Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mid-Summer Corn Chowder

Corn - a favorite summer food (especially for us Midwesterners!)  It was on sale at our local grocery store, and although we adore corn-on-the-cob, I wanted to try something else with fresh corn and this recipe was just the thing.

This is a great healthy recipe that's perfect for when you have lots of summery produce laying around, just waiting to be eaten.  Unlike most chowders, it doesn't use cream or anything for the smooth texture, so it's waistline-friendly.  It also makes a decent amount, so we had a tasty lunch to bring to work for a few days (always a plus).  I got this recipe from a vegan cookbook (my favorite), but I made it non-vegan with some chicken broth and added cheese.  However, it's easily made vegan/vegetarian and it's superb either way!

In addition to the garnish of tomatoes and basil, I also sprinkled on some queso fresco cheese, and it was even more delicious.  The fiance suggested some small (cubed) roasted rosemary potatoes for a different additional garnish, and I will try that sometime as well.

Mid-Summer Corn Chowder with Basil, Tomato, & Fennel
(adapted from Veganomicon)
Serves 6-8

6 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 large onion, cut into fine dice
1 small bulb fennel (about 1/2 pound), diced
1 stalk celery, chopped finely
1 large carrot, diced
1 pound white, waxy potatoes - Yukon Gold is a good one (about 2 medium-sized), peeled and diced
1 tsp dried thyme (the original recipe called for 2, but thyme can be so pungent so I reduced it to 1)
2 quarts vegetable and/or chicken broth (or a fresh corn stock that I was too lazy to make)
Salt and pepper to taste

1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped finely
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, tightly rolled and chopped into thin strips
Queso fresco or panela cheese, diced/crumbled

On a large cutting surface or in a large bowl, hold an ear of corn by the thicker end and run a sharp knife carefully down the length of the ear, close to the cob, to slice off the kernels of corn.  Repeat with the remaining ears.  Note that kernels will fly all of the place, so have a nice, big work space.  Use the non-sharp side of the knife to 'milk' the cob to get the little bits and juice that you couldn't get while slicing off the kernels.  Set aside the kernels, break each cob in half to use in the corn stock, or add to the soup when simmering.

Preheat a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Saute the garlic in oil for 30 seconds, then add the onion.  Stir and cover, sweating them for about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery, stir, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the fennel, stir, cover, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes; then add the chopped potato, stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the stock, salt, pepper, and thyme, stir, cover, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and allow the soup to simmer, covered (with lid tilted so a small amount of heat can escape), for 45 minutes.  Turn off the heat and set aside to cool until only slightly warm.

Puree the bowl of soup with an immersion blender.  If you would like it to be a bit chunkier, reserve half of the soup, un-pureed, in another bowl, and puree only half of it.  Reheat all soup in pot until hot enough to serve, add tomatoes, and basil, and cheese (if using), and serve.


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