Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Midsummer Corn Chowder (Vegan)

I was looking for a light supper to precede Natalia's Chocolate Cupcakes. (Or, as the case may be, to detox after eating too many cupcakes while baking.) I love corn chowder, it's that time of year, and the unusual ingredients were intriguing. Absolutely everything went straight from the farmer's market into the soup. Yummmm. Sweet, sweet summer in a bowl. I thought it might taste a bit too Italian but the tomato and basil were a subtle layer of flavor. Next time I'll increase the fennel, I couldn't taste it here. It easily served 5 with a couple quarts left over. Pictured topped with cheddar, more basil and a slice of whole wheat sourdough (also from the market). Accompanied by a green salad with melt-in-your-mouth pears picked from my friend's yard, walnuts, and blue cheese. Beer and centerpiece optional but recommended.

Midsummer Corn Chowder With Basil, Tomato, and Fennel
from Veganomicon

6 ears fresh corn
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
1 pound waxy potatos (about 2 medium), diced (I usually use red potatoes and leave the skins on for color variety)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
bay leaf (optional)
2 quarts fresh corn stock, vegetable broth or water
1 pound tomatoes, chopped (the corn turned out to be white, so I was glad that I had picked up yellow heirlooms as well as red!)
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Remove husks and silk from corn. Carefully slice off the kernals into a large bowl. Break cobs in half and keep to make corn stock or simply add them to the soup while simmering.
2. Heat olive oil in large soup pot over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, thyme, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir and cover, sweating them for about 5 minutes.
3. Add carrot and celery, stir, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Add the fennel, stir, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the potato, stir, cover, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
6. Finally, add the corn, stir, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add the water or stock (and optionally the corn cobs and bay leaf, making sure to remove before adding the tomatoes and basil), stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and allow the soup to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.
8. Let the soup cool a bit in the pot and use an immersion blender to blend to desired consistency. Or if you're in more of a hurry, remove 2-3 cups, cool in a bowl, and blend with immersion blender, food processor, or blender, then add it back to the soup. Just avoid blending anything hot, it will splatter.
9. Add the chopped tomatoes and basil and return just to a simmer. (You may wish to cook the tomatoes and basil a bit longer as called for in the original recipe, but it always feels a sin to me to eat them in anything but their full glory. And I'm hardly a raw foodie, but I try to add some ingredients, especially herbs, at the end of cooking whenever possible. It preserves not only the flavor but also the enzymes and assorted nutritional benefits.)
10. Adjust salt and pepper, serve. (I used homemade veggie stock so I had to add a lot of salt. If you use commercial stock you may not need to add any.)

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