Oyster (Plant) Chowder

I’m accustomed to going to Super H and finding unidentifiable vegetables, but generally I can identify everything at Whole Foods and Wegmans. (I’m constantly being asked by other customers to identify vegetables at Whole Foods, in fact, for some reason. I guess I look like a vegetable expert?) Wegmans actually stumped me a while ago with salsify though: a name that sounds like “salsa” and a note on its price tag that it tastes like oysters. I’ve been meaning to buy some and experiment with it for a while and tonight I finally got around to it.

First of all I should confess I’ve never had an oyster. I have no idea what they taste like. I suspect they taste of the sea, but that’s all I know. I think they might be slimy. Honestly I don’t think I’d particularly like oysters. So I had no idea what to do with a vegetable purported to taste like oysters and there aren’t many recipes on the internet. The best-sounding recipe I found was Light and Creamy Oyster Chowder with Salsify, which recommends substituting potatoes for the salsify if you can’t find it. Clever Renae decided to substitute potatoes for the salsify and salsify for the oysters. Ha hah! I looked at a bunch of other oyster chowder recipes, as I am wont to do when trying to replicate something I’ve never had, and they are all very similar: oysters, clam juice, white wine, cream, bacon, and some veggies. I’ve never had clams either, so I don’t know what clam juice tastes like, but again, I figured it tastes like the sea and therefore just dumped some kelp powder into the pot. I thought it smelled of the sea anyway. I doubt it tasted anything at all like either oysters or clams. Nonetheless, it was a fun recipe.

Salsify (Oyster Plant) Chowder

1 onion, diced
1 leek, thinly sliced (white parts only)
1 stalk celery, diced
2 medium carrots, cut into small rounds
1 cup white wine
2 cups veggie stock
1 lb salsify, peeled and chopped
1 lb potatoes, diced
1/2 cup corn
3 Tbsp vegan “bacon” bits
1 Tbsp kelp powder
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup vegan unsweetened cream (such as MimicCreme) *
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

When prepping the veggies, place the chopped salsify and potatoes in a bowl of water into which a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar has been stirred to prevent discoloring. I found it tricky to get all of the “bark” off the salsify; some roots were more rough and therefore more difficult to peel than others. Some bits of the peel came off when dunked in the water; you can see them floating in the bowl.

Heat a soup pot over medium heat, then bring some olive oil up to temperature in it. Then add the onions, leeks, carrots, and celery.

Saute until soft and onions are translucent, deglazing the pot with a little of the wine if necessary.

Add the wine, broth, kelp, thyme, and bacon bits.

Add the salsify, potatoes, corn, and cream.

I forgot that MimicCreme sometimes separates when mixed with a hot liquid (it does that in coffee). Had I remembered, I’d probably have added the MimicCreme after the soup was cooked, and just gently heated it. It didn’t separate too badly, though, and mixed right back together when I stirred.

Cover and cook for 40 minutes or until salsify is soft and oystery. Okay, I have no idea what “oystery” means. Season with salt and pepper.

* To make without the cream, substitute one cup non-dairy milk. After cooking, puree about 1/4 of the soup and return to the pot.

Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread. I made biscuits but it’s a test recipe for Peter Reinhart’s new book so I can’t share. (Mark’s response to the biscuits was, “Peter Reinhart is a genius,” so you might want to pick up the book when it comes out!) Garnish with additional bacon bits.

So how was it, you ask? I thought the chowder was pretty good, albeit a little sweet for my taste until I salted it a little heavier than I usually do. I simply don’t usually cook with cream. (I have the MimicCreme for making ice cream, for which, by the way, it is fantastic.) Next time I’ll probably use soy milk instead (or just more broth) and just puree a bit to thicken it instead of using the cream. I’m not sure salsify really tastes like oysters, or really much of anything, quite frankly. I didn’t enjoy peeling it (the non-knobby roots were fine, but the knobby ones were a pain), so I don’t know that I’d bother buying it again. And I think I still don’t know what oysters taste like, but I also think I’m glad.

Since I always get comments about missing the cats when they don’t help with the meal, I went looking for them before transferring the photos off my camera.

Ever wanted to know what a cat doing a line of coke looks like?

Kidding! It’s FLOUR! From the biscuits! Tigger most certainly does NOT weigh his Columbian contraband on my food scale!

See, he likes to stick his face in flour. He’s very odd.

Have I ever mentioned that I love this guy?

Ms Brachtune has been dividing her time between the pseudo-laptop I made for her in this post and the little nest she’s made for herself by the heater a few feet across the room.

That fluffy thing to the left of her is a pillow I made her out of this faux fur that I bought specifically because it looked like her fur. I had grand plans of using it to made a huge faux bearskin rug…that looks like Brachtune. Yeah, I don’t know where I come up with these insane ideas either. There is something wrong with me. Particularly considering my sewing skills pretty much start and end at snot rags. Needless to say I have a lot of faux Brachtune fur. (I have a lot of real Brachtune fur for that matter.)

