Creativity comes in many forms. Necessity is definitely one of them, but so is availability. As we prepare to move from the house we have lived in for more than 20 years, using what we have in the pantry, refrigerator and freezer has been a high priority for the last month and a valuable experiment in prudence.
Cleaning Out the Pantry
With a half jar of red lentils that needed to be used, I recently made a lovely red lentil soup from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories cookbook that David and I both savored. And, from the same cookbook, those lucky dogs of mine have been enjoying a super easy homemade dog treat recipe that calls for cornmeal, which is also plentiful in my pantry.
This experiment has brought us tasty treats as we combine the power of necessity and availability to feed ourselves and use what we have on hand. My grandmother would be so proud and, honestly, this process really does feel good.
Hidden Frozen Gems Make Hearty Soups
While sorting through the freezer last week, I found two half bags of frozen corn. Knowing that Hatch green chiles are in full bloom (and in honor of our imminent move to Santa Fe, NM), I envisioned a steaming pot of corn chowder. And when creativity strikes, I try and keep it going so I wanted to see what else I could add to make this an even heartier soup that included more ingredients that needed to be used.
The one and a half lonely zucchinis in the vegetable drawer were added and the half bag of those colorful mini organic bell peppers was also included in this corny concoction. And, finally, the jalapeno half and the single Hatch green chile that remained from last week’s tomato and peach salsa went into the soup to give it the tiniest little kick.
In an effort to keep it vegan, I used a combination of low-sodium vegetable broth and some light coconut milk to lend enough creaminess without any cream.
Let’s Get Creative and Resourceful
Less than 30 minutes later, the corn, pepper and zucchini chowder came together as if I had made it a hundred times. Though this was the first, it will definitely not be the last as we loved every bite.
So let this be a lesson in creativity, availability and genuine resourcefulness. The next time you need to clean out the freezer, refrigerator, vegetable drawer or pantry, think about what goes together and dig deep to make it work. You may be pleasantly surprised at how delicious food is when you take a little time to be thoughtful about what you have instead of filling the pantry, freezer and refrigerator with more store-bought ingredients.
Corn, Pepper and Zucchini Chowder
This recipe was born from the need to clean out the freezer and refrigerator. The results of this exercise were so good, I will definitely make this chowder again. Super easy to make, this soup came together like it was meant to be. David, a vegan friend and I savored this dish and marveled at its inherent freshness, crisp corn kernels, flavorful peppers, savory zucchini and silky broth.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 celery ribs chopped
- 1 large mild Hatch green chile seeded and diced
- 1/2 jalapeno seeded and minced
- 1 large red or yellow bell pepper diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 zucchini diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 32 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth or homemade vegetable stock
- 1 cup light coconut milk
- 4 cups frozen or fresh corn if using fresh corn, remove from the cob
- Cilantro or chives chopped, for garnish (optional)
- More salt and pepper to taste
In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of sea salt and cook until soft. Then add the garlic and celery and saute 2-3 minutes.
Add the Hatch pepper, jalapeno, bell peppers, zucchini, salt, celery seed and pepper. Stir to combine and saute for 5 minutes, until vegetables are slightly softened.
Add the vegetable broth and coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook another 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the soup meld for 1 hour. Once the soup cools, if desired, puree half the soup until creamy or leave it chunky.
When ready to serve, reheat the soup and taste, adjusting seasoning if needed. Serve and top with chopped cilantro or chives.
Refrigerate any leftover soup.