Snow Day Soup

If you live pretty much anywhere on the east coast of the country above South Carolina, you are probably experiencing some snow today. In southeastern Virginia, we started getting snow yesterday afternoon and through the night. And if there’s anything that below freezing temperatures and a few inches of snow makes you want, it’s soup. A certain soup company has made like a zillion dollar or something on this concept. Ehhh?

Please don't sue me for the unauthorized use of this picture, soup company!

Please don’t sue me for the unauthorized use of this picture, soup company!

So last night I got the soup pot fired up, but unlike this creepy snowman kid, I did not turn to the standard snow day soup . . .

Move over, Chicken Noodle – there’s a new soup in town!

Ham & Cabbage Soup

ham and cabbage soup

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups of chicken broth (I used my homemade crockpot chicken broth)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 5-6 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 small head of cabbage, chopped
  • 1/2 cup of pearled barley
  • 1/2 – 1 lb ham, diced
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbs dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a large, heavy stockpot, bring it to a boil, then reduce to low and simmer for 1.5 hours. Soup is ready when carrots and cabbage are tender and barley has fluffed and cooked through.

A quick note about the ham. You can use any kind of ham you want here – I made this soup because I had a little less than a pound of Honeybaked Ham (on the bone) left over from a brunch. I usually make this soup with a salted, country style ham to give the soup the saltiness I like. But if you prefer sweet ham and don’t need or want your soup to be salty, then use that. Another note that the cabbage, carrots and onions came from our Winter CSA that we are getting from Cullipher Farm. Yes, there is fresh, local produce available in the winter! In addition to those ingredients we also got potatoes, kale, turnips and collards in our box last week.

This soup is very filling thanks to the barley. Barley is a whole grain that is high in fiber, which means it helps with digestion, can lower cholesterol, keep blood pressure low and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Barley is more effective at all of these things than whole oats, so it’s a good substitute every once in awhile. For those with diabetes, pearled barley has the lowest glycemic index of all the common cereal grains (such as wheat, rye, oats, etc). This means that even though it is a carbohydrate, it won’t raise your blood sugar as much as other carbs. It’s glycemic index (when boiled) is 35.

Additionally, carrots, cabbage and onions provide a wide variety of nutrients from Vitamins K and C to powerful antioxidants that protect our bodies against a host of things, including cancer. So while chicken noodle soup might ward off a cold, this soup is fighting cancer. And with high fiber barley rather than high-glycemic noodles, to boot. So make a bowl and sit back and enjoy the snow.

The Drunken Clam

What is this? A second post this week?? I maintain that you shouldn’t get your hopes up, but for now – here’s some food.

The Drunken Clam

clams

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs butter (or Vegan butter, which is what I use and works great)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • one large shallot, chopped
  • two large garlic gloves, chopped fine
  • one large heirloom tomato, diced
  • 1/2 – 1 cup white wine (I suggest Pinot Grigio)
  • fresh lemon
  • one bag of Littleneck clams – usually around 50 or so clams – scrubbed and rinsed well
  • handful of parsley, chopped

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Once the butter begins to bubble, add the garlic and shallot and saute 2-3 minutes until shallot starts to become translucent, then add in the diced tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste and stir for two more minutes.
  2. Pour in the wine, stir to combine, and bring to a light boil, then reduce heat back to medium and add the clams and the juice of half a lemon, and stir gently to incorporate the sauce, then put the lid on the skillet and let sit for 7-8 minutes.
  3. Take the lid off, pour in a little bit more wine and a tablespoon more butter, a squeeze of a lemon wedge as well as the parsley. Stir to combine, then with a slotted spoon, divide the clams between the bowls then pour the remaining sauce in the pan over each of the bowls of clams.
  4. Serve with hot, toasted French bread, a lemon wedge and the rest of that Pinot Grigio. This serves four normal people or two of us.

The Littleneck clams I purchased were from Cherrystone Aqua Farms which farms and harvests clams and oysters on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Yes, Cherrystone is also a type of clam, but did you know Littlenecks and Cherrystone clams are the same clams? These as well as Topnecks are all just Quahogs – their different names simply refer to their size, with Littlenecks being the smallest, then Cherrystones , then Topnecks are big boys and the clams that are just called Quahogs are the largest. Smaller clams will do better in this recipe as the larger a clam gets, the tougher it gets. Quick steams with light sauces like this are best done with young, tender clams. Chowders and stuffed clams can be done with your Topnecks and Quahogs. So you see – bigger is not always better.

Clams are low in fat and high in protein and they offer higher than average amounts of necessary minerals like selenium, zinc, iron and magnesium as well as B vitamins and niacin. They’re also painfully easy to make, as you can see from above. People get freaked out by seafood and even more freaked out by bivalves. There’s really nothing to be afraid of, but there are some things you need to make sure of when dealing with clams and other bivalves such as mussels or oysters:

  • Buy them fresh from a reputable fish monger or seafood market
  • Keep them cold until you cook them (in a bowl of ice in the fridge is best)
  • Rinse them well before cooking – they dig around in the dirt for a living….
  • Once you have cooked them, check for shells that did not open. Any shells that didn’t open during cooking should be disposed of as this is indicative that the clam may have been dead prior to cooking and therefore not of the freshest variety. If you got a batch where several clams didn’t open, that means they weren’t fresh and you might want to purchase from a different seafood market next time. Having one or two that don’t open, though, is pretty normal.

So don’t freak out. Just split a bottle of wine with those clams and relax.

Open Season

For locavores, June marks the beginning of open season. Markets open back up, farm stands are on every corner and fresh produce is back at last. This morning I woke up, threw some clothes on and told the husband to make my coffee to-go and hold off on frying the bacon. Half an hour later we were back home with new potatoes, kale, beets, green beans and fresh baked tomato basil rolls. And all for $15. But eating fresh and local? That’s priceless.

20140607-103632-38192149.jpg

Happy produce hunting, friends!!

Like Father, Like Daughter

My dad makes this outrageous clam chowder that people will literally put in requests for. Sometimes in the winter my mom and dad will host an oyster roast at their house and my dad will steam oysters under a wet towel on the grill outside and we’ll stand around shucking them over plywood laid out on saw horses with big steaming bowls of this chowder. It is really culinary perfection – exactly the way I love to eat and experience food.

The chowder that he makes isn’t thick and creamy like up north, this is what we call “Hatteras Style” clam chowder and it’s really more of a soup than a chowder. It’s brothy, chunky and extremely peppery. For the longest time I assumed it was some sort of complicated recipe that I didn’t want to take on, until one night when I was pining for it, he said¬†nonchalantly,¬† “all you need is a can of clams and some potatoes.” What?? Seriously??

Anyways, the simplicity of this recipe doesn’t make it any less amazing. Much like me, my dad doesn’t cook to a precise recipe, so these amounts were estimated by me until it looked and tasted similar to his. I will say, just when you think you’ve added enough pepper, add some more.

Bob’s Clam Chowder, Hatteras Style

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

  • 3 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 4 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 small cans of chopped clams or 1 large can (depends on where you go – most grocery stores just carry the small, tuna can sized ones)
  • salt, pepper and parsley to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add the onions and celery and saute until soft
  2. Add the potatoes, add salt and pepper and stir well
  3. Add both cans of clams – WITH juice, stir well
  4. Add 3 cups of water (or more depending on how brothy you want it)
  5. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve steaming hot with oyster crackers

Hatteras Style Clam Chowder

This recipe makes about four hearty bowls. Double for more or triple for a crowd. At some stores you’ll be able to find the huge cans of chopped clams, which is probably worthwhile if you’re cooking for a small army.