TasteFood by Lynda Balslev

A Veggie-Full Summer Chowder

Yes, you can eat warm soup in the summer -- especially when it’s chowder. Clam and fish chowders evoke sunshine, seafood and the seashore. While clam chowder is always a favorite, I prefer to make fish chowders, loaded with chunky fish swimming in a smoky, creamy broth.

When making a fish chowder, always choose a firm-fleshed fish, which will hold its shape when cooking in the soup. Delicate, flat filets will flake and dissolve in the broth. While halibut, sea bass and cod are always good options, I prefer salmon. Salmon’s buttery-rich flesh complements the creamy stock, and when possible, I’ll combine chunks of warm-smoked salmon with fresh salmon. Warm-smoked salmon adds the salty, smoky note essential to a deeply flavorful chowder (this is often achieved with bacon in clam chowders), and has a dry and firm consistency, unlike cold-smoked salmon, which is soft and slippery.

Potatoes are another key ingredient, adding thickening starch and substance. And while you can certainly stop there, I encourage adding additional vegetables, such as leafy greens and crucifers, such as cauliflower or broccoli. Then you can pat yourself on the back and call your bowl of chowder a complete meal.

In this recipe, handfuls of fresh spinach and cauliflower florets are included. If you’re skeptical about the extra veggies, don’t worry -- the creamy, robust chowder can handle them. In fact, the vegetables add a welcome earthiness to the rich soup and balance the creaminess. If you are cauliflower-averse, feel free to omit it and add more spinach.

Be sure to taste for seasoning when the soup is finished. Depending on the saltiness of the smoked salmon, you may need more salt, and don’t (ever) skimp on the freshly ground black pepper.

Salmon and Spinach Chowder

Active Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Yield: Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 cups water

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces (peeling optional -- I like keeping the skin on)

1 1/2 cups bite-sized cauliflower florets

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound salmon filet, skin and pin-bones removed, cut in 3/4-inch chunks

1/2 pound warm-smoked salmon filet, skin and pin-bones removed, broken into bite-size chunks

1 large handful baby spinach leaves

Fresh dill for garnish

Heat the oil and melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened without coloring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook until slightly toasty in aroma, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour in the water and whisk to blend. Add the potatoes and cauliflower. The vegetables should be submerged in the soup. If not, add more water to cover. Bring to a boil, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the cream, Tabasco, paprika, salt and black pepper.

Add the fresh and smoked salmon and simmer until the fresh salmon is cooked, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the spinach and simmer until just wilted, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Taste for seasoning.

Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with dill. Serve immediately.

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