Thai-Style Salmon Chowder

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Unsure how to proceed I set my sea-blue dutch oven on top of the stove. Regardless, of the uncertainty I turned on the flame and poured in a bit of oil. What I did know was that I wanted a soup much like, Tom Yum – bright, tart and fresh – but with salmon because that’s what my fridge had to offer.

Many of the Tom Yum recipes I read had you simply combining the ingredients with a stock and simmering. I liked the ease but saw a few opportunities to build in layers of flavor. So with a hot pan at the ready I decided to deeply caramelize the mushrooms so they would carry with them a roasted earthiness. Once sufficiently bronzed, garlic and ginger popped in the pan and danced around the bottom until their scent wafted up through the steam. At that point I proceeded along the recommended route.

Even with my additions the soup came together quickly, 30 minutes in all I’d say, but tasted as if it had been simmering on the stove all day; rich, complex and foreign flavors that comfort as if I had eaten it my whole life.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt


Take care not to over cook the salmon, although I will say the leftovers still tasted great even though the salmon had grown a bit tough. And feel free to adjust the amount of fish sauce and lime juice. I like it briny and sour so my quantities reflect that.

One final quick thank you to those who joined the conversation from the last post. There was so much encouragement from you moms that have paved the way before those of us who still have young ones sitting at our table. Thank you for taking the time to offer a bit of hope and perspective. For those of you who could relate to my story of feeding a table filled with, shall we say, a lack of gratitude? :) I really recommend you spend some time reading the comments. Each one comforted and reminded me of the grace that we can freely offer to one another knowing that the days are long, the job is hard but the years roll on and someday our table will be a bit less crowded. We are all shaky in this crazy role as parent and sometimes that shakiness produces harsh opinions and pointed fingers but here there was nothing but kindness and the sort of feeling that we are in it together. So, thank you. I really do love the community in this place. I’m happy to be a part of it.

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder // Not Without Salt

Thai-Style Salmon Chowder with Crispy Salmon Skin

Serves 4 to 6


2 tablespoons oil

4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced

1 tomato, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, large dice

2 stalks lemon grass, outer layer removed and cut into 3-inch pieces

10 kaffir lime leaves

1 quart chicken stock

1 can ( 13.5 ounces) coconut milk

8 ounces salmon, skin removed (but save for later), cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/4 cup lime juice


For serving:


lime wedges

crisped salmon skin


Set a large pot or dutch oven over high heat. Add the oil and heat until it starts to shimmer. Saute the mushrooms until deeply bronzed, about 7 to 10 minutes. To that add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato, bell pepper, lime leaves and lemongrass. Cook until the tomatoes soften and release their juice and the bell peppers start to wilt.

Add the chicken stock and coconut milk and bring the whole pot to a simmer. Reduce the heat to keep a steady simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the salmon, fish sauce and lime juice and cook for just a minute or two, until the salmon is just cooked. It will continue to cook with the residual heat so be mindful of that.

Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. I tend to like the soup very bright and sour so you may want to start with a bit less fish sauce and fresh lime juice.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedges.


To crisp up the salmon skin add a small splash of oil to a large cast iron pan or skillet. Add the salmon skin to the pan set over medium high heat and cook until the sizzling steadies and decreases. Flip and do the same to the other side, about 3 minutes per side. Add a small pinch of salt to the skin. Cook until crisp.



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Toasty Oats with Coconut

Toasty Oats with Coconut // Not Without Salt

“I do so much for you guys and THIS is the thanks I get?!”

Ugh, I hated how mom-like I sounded as I heard those words come from my mouth.

I snapped. It happens, more than I’d like to admit. The cause this morning? It was the coconut that pushed me over the edge. You see, I failed to hide the fragrant flakes in their oatmeal well enough so that when the warm bowl of toasted oats landed in front of him I expected praise but what I got was: “Is there coconut in here?” In a tone that was layered with sheer disgust.

The day before the coconut incident I accepted their challenge: Make a flavorful bowl of oatmeal. They’ve grown tired of the microwaved version their dad very sweetly makes for them every morning. I’m always up for a food-related challenge especially one where it involves a few simple ingredients where flavor can be coaxed out of if you have a few tricks up your sleeves.

