doesn't like dumplings -- doesn't matter the kind, size or shape, so I left the csipetke out. But I didn't say a word when he asked for a piece of bread to put in his soup bowl before ladling the soup on top. Wasn't that pretty much a dumpling?!?

Ham and Pinto Bean Soup
Makes about 4 quarts
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 pound dried pinto beans
6 large carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
6 celery ribs, sliced
1 large garlic clove
3-1/2 to 4 pounds smoked ham hocks
(or one meaty ham bone)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes

Wash and sort beans. Soak in cold water overnight; drain. In a large 8-qt. soup kettle, combine the beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, ham bone, paprika and chili powder. Add enough water to cover ingredients by 2 inches.  Simmer, partly covered, for 2 to 4 hours or until the beans are tender, adding more water as needed. Add the instant potato to thicken, if you want. When beans are tender; remove the bone, remove the meat from the bone and add to the soup.