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August 26, 2015

Chilled cucumber and avocado soup {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Chilled cucumber and avocado soup: no cooking required!

In my part of the country, these are the dog days of summer, the hazy-hot-humid days when even the dogs don't have any energy. I've lost my will to turn on the oven, the stovetop, or the grill. Smoothies, and ice cream, rule my kitchen. And soup. Yes, soup. Cold soup like this bright green cucumber and avocado soup. You can change it up with whatever herbs you have in the garden; mint would be wonderful, or basil. Make sure to give the soup time to get very cold in the refrigerator before serving.

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July 12, 2015

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder

Quick and easy chicken and corn chowder really is a meal in a bowl!

Here in the Northeast, we love our chowder all year long. I'm partial to traditional New England clam chowder, packed with fresh clams and chopped potatoes swimming in a creamy base, and I love a fish variation, with chunks of cod and whatever is fresh at the market. (I've heard there is a red chowder, made with tomatoes, from a very large city southwest of Boston with a rival baseball team. We don't speak of it.) Although chowder usually contains seafood, we New Englanders make allowances for people who cannot, or prefer not to, eat fish or shellfish. Corn, abundant in the summer, often stands in for clams, and brings its own sweetness to the chowder. In this recipe, I omit the potatoes and add some chopped rotisserie chicken. It's a great combination that turns the soup into a complete meal-in-a-bowl. A roux made right in with the vegetables thickens the soup; you can substitute gluten-free flour to make the chowder gluten-free. Serve some crusty bread or salty crackers on the side.

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June 17, 2015

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder {gluten-free}

Atlantic Canada seafood chowder, packed with clams, lobster, and fresh herbs.

Last year, we took a road trip with our friends Mary and Matt to Prince Edward Island, Canada's eastern outpost of life in the 1950s. If you've never been, you really must go. PEI seduces you with its low scale, green fields, beautiful beaches, Native Canadian culture, Anne of Green Gables, folk music, and lobster. Lots and lots of lobster. We had versions of this seafood chowder all across the island, and I couldn't wait to make my own when we returned home. This is a really a "use what's fresh in the market" chowder, in any combination you like. Fresh clams, and fresh parsley, make all the difference; evaporated milk gives body to the soup, without using any flour as a thickener. Make a Lennie Gallant play list, and serve big bowls of this chowder with hunks of crusty bread or salty crackers. Don't be surprised if Anne herself shows up for dinner.

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May 27, 2015

Canadian cheese, potato and bacon soup {gluten-free}

Use Canadian Oka cheese, or fontina, in this creamy potato and bacon soup.

My (Canadian) husband Ted often remarks that I don't include enough Canadian recipes in my cooking repertoire. He's not wrong. The truth is that I've never really been able to define Canadian cooking. We've enjoyed classic French-influenced food in Montreal; smoked oolichans in British Columbia; Chinese and Greek food in Toronto; lobster cooked every which way on Prince Edward Island. Is one cuisine more Canadian than the others? Still, when I create recipes for Ted that bring together Canadian flavors, I gravitate toward the trifecta of Yukon Gold potatoes, bacon, and cheese. This soup marries all three. If you can find Oka, a mild semi-firm cheese from Southern Ontario, please use it here. Easier to come by at my local cheese shop, Fontal, an Italian cheese, makes a sublime substitute, as will Danish Fontina, which is readily available here in almost any supermarket. If ever there were comfort food in a bowl, this creamy smooth cheese, potato and bacon soup is it, and you don't have to be Canadian to fall in love with it.

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May 6, 2015

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Quick and easy creamy tomato soup, the perfect mate for a grilled cheese sandwich.

In the years after World War II, tomato soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches became a popular school cafeteria menu combination that carried over into home kitchens everywhere. Here's the most plausible explanation I've found for why this happened: institutional food service (including school cafeterias) paired grilled cheese with tomato soup to meet the minimum school lunch requirements for sufficient Vitamin C (from the tomatoes) and protein (from the cheese). As canned soups became more available and economical, and processed cheese extended its shelf life, soup and sandwiches were a practical choice for many school systems. Today there's only one reason we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup -- because it's still the best comfort food combination around. Of course, you can fancy up the cheese and bread in your sandwich, but at the end of the day, nothing beats a basic creamy tomato soup. When it's this easy to make soup from scratch, there's no reason to default to canned soup. By the way, both of my grandsons are dunkers, just as my school friends and I used to be, and this soup makes for great dunking of melty grilled cheese sandwiches.

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my tiny kitchen in Boston's South End, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives. Thanks so much for visiting.

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