Saturday, September 20, 2008

Friends . . . Thick as Chowder?

It took some effort and forgiveness, but I’ve finally renewed an old friendship. I became acquainted with Eating Well in the early 1990s when I was in graduate school. As we got to know each other, I found a lot of qualities I appreciated. EW’s recipes demonstrated a healthy approach without sacrificing taste. Not only that, EW could successfully make over problem recipes, providing lighter versions of fried chicken and chocolate cake.

To EW’s enormous credit,I never developed the same closeness with Cooking Light. Of course it’s easy to lose patience when a relationship feels one-sided. How many times did I pore over a brand new Cooking Light, looking for compatibility, eager to accommodate, only to be disappointed by the sheer lack of appealing food?

EW followed me to my first job and helped me through my first pregnancy. Indeed, our friendship felt destined when I had the good fortune to meet someone who had worked in the magazine’s test kitchen in Vermont. Her experience ratified my sense that this was a special magazine—a rare and excellent companion. And then, in 1999, EW up and disappeared. Just like that, the magazine had folded.

And what about me (I’m sure you’re asking yourself)? How was I affected by this desertion? How did I handle abandonment? Well it wasn’t easy. There I was, all alone, trying to shed the pregnancy weight of my first born. Friendless, hungry, and without inspiration. Sure, I managed. But I held a bit of a grudge.

Observing my despair, DH made valiant efforts to revive my faith and spirits. He scoured the internet and ordered back issues of the magazine off of E-bay, just to cheer me up. But the relationship felt forced. The nutritional information was out-of-date. I had, admittedly, grown weary of using apple-sauce as a fat substitute.

In 2002, I started to see EW on the newsstands again. Looking sharp, showing off some new photography skills, touting good carbs and good fats, and initiating friendships with whomever looked its way. I averted my eyes and flipped through Food and Wine. But then, a couple years later, a mutual friend tried to patch things up. This was someone whom I had introduced to the Eating Well magazine back in its early days. Now he had given me a copy of The Essential Eating Well Cookbook. Book in hand, the memories came flooding back. EW and I had been friends for a reason. We liked each other. It was time to let go of past grievances.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve renewed my subscription.

The other night we ate EW’s healthy rendering of New England Clam Chowder. The recipe’s a breeze, especially if you use canned clams (which I think are delicious). I’m no chowder expert. (I have had the classic stuff at Lenny’s Seafood in Branford Connecticut and at the Union Oyster House in Boston, so I’m not hopeless, but my primary familiarity with this soup came from heating up Campbell’s version as kid). Don’t neglect to put the scallions on top—they add the perfect cool crunch to the soup’s creamy texture.

New England Clam Chowder

2 teaspoons of canola oil

4 slices of bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

1 medium red potato, diced

1 8 oz. bottle of clam juice

1 bay leaf

3 cups of low-fat milk

½ cup heavy cream

1/3 cup of flour

¾ teaspoon salt

12 oz of fresh clam strips chopped, or 3 6 oz cans of chopped baby clams, rinsed

2 scallions, thinly sliced

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Transfer half the bacon to a paper towel lined plate. Add onion, celery, and thyme to the pan; cook, stirring, until beginning ot soften, about 2 minutes. Add potato, clam juice and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until vegetables are tender, 8-10 minutes. Whisk milk, cream, flour, and salt in a bowl. Add to pan and return to simmer, stirring over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add clams and cook about 3 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf. Ladle in bowls and top with bacon and scallions. 253 calories per cup; 13 grams fat (6 sat, 4 mono), 16 grams of protein.

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