As usual, as soon as I snapped the shutter, she was up and heading over to me for some loving.

And one final note: I don’t usually endorse stuff, but sometimes a product that I just love comes along and I want to share. I used to be a major lip balm fiend when I was younger. I don’t know that I bought so much as one tube of real lipstick between the ages of 18 and 25, but boy did I have a plethora of lip balm in every flavor imaginable. I was really addicted to the stuff. I fell on hard times when I went vegan, though, because it is very hard to find lip balm without beeswax. My life became complete once again when I discovered Crazy Rumors last year. This is by far the best of any vegan – or non-vegan – lip balm I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried them all. I just got a shipment with a bunch of their brand-new flavors – trying out Pear & Peppermint now: yum! – and they all smell amazing. They’re moisturizing, feel great (not heavy) on your lips, last a long time between applications, and again, smell incredible. I’m not being paid to say that – I just figure that they are a small company so I’d do my part in spreading the word so they don’t disappear and leave me without my lip balm fix. I actually make the rest of my skincare products, but I was no good at making lip balm. Thank goodness Crazy Rumors is.


  1. Cindy Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 10:29 am

    The feline pics steal the show again, but that looks like a legitimate bowl of Chowdah. I’m sure it tasted like the real thing thing. Next time I’m at Urban Outfitters, I’ll pick up a tube or two of that lip balm. I’ve been using Lip Healer for years, but I just noticed it does contain beeswax even though the tube says ‘Cruelty Free’.

  2. Cindy Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 10:30 am

    ‘the real thing too!’ not the real thing thing!

  3. Jes Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 2:20 pm

    That soup looks great! I’ve always disliked oysters & clams (they’re gritty and slimy at the same time, ew) but clam chowder was one of my favorite soups. I’m going to hunt down some salsify and make this soon!

  4. Rose Anne Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

    Just read through this new recipe. As the founder of MimicCreme, I must admit it sounds pretty good! I hope to try it sometime when I can find salsify locally. Since I can recall the taste of both oysters and clams I will let you know if the tastes come close–but who cares, if the chowder is good, it’s GOOD. ‘nuf said.
    Thank you for your support and interest! Keep on cooking. And Enjoy.
    By the way, we would very much like to put a link to this recipe on our website: http://www.mimiccreme.com. May we have your permission?

    Kind regards,
    Rose Anne Jarrett
    P.S. the kitties are adorable.

  5. bex Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 2:48 pm

    That soup looks so cozy and the kitties are so cute! Especially when they wear the flour.

  6. Melissa Said,

    December 5, 2008 @ 4:45 pm

    Peter Reinhart is coming out with a new book? What is his focus this time? Lucky you for being a tester!

    I have his The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which I love, but don’t use it too much because I prefer to bake with whole grains. I need to get his Whole Grain Breads book.

  7. Alexis Said,

    December 6, 2008 @ 3:05 am

    I used to refer to a now-friend of mine as Salsify back when I found him annoying (we were twelve, we were probably both annoying!), because I asked some adult what vegetable was white and skinny and she said salsify. Parsnip is more obvious, but not as fun to say.

    Anyway, this sounds interesting. If I ever find salsify around here, I’ll try it. Or just substitute parsnips. 🙂

  8. renae Said,

    December 6, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

    Cindy, I doubt it really tastes much like the real thing – I really don’t think salsify probably tastes much like oysters – but it was a good, comforting soup anyway!

    Jes, slimy AND gritty? Ugh. Now I’m definitely glad I’ve never had them!

    Rose Ann, sure, you can link to the recipe – I’d be flattered! I’m definitely a fan of MimicCreme.

    Bex, thanks – the tiny white paw prints I have all over my kitchen are also pretty cute!

    Melissa, Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grains book is good, you should definitely pick it up. It’s more vegan-friendly than The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, too: he calls for dairy OR non-dairy milk and honey OR agave nectar, etc, in every relevant recipe. I’ve always make the substitutions anyway, but it’s nice to see them in print. Also, I sometimes substitute half (or in some cases the full amount) white whole wheat for the recipes in BBA and have never had a problem. I think the new book is going to include a pretty wide range of things: so far I’ve tested an almost no-knead bread and the biscuits (I had to veganize the latter, which Peter was fine with), and he’s also done bagels and babka. Unfortunately not a lot of whole grains.

    Alexis, that’s a cute story! Salsify IS more satisfying to say than parsnip.

  9. Lucy Said,

    January 4, 2009 @ 3:05 am

    Your chowder looks yummy!! I’ve never used salify before nor shellfish.
    I heard that you can use oyster mushrooms for vegetarian chowders and was told they taste good breaded and fried as well. Happy new year!!

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