Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Clam zucchini chowder – made with local garden fresh vegetables for the lazy days of summer time


Summer time is my absolute favorite time of the year, primarily because I love the flip flop lifestyle. Everyone sports lazy day, lightweight cottons and of course wears my favorite shoes – flip flops or sandals. Men wear cool shorts and short sleeve polo shirts or T’s while the ladies favor colorful sundresses. Farmer’s markets are overflowing with freshly picked summer vegetables such as dark green zucchini, bright yellow squash, freshly picked corn, cucumbers and my all time favorite – tomatoes. I’m always enchanted with the handmade signs directing you to neighbor’s gardens, where they’ve set up tables of freshly picked produce and a jar or box for you to leave your money and make change based on the honor system.


Every time I see zucchini I think of Wanda. For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you may remember Wanda. She was Meakin’s late step-mother who, according to him, “was the best home cook he’d ever known.” While that was true, she was also very difficult to please (remember the bay leaf wreath I surprised her with for Christmas one year?) and, much to my chagrin, she would never ever share her recipes with me. You probably know someone who doesn’t share their recipes either. I never quite figured them out, but that’s another story.

This chowder is one of the recipes in particular I remember begging her for. She served it as a first course and it was so different from anything I’d ever eaten. It was luscious and tasted like a rich New England clam chowder stuffed full of fresh vegetables. Of course I absolutely had to have the recipe, but no go, she wasn’t sharing.


The only thing I knew for sure about her chowder was that it was cream based and contained zucchini, potatoes, and clams and was finished it in a food processor. At the time the Cuisinart food processors were brand new and all the rage. Everyone was talking about them. Consequently, there were many cookbooks designed especially for this new, must have kitchen appliance.

Never underestimate the determination of a cook like myself on the prowl for a recipe. Later that year I was visited Meakin’s mother in Florida and I spotted several issues of Cuisinart’s little cooking magazine on her coffee table. I had what you might call an “ah ha” moment. I thought maybe, just maybe, Wanda’s recipe might be in one of these little magazines. I quickly started flipping through them and low and behold, there it was - Wanda’s “secret recipe” for clam zucchini chowder.


The chowder is perfect for summer time when zucchini is abundant. The richness (including the fat & calories) can be controlled by the kind of milk you use. Light cream makes it luscious, but skim milk works well also. I added thyme, mostly because when we lived in the islands the Bahamians always added dried thyme to their chowders and I’ve done the same since then. If you don’t have a food processor, a blender works perfectly well and so would a handheld stick blender, or boat motor as Emerill Lagassee likes to calls it. I hope you’ll enjoy Wanda’s secret chowder as much as we do and please feel free to share it with anyone who asks for the recipe. I’m always thrilled when someone asks for one of my recipes and I believe it’s one of the best compliments a cook can get. Besides, it’s just the gracious thing to do.


Wanda’s secret Clam Zucchini Chowder
Serves 4.

1 strip of bacon, plus extra for garnish if desired (see below)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, ends removed & sliced into 1” chunks
1 large carrot, peeled & sliced into 1” chunks
2 medium potatoes, peeled & chopped into 1” chunks
½ teaspoon dried chopped thyme
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 10 oz can whole or chopped baby clams in water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk or light cream (I use a combination)
Additional Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

For a garnish:
Finely chop a little extra zucchini and carrot and sauté them in a little of the bacon drippings. Add the extra crumbled bacon to the vegetables and use as a garnish for the chowder.

Sauté bacon in a large saucepan or stockpot until fairly crisp.  Remove, crumble & set aside. Keep one tablespoon of drippings in the saucepan and discard the remainder.  Add the chopped onion to drippings & sauté slowly until it takes on a little color and starts to brown.  Add zucchini, carrot, potatoes, thyme, chicken broth, water from clams, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, a little freshly ground black pepper and the crumbled bacon, keeping back some of the bacon for garnish. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat & simmer, covered for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Remove the vegetables & process in batches in the food processor or blender until smooth.  Or you could leave the vegetables a little chunky as I did if you like a more rustic, homemade look. Return mixture to the saucepan and add the clams & milk.  Gently reheat and taste to see if additional salt & pepper are needed.  Garnish and serve.

56 comments:

  1. Mary Mary Mary... Only a few days till I return to the land of Farm stands (Kansas has more per capita than I have seen anywhere else in the world).

    And good timing with the recipe, Jackie has been craving a crab/corn chowder... any reason you can think of why I can't just sub corn for the zucchini, and crab for the clams???

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  2. Hi Sam,
    Great post! Lovely pics and love that interesting honor system!
    Bacon and fresh zucchini in a dish is more than delicious! Love it.

