Sometimes you just don't feel like having a full fledged dinner entrée and a bowl of hearty soup and a light tossed salad would generally suffice. So here is an excellent dinner idea. I made New England Clam Chowder (or Chowdah; this is New England after all) and a simple mixed salad tossed in a wasabi, soy and ginger vinaigrette.
First, the soup. It may sound a little intimidating but New England Clam Chowder is not a hard soup to make at all. Here's what you need: whole and chopped clams, bacon, potato, celery, onion, garlic, black pepper, fresh dill and thyme, butter, flour, light cream and clam base (or clam juice). Start off by rendering the chopped bacon to release the fat. Gosh, the smell of bacon sizzling on a pan is simply unmistakable and just so appetizing. For those who are trying to watch their weight and might be turned off by the use of bacon, simply leave this step off. Now, pour the fat off and let's sweat the onions and garlic until it starts to turn slightly brown. Add in the other vegetables, small diced celery and potato and cook for a few minutes. At this time, throw in a stick butter and let it melt. Add about a cup of flour and cook until the flour and butter combination turns slight brown. Now you can add the clams and the clam base. I used canned clams but if you can get fresh ones, so much the better. If you are using base, add about two cups of water to dilute the concentrate. No dilution is necessary if clam juice (2 bottles) is used. In fact you would have to reduce down the clam juice in order to intensify the clam flavor.
For the final step, pour in about a quart and a half of light cream (the amount depends on how thick you like your soup to be) together with finely chopped dill and thyme. Bring the pot to a simmer and add black pepper before serving and garnish with a sprig of dill. The addition of the light cream is your final step before serving. If you intend to keep a portion of what you've made for later, scoop it out and freeze it. Only add cream to the amount that you intend to serve.
As for the salad, it is pretty simple. I used lettuce, julienned carrots, thinly sliced radish, red onions, cucumber and garlic croutons. As you can see, nothing fancy. Just lightly toss it in your vinaigrette of choice and you are good to go.
Put both these dishes together and voila! a simple and light meal, using easy-to-find ingredients. The chowdah may take a little prep time but believe me, it is worth the effort. In fact, you can make a whole gallon and have it with your meals for the next few days. Saves you both time and effort to put together a new dish.