My first trick often has to do with butter. In a large wide pot I browned a good bit of butter. This step alone filled the house with a sweet nuttiness that somehow softened the harried feel that so often accompanies weekday mornings. To that I added oats, stirring to cover them in the scented butter. Soon the oats matched the copper color of the browned butter and rivaled its nutty scent with one of its own. I threw in a handful of coconut and toasted them along with the oats.

Next I poured thick maple syrup in along with a bit of vanilla and salt. The oats cooked until the syrup stuck to it like a slick jacket. When the bottom of the pot was dry I added whole milk, a little at a time initially then as the oats thirsted for more I added another glug. I was hoping that this process would give the oats a risotto-like creaminess. Once the oatmeal resembled a creamy porridge; thick but not stand-a-spoon-up-in-the-bowl-thick, I spooned it into three bowls, splashed a bit of cold cream in and topped their portions with a few frozen strawberries where ice cubes usually go. If your children aren’t opposed to golden raisins in the same passionate way that mine are I’d recommend adding those here too.

I served up the oatmeal in the same way they present me with a perfect spelling test; beaming with pride and eager for accolades.

“Is there coconut in here?”

My heart sank.

I wanted oohs and ahhs. I wanted to be praised and crowned the oatmeal champion.

But that’s now how parenting works. That’s not how love works.

Toasty Oats with Coconut // Not Without Salt Toasty Oats with Coconut // Not Without Salt

I have so much emotion wrapped up in the food I make. Each meal is like a love letter to them, wait, that’s not quite true – the occasional box of macaroni and cheese tells them their mom isn’t perfect and sometimes needs a break. But when my love in the form of a full plate of carefully prepared food is picked apart and eaten with a face that looks tortured and pained my desire to feed is threatened.

That was my first thought the morning of the flavorful oatmeal. “Why do I even bother? They never appreciate it.” My next thought reminded me that I don’t feed my family for their appreciation. As much as I adore the praise I get from diners who love the food I make, I can not feed people for the praise. That’s not how love works.

Love isn’t doing something because of the response it will receive. Love expects nothing in return. Love does. Day in and day out.

Now this isn’t to say that we aren’t teaching our children to appreciate things. I want to raise these three little people to see the simple things in our days as gifts rather than give ins. I do want them to appreciate all that their dad and I do for them and we expect a thank you from them in the same way we offer them thank yous.

But I also want them to feel abundant, unconditional love from me. I want them to be fed well and freely without expectation from me. I want to love well even when my ego is bruised and they hit upon my vulnerabilities.

They give so much back to me. And many times they really do appreciate the food I feed them. I have three of the sweetest children in the world but even if I never heard a thank you I want them to know that I would still love them completely. Day in and day out.



Toasty Oats with Coconut

Serves 4


The idea for toasting the oats comes from the brilliant mind of my dear friend, Megan Gordon. She wrote the book, Whole Grain Mornings, where I first read about this idea. It adds so much interest and flavor to what can often be boring – oatmeal. The secret to flavorful oatmeal lies in the toasting of the oats.


4 tablespoons butter

2 cups oats

1/3 cup coconut flakes

1/4 cup maple syrup, plus a little more for drizzling over top if you’d like

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 -2 1/2 cups whole milk


In a in a large saucepan or dutch oven brown the butter over medium high heat. You’ll know the butter is browned when is smells nutty and the milk solids sink to the bottom and start to turn golden in color.

Add the oats. Stir constantly until they start to toast and deepen in color, about 4 to 6 minutes. Add the coconut flakes and cook 1 minute more.

Stir in the maple syrup, vanilla and salt. Coat the oats in the syrup and cook until the bottom of the pan looks dry, about 2 minutes.

Slowly drizzle in the milk at first, while stirring the oats constantly. Add more milk as the oats absorb the liquid. After you’ve done this with the first cup or so of milk stir in the rest. For thicker oats use 2 cups for creamier, loose oatmeal add all of the milk.

Serve while warm.

You can serve the toasty oats with a splash of cream, raisins, more maple syrup, muscavado sugar, dark brown sugar, dried cherries – whatever you’d like. We keep it pretty simple here.

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