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  3. I must admit when I read the title I thought this won't be something I'd like but you won me over and on the try list it goes - plus it helps with my attempt to expand my culinary horizons. It's always a shame when someones great knowledge passes with them and they miss out on an opportunity for a legacy.

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  4. Sam, I am going to be making this this week! It sounds delicious. You mentioned Laura Calder's music; I have been humming "Come over, come over and we'll meet again" for days. :D

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  5. I will be making this soup and very soon! I'm so glad you found that recipe! Sounds delicious. Great post, loved the photos of the signs and the honor system. I don't understand not sharing recipes either. I used to work with a girl who brought in the most wonderful green chili on occassion. She would never share the recipe, no matter how many times asked. To this day, that really my only memory of her. A negative.

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  6. Sam, this sounds and looks delicious. Thanks for sharing, I will be trying this one.
    I love those little vegetable/fruit stands too! We have a good share of them here too.

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  7. My first thought was that I would never like zucchini added to my clam chowder, but you've won me over, Sam. This looks like a beautiful soup that is full of wonderful flavor. Can't wait to try it.

    We have an honor system produce stand too and I always shop there.

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  8. So glad you shared this recipe with us Sam.

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  9. Tomatoes 3 pounds for 2.50???? - I should go there and load up and re-sell in Manhattan for the going rate of 4.50 per pound - wow!

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  10. Last summer, I spent a week in New England sampling clam chowders with my soon-to-be daughter in law. I had no idea there were so many different recipes. As luck would have it, the New England clam chowder served at the Brown University Faculty Club was the winner--and the reception was to be held there. Steaming cups of the chowder were served as an appetizer before dinner at their late September wedding. I'm thrilled to have this recipe to share with my husband soon. Thanks for the recipe and the memories.

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  11. Enjoyed your post so much. Wonderful photos and that recipe is really sounding good. How smart to add zucchini; I am trying this one for sure. So nice of you to share this secret recipe;love secrets.
    Rita

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  12. Such places are wonderful! What lovely produce...

    Your zucchini chowder looks so good. A very refined dish.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  13. I am not a clam fan, but that still looks amazing! I love that you found her secret...:-)
    Hugs,
    Penny

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  14. Thanks Sam, I am definitely making this one! I love my stick blen...er...motorboat for recipies like this! Of course us food bloggers just can't understand not sharing a recipe!

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  15. Oh, what a lovely chowder....you are right, perfect for the summer. I am printing this one right now!!

    I love the roadside garden and the idea of the honor system. Great post!

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  16. wow I love this chowder recipe! I will make this when we get home- hubby is a bit snobby about eating pureed soups, so I save some of the fresh small chop and throw it in his bowl, lol!

    My mom would not share either, but I realized she cooked by memory and often never cooked the same way twice, but it was all good!

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  17. Hi Sam,
    Just wanted to say I'm glad you're feeling better. I didn't even know as I was busy moving these last weeks.Also want to tell you that this chowder is lovely and now you have peaked my interest in those "brand name appliances" websites for searching out different recipes.
    Thanks.

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  18. Very nice post. I enjoyed reading it very much. Wanda's secret chowder sounds delicious.

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  19. This looks great. And I just happened to have picked zucchini this morning . . . I hope there's a can of clams on the shelf . . .

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  20. I love those farm stands that work on the honor system. So nice to have access to them. This veggie and clam chowder looks and sounds delightful. All those farm fresh veggies look like little gems!

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  21. What a lovely pay system of trust that is....
    The soup has a lovely color, Sam!

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  22. Sam, this chowder sounds and looks delicious...love the color of the soup...beautiful pictures!

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  23. Love the incorporation of zucchini in this chowder - great summery touch! Thanks for sharing, and for the great farmstand photos!

    Best,
    eggy

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  24. I love how the honor system still works. It always makes me happy to see things like that. The chowder looks really delicious -- and I've been looking for a great way to use up some zucchini! ;)

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  25. Summer time is my favorite too. I love all your pics - makes me want to go get some fresh produce! And that chowder?! Looks amazing!

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  26. The honor system "cash register" reminds me of a stand near my parents' cabin in Franklin.

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  27. This looks like a very good clam chowder. It always makes me laugh when people hold recipes so tightly, but I can understand in this situation, Wanda just didn't want to share the magic.

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  28. Sam, kudos to your detective work, and finding the "secret recipe!" I love your charming photos of roadside farm stands. This time of year, my camera is packed with photos of farmers markets, but sometimes I'm a little reluctant to stop at a makeshift stand. Your photos are a good reminder to me to slow down.

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  29. This sounds good. I love chowders. How funny that she wouldn't give you her recipes - I have heard of people like that, but fortunately have not come across them. In my family, a handed-down recipe is a most treasured thing. After all, why would anyone want that deliciousness to be wiped out after their passing? It is odd.

