Friday, September 16, 2011

Vegetarian Corn Chowder with a Bite

There used to be a to-go place near where I grew up that had really delicious corn chowder. It was smokey and creamy and I'm sure full of fat and canned ingredients. But I was young and definitely not concerned with what exactly made it so good. Having grown up not eating meat and other fatty things, it didn't occur to me that the two key ingredients were bacon and cream. Of course it was delicious!

I didn't eat bacon in any other form when I was growing up -- as far as I was consciously concerned, I did not eat red or pig meat. I only ate it in this soup! Then, when I started my first cooking job, I was faced with a major challenge: eating things I had grown up thinking I didn't eat. One of the first challenges was Bacon. I succeeded with flying colors and loved it even outside of the beloved corn chowder! I started eating all sorts of things I always thought I wouldn't. My food horizons expanded for a few years, and then, they started retracting, which was totally fine with me. Now, unless I'm very hung over, eating bacon kind of makes me feel like a pig. So I try not to eat it if I can avoid it.

This morning when I woke up and thought I would go to the Union Square Greenmarket, the first items on the list were New Potatoes. Creamy, delicate, naturally flaky-skinned potatoes. What else (aside from roast chicken) goes well with freshly dug potatoes? Corn. Farmers Market Corn. All day I thought about making this version of corn chowder. It's vegetarian and uses half-and-half instead of cream, and poblano peppers instead of... I don't know what they're instead of but they're good and add the perfect amount of heat when seeded. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did tonight!

Vegetarian Corn Chowder
1 T olive oil
2 or 3 strips "Fakin Bacon" (smoked tempeh), diced small
1 large onion, diced (not too small)
1 small (or half of a large) poblano pepper, chopped
1 T butter
2/3 lb potatoes, chopped
6 c veggie stock
2 corn cobs and the corn from the cobs
1/2 c half-and-half
salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute tempeh and onion in olive oil. When onions are translucent, add peppers and butter. Add potatoes, stock, and stripped corn cobs. Bring to boil and simmer until potatoes are cooked through, about 15 min. Add corn and cook until heated, about 5 more minutes. Stir in half and half, salt, and pepper, and serve.

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm back. Full force.

This summer I was a bit distracted. You'd think I'd have posted a whole bunch, since it was the first summer in I don't know how long that I didn't have any job, school, or other obligations (at least not for the month of August). It's not that I wasn't creating. I most definitely was; in the weeks to come you'll find super easy pepper-egg tagliatelle, stuffed peppers, and more mostly vegetarian recipes, pictures, and tales. But for now, you'll just have to bear with me as I give you words and not photos. My camera is overseas, touring Western Europe without me with a particularly talented musician who lost his battery charger. So it is.

I don't know if you've ever felt like you've taken your health for granted. Sure, I might have said once or twice in my life, I'm thankful for my health. But did I really mean it? Did I still carelessly chow down on unhealthy food, make bad decisions, and stop exercising for months at a time? I did. Sometimes it takes a bit of a health scare to get your butt in gear. At least that's what's currently happening to me.

In the next few weeks and months I'm hoping to bring a slightly more rigid healthful bend to the blog, due to my revisiting the issue of not taking health for granted. This time I mean it. Let's see how long it lasts.

So, in honor of less-processed, organic-when-possible, healthy in the moment food, I give you warm balsamic wheat berry salad for one.

1/2 T butter or olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
1 portabello mushroom, cut into small cubes
1 handful green, purple, or yellow beans, diced into 1/2" pieces
1/2 sweet green pepper, diced small
1 T  balsamic vinegar
pinch herbs de provence or italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
1 c cooked wheat berries*
goat cheese

In a medium to large skillet, over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add mushroom and cook 5-7 min, until cooked down. Throw in beans and peppers. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Pour in vinegar and stir, allowing to simmer a bit. Add herbs, salt and pepper, and wheat berries. Cook until wheat berries are heated through. Serve like this, or with a teaspoon of delicious goat cheese.

*Wheat berries are an awesome grain, but they take a while to cook. Soak 8 hours or overnight before the day you plan to cook them. Then cook in stock or lightly salted water for 30-40 min or until they feel sort of bouncy but soft to the teeth.