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Split pea chowder

Here's a recipe that's pretty tasty, especially considering it's made from cheap, ordinary, healthful (I presume) ingredients. It's also sort of fun and satisfying to make. It's a modification of a recipe by Joyce Rosencrans for a Scripps Howard syndicated column (8Jan97).

1 1/3 cup dried split peas
1 cup Great Northern or navy beans
2 bouillon cubes (unless you have something better for flavor)
7 cups water

4 celery ribs, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
about 1/2 small green cabbage, chopped
3 tablespoons oil or butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt

1 large can whole tomatoes (28 oz), chopped, with juice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
heaping 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, or a few real garlic cloves, chopped

Soak the SPLIT PEAS and BEANS overnight. Drain and rinse. Add 7 cups of water and cook until very tender. This should take less than an hour. Toss in BOUILLON cubes along the way.

While peas and beans are cooking, go to town chopping up CELERY, CARROTS, ONIONS and CABBAGE (and GARLIC cloves.) Saute chopped up vegetables in the OIL. Add SALT. Eventually transfer a ladle of boiling water from the bean pot to the vegetables to make sure they don't scorch. Cook vegetables until they are very tender - perhaps 20 minutes or more.

When all of that is well on the way, chop up the TOMATOES. I dump the tomato juice in with the peas and beans and the chopped tomatoes in with the almost-cooked vegetables.

After the peas are well disintegrated and the vegetables are cooked tender, dump everything together. Add the PEPPER and GARLIC powder (and anything else you think it needs) and simmer until it passes the taste test.

At every step of the way, be careful not to scorch the split pea mush. Use very low flames.

This recipe is tasty "as is", and trying to bolster it with more flavoring such as chicken broth didn't make any noticeable improvement - to my buds, at least.

The quantities here are bumped up from the original recipe - might as well make a big batch while you're at it. The original recipe called for barley instead of beans. It also called for mushrooms, which are all right, but I doubt they would enhance this recipe.

It also called for 1 teaspoon thyme - lousy-tasting stuff.

It also called for 2 cups frozen or canned lima beans. That should work, but don't we have more than enough vegetables in there already? And frozen limas don't fall wholly within the spirit of "dirt-cheap, all-fresh" ingredients.

I don't view canned tomatoes as cheating. While supermarket tomatoes may be "10 times more crash-worthy than automobile bumpers" (see note 1), you could hardly call the darn things edible.

Note 1. Does anybody recognize this quote? It's always stuck with me from a great "Smith Family" Sunday comic in the 1960s. It ran before my clipping habits started and I've always wanted to track it down again. The punchline was: "Nuts."

Any chefs out there with tips for a better chowder? I'm looking for a good one using corn meal. Thanks.


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