We’re settled into our Portland city digs for a few weeks, and one of the things we did on our first weekend here was hoof it over to the Portland Farmers Market. To tell you that the market was glorious yesterday morning is to be guilty of careless understatement. It was over-the-top magnificent!
Peppers, peppers everywhere, in every color and every shape imaginable, freshly dug potatoes, heaps of various types of kale, a colorful abundance of winter squash, dozens of varieties of apples and pears, wild mushrooms, heirloom carrots, heirloom tomatoes, apple cider, new crop hazelnuts, and the last of 3 varieties of fresh corn. My mind was reeling with the possibilities. But what should I cook?
Somehow, in the excitement of so much plenty, I ended up with 6 firm, fat poblano peppers, 2 elongated Italian red peppers, several serrano chilies, a huge bunch of dark green Italian kale, Italian parsley, oregano, rosemary, 3 small baking pumpkins, a couple pounds of yellow Finn potatoes, a bag of baby shiitake mushrooms, green onions, shallots, yellow onions, garlic, a quart of Jacob’s Creamery sweet cream, and a long loaf of seed-crusted bread.
Oh yes, and a dozen of the most beautiful orange dahlias ever. I even toyed with the idea of buying one of the artfully arranged fall wreaths, until I realized I would have to wear it around my neck in order to get it home.
Thank goodness for the street car and MauiJim, because it would have been mighty difficult to lug everything by myself, 2.5 miles across town to the extreme northern edge of the Pearl district (which we affectionately call “the burbs”).
After we hopped the street car, MauiJim asked the inevitable: “What are you going to make with all that?” Thinking fast, I said, “Soup.” Not to be deterred, he asked “What kind of soup?” “Chowder,” I said. He looked doubtful. “Green Chile Chowder, I proclaimed confidently.”
I have no idea where that proclamation came from, but obviously those poblano peppers and serrano chiles were speaking to me. As an artist, I’ve always loved the idea that the finished creation is already present in the raw materials. You simply have to be receptive. So after we got home, I laid out all my purchases, asked them what they wanted to be for dinner, and then selected those that spoke to me. The result? A creamy, spicy, colorful fall vegetable chowder with enough substance and interest to present as a main course. In short, wonderful. In the future, I will listen to the vegetables more often.
Green Chile Chowder with Yellow Finn Potatoes & Italian Kale
This fall chowder relies on Green Chile Crema, which gives it a delicate but discernible green chile flavor and color. Yellow Finn potatoes provide additional richness and substance, while dark Italian kale adds an almost meaty undertone and nice chewiness. The result is a hearty, full-meal chowder. A loaf of freshly baked, whole grain bread is a perfect accompaniment.
Note The poblano peppers were uncharacteristically spicy-hot, so I ended up not adding serrano chiles to the chowder as originally intended. Taste your poblanos, and if they are very mild, consider adding 1-2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, ribbed, and minced to the chowder.
Green Chile Crema
¼ cup olive oil
3 cups finely chopped yellow onion (1 medium-large onion)
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped oregano
3½ cups chicken or vegetable stock (two 14-ounce cans)
1½ pounds small Yellow Finn (or Yukon Gold) potatoes, scrubbed vigorously, and cut into ¾-inch cubes
2 large poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, ribbed and cut into ¾-inch squares (2 cups chopped)
1 large red bell or Italian bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, ribbed and cut into ¾-inch squares (1 cup chopped)
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
6 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups coarsely chopped Italian or green kale (4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
- Make Green Chile Crema.
- In a large casserole or soup pot, heat the olive oil, and add the onions and oregano. Cook over medium-low heat until the onions are translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and potatoes. Cover partially and simmer slowly, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are almost tender, about 12-15 minutes.
- Add the peppers and cook for 4 minutes longer.
- Add 3 cups Green Chile Crema, and simmer for another 2-3 minutes to meld the flavors.
- Make a slurry by combining the flour in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons of stock. Whisk until the mixture is creamy and lump-free, adding the remaining 3 tablespoons stock a little at a time as you proceed.
- Pour the flour slurry through a strainer into the soup, stirring constantly, and bring the soup to a simmer to activate the starch in the flour.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Just before serving, toss in the kale and simmer for 1 minute, until the kale just wilts.
- To serve, ladle the soup into wide-rimmed bowls.
- Top with a bit of the optional garnishes.
Makes about 12 cups; serves 6-8 (1½- to 2-cup servings).