Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Corn Soup

When the Farmer's Markets are in full swing I love to cook according to whatever I find that is freshly in season each week. It's actually too early for corn in our area but some delicious Georgia sweet corn showed up at a veg market near me and the left over ears from dinner were just enough for a light soup the next day. Not thick heavy corn chowder; that's for a winter night. This is a fresh, quick flavorful soup, just right for lunch or light dinner along with a salad or open face sandwich like this Jalapeno-Pimento Cheese. Whoa, not yet! We'll get back to that sandwich later.

On to the souping:
I had one ear of left over corn already cooked and one that wasn't. Corn cooks so quickly off the cob that both can go right in the pot together with a whole diced Vidalia onion, nice and sweet to match this corn. One red pepper such as this Ancient Sweet or red bell is fine also, all sauteed together over med heat  in 2-3 Tbs butter. About 10 minutes should be enough, just until the onions are  translucent.

Next, the spices and broth. I like to saute spices a little first to warm up their flavor before the broth goes in. I'm using only a tsp or so of this chili powder because it is chipotle and quite hot. Let your conscience be your guide (as my Nanny Hall used to say about how much butter to put in a recipe) - if you like it hot then go for the spice, as long as you don't burn out the taste buds of your family and friends. 

 I also added a little fresh ground coriander which smells like lime to me, very citrusy and much more fragrant than pre-ground. (I think this is a spice which very quickly loses flavor.) The test is this, if you open a spice and it doesn't smell like much of anything, throw it out, it's not going to taste like much of anything either. This is optional in the soup, you could actually use a squeeze of lime if you don't have the coriander or skip it altogether.

Richer Soup Flavor

Finally, I added a heaping tablespoon of soup base to the soup broth, whisking it into a small amount of broth first to melt it down, then adding that to the rest of the ingredients once it was well blended. This is NOT overkill on the chickeny flavor. It's a method of adding richness to the flavor that is already there. A long time ago I read in one of Virginia Bentley's hand-written cookbooks that the secret of richer taste in any dish is to add more of the main flavor already present. With vegetable dishes, I often add some Spike, a seasoning made from lots of dehydrated vegetables, or if the main flavor is onion, I might grate onion on a fine rasp to add extra onion juice to the dish. With beef recipes that require searing or browning meat, add some water or wine to the pan and scrap up the crispy brown bits and simmer that down to a concentrate to add loads of flavor back into your dish.

But, back to our soup in progress...let it simmer along for 30 minutes or so and ladle it up! If you'd like to make it the main dish, add some chicken. Or for Cuban or Mex style, add some shredded pork and a tablespoon or two of cumin. Crushed chips on top or a dollop of sour cream, or hey, both.

2-4 ears Fresh Corn
1 lg Onion
1 Red Sweet Pepper
1 Qt Chicken Broth
3 Tbs Butter
1 Tbs Chicken Soup Base
1 Tsp (Chipotle) Chili Powder
1 Tsp Coriander Seed, fresh ground

Jalapeno Pimento Cheese

Betcha thought I'd forgotten about the Jalapeno-Pimento Cheese Sandwich, huh? Did not. Mine never turns out the same way twice because I always just use up whatever the cheese bin yields and in my house there are often more than a dozen types of cheese at any given time in the fridge. I like to mix a pungent cheese, a mild cheese, and an in-between cheese together so this week I used Jarlsburg, Longhorn Colby, and a little Gouda, grated them all in the food processor, and used just enough mayo to stick it all together. Depending on how hot you like it, add 1 Tbs or so of chopped Jalapeno, and a small jar of chopped pimento. Those last two items are always in my pantry because I use them so often.  That was the bonus recipe this week.

Cutting Corn off the Cob

A note about taking corn off the cob. Use a sharp knife and cut straight down flat against the cob without gouging into the cob. Then flip the knife over to the dull side and scrap down one more time to release the starchy juice and extra bits of corn that were left behind on the first round.

  This is the milky starch that helps thicken skillet cooked corn. It's sweet and adds extra flavor whatever the recipe so I never let it go to waste.   
Using the back side of the knife will prevent
scraping fibrous pieces of the cob into the mix.
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