Smoky Amaranth Corn Chowder
What do you do when the city you love is rocked by its second 100 year storm in a handful of years? If you're lucky like R and I were, you're thankful to be a bit of a square who lives uptown, and you end up staying inside and watching the hurricane on tv like the rest of the country. You start riding your bike to work more and discover that you love it. And you adopt a friend-cum-orphan for a week, who's building's entire electrical system was fried due to waist-deep water on the ground floor.
At least, that's what we did because, as I said, we were some of the lucky ones. I was even rewarded for my continued consumption of water and electricity by a week of slumber parties with one of my best friends from college. Now it's possible that, with her building being uninhabitable for the foreseeable future, my friend wasn't as much in the party mood as I was, although my definition of slumber partying pretty much consists of cooking, eating, hanging out and then slumbering. Not exactly a party.
(View of Manhattan from Randall's Island after the storm)
And what we discovered is that warm, delicious, vegetable and nutrient rich food in a bowl is incredibly nourishing when your apartment building is under water and you've been relegated to a blow-up mattress on a strange floor. So that's part of the background. The other part is that I think I was a hemp-wearing hippie in another life because if there's anything to do with real food, whole grains, or pure vegetables, I'm all over it. So this gorgeous new book from Liana Krissoff was right up my alley and I accepted it from the publisher without a moment's hesitation. Whole Grains for a New Generation is the kind of cookbook I fall asleep with at night. Replete with color photographs, it's also full of all of the things I like to eat. Creative and ingredient-driven, you'll find recipes for using whole grains for every single meal, including dessert, snacks and condiments. Perhaps my very favorite part is from the breakfast and brunch section: a four-page spread full of ideas for your morning bowl of steel-cut oats (I mean, who doesn't want to wake up to a bowl of slow-cooked porridge spiked with sugar, butter and a splash of Johnny Walker Red? Don't worry, Krissoff isn't going to judge you if you go for the tamer suggestion of dried figs, honey and toasted pine nuts.)
The book begins, as you might expect if you're familiar with Krissoff's first book Canning for a New Generation, will a chapter on the basics. If you're new to using whole grains, Krissoff has you covered, as she explains all the different kinds you're going to find in the book, along with pictures of each, how to cook them, from where they originated, and all the different types you're likely to ever come upon. If one of those types is amaranth, I'm going to insist that you try this chowder. Like I said, it was soul-soothing for us just after a hurricane, so imagine what it can do for you on any old winter night. It's thick and becomes quite stew-like by the next day, as the amaranth swells and soaks up the broth, making it creamy and textured all at the same time. R said he even preferred the left-overs, but I thought it was pretty special right from the start. I doubled the recipe because, though we had power and electricity, I was afraid of starving anyway. We finished it in a matter of days.
Smoky Amaranth Corn Chowder
Excerpted from Liana Krissoff's Whole Grains for a New Generation (Abrams, 2012).
Serves 4 - vegan, gluten free
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 tablespons chopped celery leaves
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile flakes or 1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) vegetable stock or water
2/3 cup (130g) raw amaranth
2 cups (340g) sweet corn kernels (from 2 or 3 large cobs, or frozen)
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
Salt and cracked black peppercorns
4 sprigs fresh basil
In a 3-quart (2.8-L) saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and diced celery and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the celery leaves, chipotle chile flakes, stock, amaranth, corn, and sweet potato. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the amaranth grains are translucent and the sweet potato is very soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper. Serve with a sprig of basil topping each bowlful.