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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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March 1, 2015

Pressure cooker barley soup with chicken, sausage, mushrooms and leeks

Make this pressure cooker barley soup on the stovetop, and use your favorite chicken sausage.

I know what you're thinking: this soup doesn't look very soupy, does it? Well, in real life, it's a soupy soup, but in the life of a food blogger who wants to show you the goodness swimming below the surface, and who removes a little too much of the broth to make sure the barley and other ingredients reveal themselves in the photographs, it's a bit hard to see that there is, in fact, really rich liquid binding everything together. Although you can surely make this soup in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, the pressure cooker, if you have one, does an exceptional job of pumping flavor into broths, and tenderizing grains. It's really a kind of double soup recipe. First, you make a chicken broth; then, use the meat from the broth to enrich the barley soup. This freezes well, so make a batch today, and save some for later. On the snowiest days of winter, you'll be glad to have some of this soup on hand for apres-shoveling lunches.

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December 10, 2014

Pressure cooker split pea soup with (or without) sausage

Split pea soup (with or without sausage), made easy in the pressure cooker.

In my dinged-up, bright red, cast-iron Dutch oven, I make a pretty mean pot of split pea soup, which just happens to be my very favorite comfort food on days when there's snow to be shoveled. Or when I have the sniffles. Or when I'm craving soup, which really does happen. I've been making split pea soup the same way forever, until this year, when I first tried it in my electric pressure cooker. Oh my oh my. The pressure cooker traps all of the flavor, and softens the split peas so the immersion blender simply has to nudge them into silkiness. Compared to my stove top version, and despite using the exact same ingredients, the pressure cooker version is downright ethereal. Add your favorite mild or spicy sausage, or not; I love this soup either way. It's a great make-ahead-and-freeze soup for your winter soup swaps, or quick worknight dinners with a green salad and crusty bread on the side. And if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can make split pea soup on the stove top or in the slow cooker.

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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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