Dairy-Free Clam and Corn Chowder

There's something in the air. Not a chill, exactly (though it has gotten a little cooler, which I love). No, there's a sweet, dank aroma that's arrived. I noticed it when we took the dog out for a walk in the woods. Nature telling us that we're approaching the end of summer. As soon as it hit me, I immediately craved soup and, so, I made a pot of clam chowder. It's not your typical clam chowder and I know there are purists out there who might make a fuss about this being too fancy. But it really isn't. The major difference is that I used coconut milk instead of cream. I actually prefer it this way. It's rich in flavor, but doesn't feel heavy. Also, there's no bacon in it. Now, I have nothing against bacon and I totally see why folks love it so much, but I am baffled as to why every chowder recipe contains some. Let's ask ourselves... Does it really need it? In my opinion, it doesn't (note the smoked paprika, which provides a hint of that bacony flavor).

The funny thing is that I made this chowder last week and again over the weekend. On the Cape, my brother-in-law will often go out clamming in the morning. When he does, he'll return with buckets of beautiful, fresh, briny clams (sometimes there are snails and mussels thrown into the mix). Last Sunday, I suggested that I make a batch of this soup for his birthday dinner that evening, which he was totally on board with. So, clam chowder twice in one week. Not bad at all. 

Dairy-Free Clam and Corn Chowder

To cut down on the cooking time, I've suggested using canned clams instead of preparing fresh clams, which is what I initially did when I made this dish. 

4-6 servings

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 celery stalks, sliced into thick 1/4 inch thick pieces
3 ears corn kernels
Black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 10 oz cans chopped clams, in clam juice
1 15 oz can full-fat coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Fresh dill

In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped yellow onion and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sweet potato and celery. Season with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the corn kernels, chopped clams, clam juice and coconut milk and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked. Season with salt, to taste. Before serving, stir in lime juice. Ladle soup into bowls and top with fresh dill and freshly ground black pepper

Tom Kha Tofu (Thai Coconut Soup)

On Monday, we returned from a long weekend in Florida with my family. Yes, I know we were just in Hawaii (and there may be a trip coming up to Mexico. It's really rough). This was a mini-reunion. My parents, sister (and her family), my aunt, uncle and cousins all traveled to Captiva. Even with the so-so weather, we all had a great time. We spent our one perfect day lounging on the beach and by the pool (heated to a perfect 80 degrees). My nieces were big fans and spent hours splashing around in their swimmies. On Sunday, we went to Bowman's Beach in Sanibel for some shelling. Despite the clouds and wind, it was a fun (and very successful) experience and we came home with some gorgeous shells.

Exiting Logan Airport was a bit rough as I hadn't packed a jacket with me. I wrapped myself up in a scarf and ran to the car as fast as I could. While we were away, we got a couple inches of snow. Now, it's a little early to say, but the reports have been saying that we're going to get our first major snow storm of the season this weekend.  To prepare for the nasty weather, I'm making sure we have enough firewood and bourbon to keep us warm and cozy. A big pot of soup, like this hearty, vegan Tom Kha Tofu (a take on Tom Kha Gai, which has chicken in it instead of tofu) will do the trick as well.


Tom Kha Tofu (Thai Coconut Soup with Tofu)

Yield Serves 4

2-14 oz can full-fat coconut milk
2 cups water
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon red chili paste
1/2 large red onion, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1 red pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 lb shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, dried and sliced
1-14 oz container of firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 Thai chili pepper, seeds removed and sliced thinly
2 cups cooked white or brown rice

1. In a medium pot, add the coconut milk, water, ginger, garlic, Thai chili paste and red onion. Season to taste with salt. Bring to a low boil. After a few minutes, add the red pepper, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu.  Cook for another five minutes.

2. Spoon a 1/2 cup of rice into each bowl and ladle soup over it. Garnish with fresh cilantro and, if you want more spice, sliced Thai chili pepper. Serve with lime wedges.


Seafood Stew

Another fifteen inches of snow fell on our neighborhood over the weekend. We spent most of Saturday preparing for this latest storm, clearing out the driveway as much as possible so that we'd have a place to shovel the new pile. Thankfully, it didn't start until later in the evening. But by the time we awoke on Sunday, the mounds surrounding our house had grown. After some breakfast and a few hours of reading newspapers, Eric suited up for some shoveling. I offered to help, but he said he was ok with taking care of it. As this was the first Sunday I wasn't working in over a month, I didn't argue with him.

That's not to say that I wasn't helpful. I did what I could, getting some laundry and cooking done. Eric had talked about making a goat stew, the task of which soon became mine to take on. I've never cooked goat, but I had a feeling it needed a couple of hours of simmering time. As someone who doesn't consume much meat and prepares it even less frequently, I feel a great deal of pride when a dish comes out tasting the way it's supposed to. And as good as it tasted, it smelled equally delightful. How wonderful it'll be when he walks through the door and can take in these wonderful aromas. 

As for my dinner, I had already planned on putting together a batch of seafood stew. Before the weekend, I'd stocked up on an assortment of fish and other sea creatures. This is my new obsession. Getting a little of a number of ingredients and throwing them into a pot. This time it was a combination of squid, shrimp, littleneck clams, bay scallops and salmon.  After a long day of shoveling, I poured us a glass of wine and ladled our his and his stews into our respective bowls. We threw a couple blankets on top of our laps and curled up on the couch. It wasn't an official Valentine's Day celebration, but it certainly was a nice reminder of the life we've built for ourselves and the little (and not so little things) we do for one another.


Seafood Stew

Yields: approx. 4 servings


1/2 lb salmon, skin removed and fillets cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch cubes 12 littleneck clams 3/4 lb squid, cleaned tentacles (cut in half, if necessary) and bodies (sliced into rings) 1/2 lb bay scallops 1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 lb plum tomatoes, chopped 1 fennel bulb, chopped 1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes 3 carrots, chopped 1 1/2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley 3 cups seafood stock Kosher salt Black pepper Olive oil


1. In a large skillet with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onion, season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add chopped fennel and potato and cook for 3 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.

2. Add chopped tomatoes and seafood stock.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes.

3. Add the squid, scallops, shrimp and clams. Cover and let cook for 2 minutes.

4. Take the lid off and add the salmon. Season with salt. Cover and let cook for another 6 minutes, or until the salmon is cooked through and the clams have opened.

5. Sprinkle fresh parsley over stew before serving. Can be served in bowls on its own, on top of couscous or rice, or with crusty bread.