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  30. Sam...you got me thinking to the last time I had the pleasure of having a clam chowder...and I realized how long its been. It may have been a long time ago, but I remember the satisfied feeling I had when I finished my bowl.
    You just reminded me that I should make my own ;o)
    Great ingredients leading to a fabulous elegant dish.

    Ciao for now,
    Claudia

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  31. I think I just found a great new way to use my zucchini and get my husband to eat it in the same recipe! Thanks for sharing this.

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  32. Thank you for sharing this secret recipe! The chowder looks fantastic and zucchini is a great addition, I would love to try this!

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  33. Sam, this has to be the most wonderful chowder I have ever seen...you had me at "bacon" - lol. Can't wait to try this.

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  34. Hi Sam, this is a good looking bowl of clam chowder, worth going undercover to find this 'secret' recipe! I agree with you on your comment about loving the flip flop weather, summer is my favorite:-)

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  35. My corner of the world has been insufferably overcast and very cool-- like 50's, maybe 60's on a good day. I'm all about soups. LOVE this recipe. Thanks for the great photos and recipe.
    Debby

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  36. Nice blog and nice posts too...

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  37. Sam, this looks and sound delicious. Would it work to serve it chilled, too?

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  38. Sam love this recipe and love the tomatoes pictures! nice! gloria

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  39. The chowder looks and sounds so delicious and fresh. YUM>

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  40. I love the signs and honor systems of those road side markets... they scream summer... lovely post!

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  41. This is my visit and I am liking your blog. Btw, that top photo! The sign board will definitley drive me straight in. Gosh, just how I love those fruits and vegetables farm. "Honour System" sounds pretty cool! Btw, your clam zucchini chowder looks as wonderful. Thanks for sharing & enjoy your day.
    Cheers, kristy

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  42. What a lovely chowder, Sam. Did she ever discover you had found her secret recipe? I really like the fact that your version is not too thick. It looks wonderful. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  43. Just a little something for you over on my blog. :)
    http://beautydoesmatter.blogspot.com/2010/08/faded-beauty-and-cherry-on-top.html

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  44. Sam,
    I like those farm stands. This is a great posting and the photos are great. The clam chowder looks really good.

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  45. this looks amazing oh love country side farmers stands I bet there are loads in your area, wish you lived closer come down to winston salem one day he he Rebecca

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  46. Really nice post. Bella mentioned your blog and I stopped by. I am now following you. If you get a chance, please stop by mine.
    http://sweetkatskitchen.blogspot.com

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  47. Beautiful chowder! I had no idea cuisinart had a magazine, that is completely new to me. This does look wonderful. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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  48. Now, that's a wonderful soup full of real flavours!!

    Why didn't I think of that?


    MMMMMMMM,..very festive too for a dinner party!

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  49. Hi Sam...I'm back for a very quick hello and a very big HAPPY BIRTHDAY ;O)

    I'd say. that next to being of the Aries sign...I would certainly not mind being a Leo ;0)...great character!

    Ciao for now and have a great celebratory day.

    Claudia

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  50. Hi, I'm new to this but your blog drew me to you because of the Carolina name in your blog, which proves to me how ignorant I am, you see my name is Karolina, pronounced Karoleena, not karolyna,so here I thought was another woman with a similar name to me who loved cooking and gardening, although age and other infirmities now hinder and prevent me from participating in those activities, this blog of yours gave me a vicarious opportunity to relive my memories,not that it takes much to do that, so my longwinded point is how much I enjoy your blog, I also had a radio slot in the British Isles several moons ago giving out recipes which was called nearly but not quite vegaterian.
    Oh dear I'm rambling again please forgive.

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  51. Bacon, zucchini and baby clams. You just made my day, Sam. A must-do for the weekend. Someone just turned down my recipe request - so had tosmile. It only doubled my efforts to make it - and improve on it.

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  52. Sam, that bowl of soup says, "comfort". From every pixel, it is shouting, "I am here to make you feel good."

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  53. Hi, my friend! Now this really does look divine! I am now officially starving and must go forage for food. Glad you managed to snake that recipe. It sounds like something great to make.

    Checking in from blog break, Sam, and I'm hoping all is well with you and Meakin. Have missed you. I hope to return to blogging in September. Lots going on here that is demanding my undivided attention, so I will be happy to be blogging again when I am able.

    Love to you...

    XO,

    Sheila :-)

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  54. Sam, I am back just to say that I made Wanda's chowder and we love it! Thanks for the recipe.

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  55. Sam, just looking at all of those yellow zucchini blossoms in the plants is making me pea green with envy! Roz

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I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam