Fellow blogger WendyP from The Local Cook launched a new series this month she calls “Fit Jerk Fridays” – and she kicked things off with a challenge from fellow blogger FitJerk to prepare a healthy locally-sourced seasonal meal.
I was on the road showing dogs and unable to get my kitchen organized enough for the first two FJ Fridays, but my improvisation on this Smoked Salmon chowder recipe from Epicurious.com is my healthy, easy, seasonal mid-week entry this week.
New York State’s Salmon River is just about 50 miles north of me, and the Finger Lakes surround me. Local freshwater salmon, steelhead and lake trout – fresh, frozen and smoked – are kitchen staples. The maple-smoked salmon fillets I used for this soup came from the Central New York Regional (farmers) market; when they show up in the market, I stock up to the limits of my 4.5 cu.ft. freezer. They keep for a couple of months if frozen – so this chowder goes from idea to ready-to-serve in about 45 minutes. No smoked salmon? This chowder is also very tasty with canned salmon, other smoked fish (haddock, trout) or with fresh fish fillets if you’ve got ‘em. Make sure to add fresh fillets to the soup toward the end, and just heat gently enough to cook the fish fillets through.
I souped up the Epicurious recipe (and reduced the carbs per serving!) by substituting 1 cup of cauliflower florets and 1 cup of sliced crimini mushrooms for the original recipe’s 2 cups of cubed potato. I also doubled the amount of smoked salmon to be sure that each 1 cup of chowder provides a full 22-gram serving of protein – if using canned salmon, use 14-16 oz. canned salmon for the full recipe. I used half and half and whole milk instead of heavy cream – but if this soup is also excellent with skim milk, since the pureed cauliflower thickens it. My herb of choice was some of the thyme I froze from my garden (the original recipe used fresh chives, which I didn’t have.) Ingredient substitutions are one of the great things about soup – many recipes can be true jammin’ improvs according to what you have in your pantry.
For me, this soup alone is a complete comfort food supper on a cold night – but if you’ve got some fresh greens and some winter fruit in your pantry, a wilted greens salad with a lemon viniagrette and some fresh or poached pears for dessert make this meal fancy enough for company.
Salmon River Smoked Fish Chowder
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 medium leeks, rinsed and thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup sliced crimini (dark brown) mushrooms
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1/2 cup fresh carrot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or any homemade vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
12-16 oz. smoked salmon, lightly flaked into pieces about 1″ long
1/2 cup half’n'half
2 tablespoons fresh-frozen thyme leaves
- Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over low heat. Add the leeks, garlic, cauliflower florets and mushrooms and sauté them for 2 minutes.
- Add the chopped celery and carrot, salt, and pepper and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Add the broth and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove about 1 cup of vegetables with a bit of the broth. Puree until smooth, and return the puree to the soup pot. If you prefer a very creamy soup, you can use an immersion blender directly in the soup pot to puree all of the vegetables in the broth at this point.
- Add the tomato paste, thyme and milk, then the salmon, and bring the mixture back to a simmer for a few minutes (but don’t let it boil, or the milk will separate).
- As it simmers, stir in the half’n'half. Heat through, and serve.
Makes 4-5 generous cups. Enjoy!