Monday, July 20, 2009

Corn Chowder

I can't recall when I was introduced to corn chowder. Our family had creamed corn, which was sweet and delicious and I guess my vision of corn chowder is based on that because since I've lived abroad, I've noticed that Europeans and Russians don't eat that much corn except a sprinkling here or there in a salad. My wife's family is from Altai and out there on the steppe, they had fresh corn. In the past five years, canned corn has become a 'normal thing' here.

Corn chowder is actually more of a fall dish, but I had the corn chowder blues and I had to make a little batch. My variant is rather a scrappy little thing made with bits and pieces. Here in Russia, it is possible to get small deli cuts of pork and sausage at any super market. I used a small pieced of well marbled, smoked pork shoulder, But you could use bacon, which might be even better. This recipe makes about 6 cups.


2 240 g (8 1/2 oz) cans whole kernel corn
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
1 1/2 cups milk
150 g smoked pork shoulder, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken bullion (1 bullion cube in 1 1/2 cups water)
5 waxy new potatoes, diced into 1 cm cubes
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp vegetable oil
fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish

You will need a blender or food processor for this recipe

Prepare all ingredients before cooking. In a medium sized pot, heat the oil on medium heat. You won't need much oil becasue the pork will supply enough to flavor the soup. Add the pork and saute slowly for about 3 minutes, then add the onions, garlic and celery and saute until tender, about 5 - 7 minutes.

When the onion and pork mixture is tender, add the chicken broth and the potatoes. If there isn't enough liquid to the potatoes, add a little more water. Bring to just before a boil, reduce heat and cover. Let it simmer for about 10 - 12 minutes or until the potatoes are almost ready. New potatoes should cook pretty quickly.

In the meantime, put your corn and milk in a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth and creamy. Use a spatula to pour the corn and milk mixture into the chowder. Mix the creamed corn and milk in with the chowder. Salt and pepper to taste, reduce heat and let it simmer on very low heat for about 3-4 minutes. The corn chowder should be a fragrant, chunky soup that isn't too thick. You can thin it out with a bit of milk if needed.

Garnish and serve. Goes well with a green salad and seafood or chicken.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Simple 3 Fruit Salad

The Side Board Kitchen has received a request from the lonely NY bachelor to supply a healthy recipe with fruit. Nothing could be simpler than selecting fruit you like, washing it and then eating it. To justify the existence of the SBK, however, some tips on preparing this ultra no-brainer might be handy.

Simple 3 Fruit Salad for One
The real business end of a fruit salad is managing proportions of the salad with the size of the fruit. In general to make a portion for one person you don't want much more than 1 1/2 cups of fruit - about 1/2 cup of each kind of fruit. If the salad is part of a larger meal, even less is needed. The 3 fruit combination is well suited to individual servings as you don't wind up with a lot of unused parts of cut up fruit or a lot of extra uneaten fruit salad as it doesn't keep well for more than a few hours. A happy rule of thumb is that it is easier to prepare a fruit salad for 2 or more people than for one. Invite guests!

1/2 sweet crunchy apple
6-8 seedless grapes (white or red or a combination)
1/2 cup ripe melon - honeydew or cantaloupe are good
2 Tbsp fresh blueberries or red currant
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp powdered sugar or 1 tsp warm honey dissolved in 1 tsp hot water

Any type of sweet crunchy apple will do - Red or Golden Delicious, Winesap, McIntosh or other local apples. Ask you grocer if in doubt. Wash the apple and cut in half. Remove the skin on the half that you'll be using and use a teaspoon or a vegetable scoop to remove the seeds and bitter core. The apple flesh needs maximum exposure to release flavor. You can do this by cutting it into 1 cm cubes. Place the cubed apple in a serving bowl. If you want to have a fancy salad, you can julienne the apple, which is to slice it into very thin matchsticks. This isn't difficult, but it takes a bit of practice to be albe to do it by hand quickly. I'll post an entry later on how to do this later, but it is also quite simple to get a julienne slicer from the store. Julienned fruit and vegetables are not only very attractive and this, I am convinced, affects the taste as well. There is somehow more love in it.

We have a julienne shredder like this one to the left. You can zip through an apple in a few strokes.

There are also hand held kinds available like this one on the right that work like a potato peeler. Easy clean up but I am not certain about how well they do the job.

Add the washed and halved grapes and 1/2 cup of the melon cut up into cubes the same size as the apple to the bowl.

Next, mix the 1 teaspoon of powdered sugar or honey with the 1 teaspoon of hot water and sprinkle it on the salad and toss a bit. If fruit is sweet to begin with, you ask, why add more sugar? Good question. Powdered sugar causes the natural fruit sugar to come out as well as creating a light glaze around the fruit which gives it a nice glazed appearance. Ordinary sugar works as well, but it doesn't dissolve easily and makes the salad taste like it has sweet sand in it. Honey works, too, but it is sometimes a hassle to get honey to the right liquid state to coat all the fruit. You can add more powdered sugar or honey depending on how sweet you like your fruit salad.

After that, add the 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice. Apples and other fruit have a tendency to turn brown when cut up and the lemon juice helps to preserve their color.

Finally, top with the fresh blueberries or red currants. Chill, if desired, or serve immediately.

As I mentioned before, for single servings, its a handy rule of thumb to limit your salad to three main ingredients so you don't have a a fridge full of half cut up fruit. Alternatively, you can make 2-3 portions and have one for dessert and one as a ready made breakfast the next day or one to take to work in a plastic container for lunch.

You can add a variety of texture and color to your fruit salad by topping it with different natural ingredients like:
  • dried fruit - raisins, cranberries, banana chips or cut up dried apricots
  • nuts - salted or unsalted sunflower seeds or almonds
  • yogurt or kefier for non fasting periods
Other good 3 fruit salad combinations:
  • pears, bananas and strawberries
  • pineapple, banana and kiwi
  • mango, orange and green apple
  • raspberries, pears and mandarin oranges
Up next, I'll post some delicious recipes for coleslaw and slaw-like salads which combine fruit and vegetables.

Take care!