It feels fitting to start off with a steamy soup recipe, given the uber-wintry weather so many are withstanding right now.
To me, “chowders” are one of the rare hot soups that are synonymous with both summer and winter (and everything in between). While hot soups may be at times eschewed in the summer, clam or corn chowder seem to remain a belly-warming staple devoured on even the toastiest of summer days. When I think “clam chowder,” two opposing things automatically come to mind: summer evenings by the shore, and winter ski day lunch breaks.
I ultimately made this vegan creamy corn and kale chowder for a New Year’s Eve get-together of friends. It’s a combination of many things: velvety creaminess without being heavy or too rich, a touch of sweetness from the corn, heartiness from potatoes (what’s chowder without potatoes?), a burst of green from chopped kale and a punch of spice from red pepper flakes and chipotle pepper. I’m contemplating making it again in the next week as we (even here in Arizona!) make our way through some chilly winter temps (though not nearly as chilly as some other parts of the country – hope you’re all staying as warm and toasty as possible!).
Recipe: Creamy Corn and Kale Chowder (serves 6-8 depending on hunger levels and want for leftovers!)
What You Need:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 sweet/yellow onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bell pepper (preferably orange or yellow)
- 6 red potatoes (each being about the size of half an average fist – so use more or less depending on the potato size)
- 1 large carrot, finely died
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth (I love Whole Foods 365 brand low-sodium)
- 4 tbsp Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base (sold on Amazon and at Whole Foods and other health food stores)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cans light coconut milk (don’t shake – the creamier part will be on top, separated from the water)
- 1 large handful of cashews (I used raw cashew pieces)
- several large handfuls of kale (I used baby kale), chopped
- 2-3 scallions/ green onions finely sliced, plus more for garnish (optional)
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 3-4 cups corn (I used organic frozen – from Costco! – which worked beautifully, but fresh off the cob would be great too!)
- red pepper flakes, chipotle pepper (dried seasoning), dried thyme
What You Do
- Put the cashews in a small bowl and pour in enough water to cover. Let sit for 1 hour (longer if using whole cashews vs. pieces). Then, drain out the water as much as possible and put the cashews in a high-power blender (Vitamix!) or food processor with 1 cup of the water, the creamy coconut milk poured out of 1 of the cans (it’ll be about 1/2 the can; the water at the bottom can then be discarded) and the cornstarch. Blend until as smooth as possible, and then set aside.
- Drizzle olive oil around a large pot heated over med/med-high heat. Add garlic and onion, sauteing until softened and the onion begins to look translucent (about 5 min). Add the bell pepper, carrot and potatoes and saute for another 5 minutes or so, tossing everything around the pan to combine.
- Pour in the vegetable stock and Vegetable Bouillon Base, stirring until the bouillon mixes in. Add remaining cup of water, cashew blend and remaining 1/2 can of coconut milk (the creamy part off the top; no biggie if you use more of the liquid!). Stir in until combined, cooking on medium heat for a few minutes.
- Taste, and then add seasoning – a pinch of salt (if needed – may not be necessary given the bouillion and stock), lots of black pepper, a few shakes of red pepper flakes and chipotle (depending on how spicy you like it!) and 1-2 tsp of dried thyme.
- Add corn, and turn heat up (never going higher than med-high, and stirring often to scrape the bottom to make sure it doesn’t stick too much) until simmering. Then bring heat back to medium, so there are only occasional bubbles. Add kale and scallions, stirring to mix in completely.
- Cover and cook (until the potatoes and carrots are soft, and make sure the corn is cooked if you had used frozen), adjusting seasoning further as needed, stirring periodically. The soup should be fairly thick – you can always add a little more cornstarch or flour to thicken further if you want. Then keep on low heat until serving time.
- NOTE: The cashews can be omitted if needed/desired – if so, replace with another 1-2 cans of light coconut milk (use incremental amounts and keep adding if/as you need).
For serving, chop up some more scallions and thinly slice fresh to top individual bowls. Homemade croutons are also great toppers – slice a baguette or other crusty bread into cubes, spread onto a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil (tossing the bread around to get a touch of oil on each piece), sprinkle with a pinch of salt/ a good few grinds of pepper/ a few shakes of garlic powder, and bake at 375 until lightly browned (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn).
I’d also recommend having some fresh bread as-is (not croutonized) on the side… you’re going to want to clean your bowls!