It snowed today. We are well into February and it was only the second snow we saw this winter. Fortunately not a blizzard, nothing like Jonas that buried this part of New Jersey under snow in January. The snowfall this time was silent, slow, continuous, yet delicate. Bit by bit, it covered the green fields in a soft white carpet. We had a mild winter so far and I am thankful for life’s little presents as this.
I took a sip of my morning chai and looked out of the window…..at the snow-clad leafless branches of the young Japanese cherry tree right in front of our porch…..and the other, bare deciduous trees in the background….all covered in snow and yet each stood upright with dignity out in that cold without a shiver. However at a distance, a couple evergreen pines – a hemlock and a blue spruce – shook down some dust of snow, and a bit of the ‘snowy’ burden off their shoulders every now and then.
We saw a pair of nice and warm days early this week. One of those days, my little girl and I had refilled the bird feeder on our cherry tree for our cheerful winged guests who love to visit us so often. The birds had all flocked and partied hard on the assortment of seeds we put for them. So today the bird feeder dangled empty in the chilly wind, half laden with snow, and without any little soul on its perch.
The snowy sight gave me goosebumps…made me feel cold to the bone, in my temperature regulated house…and made me roll down the blinds to “feel” warm. All of us are home today. I usually find more energy in me during the weekends and enthusiastically cook goodies to feed my kin. But today was different. I felt cold and very very lazy. Felt like a kitten and wanted to curl up in my blanket and sleep all day. But I had to cook….cook because my fridge had no leftovers from yesterday and because I felt like having something soul-warming to comfort in this winter weather.
I got up and pulled the refrigerator and freezer doors to stare at the contents. On weekends, to mark an end to the long tiring weekdays, we usually indulge in generous healthy treats and elaborate lavish foods. And therefore my pantry is generally happy and full of goodnesses by Fridays. But this evening, only two things from the fridge caught my eye – the remaining frozen tilapia fillets from the huge bulk packet that my hubby got two weeks back and a box of crunchy baby spinach – all screaming to be consumed. A quick thought and I wanted to do a healthy Fish Chowder for us! It is wholesome, nutritious, comforting, warm, soothing and a super easy meal. What’s not to love? And isn’t it so much more convenient to make a one-dish meal in a pot while you could laze? I make my creamy chicken-and-multi-veggie soup so often and a month back, wanted to do something different and easier. So I had thrown in some chopped tilapia fillets and tossed in shredded spinach in my soup base and Alakazam! We all had happy tummies and happy bowls at lunch that day, with not a drop leftover. My little one had loved it and so did her Dad. So I was going to re-create that comforting soup yet again…the best thing is that this could also be adapted into an easy Vegetarian Tofu-Spinach Chowder!
“Soup and fish explain half the emotions of human life.”
And this creamy fish chowder with spinach has been my bowlful of soul, since ever now. It’s the simmering goodness, kindest one dish meal…that breathes reassurance; steams consolation; and after a weary day it picks me up like my morning cuppa!!
Eat this chowder with some salad or pasta or bread…serve it in a sour dough bread bowl or eat away straight from a regular soup bowl…or eat it only with a few oyster crackers for company…this chowder makes a bowlful of soul. When you make, please leave me a comment so I know how you liked it. And in the meantime, you all have a very good one!
- 4 Tilapia fillets (fresh or frozen, thawed)
- 2 large potatoes
- 3-4 large garlic cloves
- 2 packed US cups fresh baby spinach (about 5 oz or 150 gm)
- 1/2 of medium white onion
- 1 can evaporated milk (about 12 fl oz or 350 ml)
- 1/2 US cup milk (4 oz or 120 ml)
- 1 US cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (4 oz or 115 gm)
- 2 tbsp sweet cream or regular butter (optional)
- 1 to 1.5 US cups water (240 ml to 355 ml)
- 2-3 tbsp Light Olive oil
- Salt to taste
- A generous dollop of sour cream, per serving (optional)
- Fresh ground pepper to finish (optional)
- Wash, peel and chop the potatoes. Boil until tender and let them cool.
- In a blender, add the boiled potatoes, 1/2 cup water and blend into fine puree (add a little more if you need). Keep aside.
- Peel, wash and finely chop the onions. Mince or grate peeled garlic cloves. Wash and shred the baby spinach leaves (it is okay to also include a bit of the tender stalks).
- Wash and pat dry the tilapia fillets. Then slice the fillet into 1" inch chunks.
- In a soup pot on stove, add light olive oil and let it smoke a little over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onions and garlic. Saute for about a minute until the onions are nicely done and translucent.
- Add the fish chunks and fry for about 2 minutes with occasional stirring or till the fish pieces turn whitish and opaque. Now add the shredded spinach and fry with quick stirs for another minute to exhaust the crunch of the leaves.
- Now switch the stove to low heat and add the potato puree and give a quick mix. Add evaporated milk, milk, and 1/2 cup water. Add salt. Cover and gently simmer for about 10-15 minutes, till the spinach softens and the fish is cooked. Keep stirring the mixture often to avoid burning.
- Add the shredded cheddar cheese and butter and let them melt into the chowder.
- Finish with fresh ground pepper and add a generous dollop of sour cream per serving, for a heavenly delight. Serve immediately in a sour dough bread bowl, or in a soup bowl, with soup or oyster crackers.
Tip: If the soup is thicker than you’d like, dilute it with milk. Use warm water or low fat milk to dilute if you want to cut down on the calories a bit. In case the soup is too runny, please use half teaspoon of corn flour or all-purpose flour in the soup…mix and simmer for a minute or two to obtain the desired consistency.
Vegetarian Tofu or Paneer Spinach Chowder can be made by substituting fish for Tofu or Paneer (14 oz or 400 gms). Cut them into small 1/2 inch cubes and add them towards the end and simmer just as long to soften the tofu/paneer pieces. All other steps remain same as mentioned in the recipe above.
You could also use your favorite fish fillet in this recipe!