The nicest thing about Alice Waters’ Vegetable book (which I’ve been raving about for a few posts now; and which, as I’ve mentioned before, was a gift from one of my readers) is that it helps you become a seasonal cook without having to make too many changes to your life. To really understand seasonal cooking, you’d really have to know a bit about the land, the climate, your part of the country. With this book, you really just need to know what looks fresh in the supermarket and the farmer’s market. Corn’s still in season and so I put two and two together, flipped to Alice’s corn section (that sounded dirty) and made this wonderful corn soup with salsa.
To start out, you should make the salsa. The salsa here isn’t really the kind of salsa you associate with “salsa.” It’s basically roasted tomatoes with sage, olive oil and corn. You’ll need:
1 large ripe tomato
1 sprig thyme
2 sage leaves
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs fresh corn kernels
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and seed the tomato…
Here I got to use my brand new paring knife that came with the knife set I bought through Elise’s site a few weeks ago!
It’s my new favorite knife, mostly because it’s really sharp. Where were we?
…and cut into 1/2 inch dice. In a small baking dish, toss the tomato with the thyme and sage and 1 Tbs of the olive oil. (I couldn’t find any thyme at Whole Foods which made me sad because thyme’s my favorite herb.)
Put the dish in the oven and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occassionally. Remove from the oven, allow to cool
and remove the thyme sprig and the sage leaves. Toss together with the remaining Tbs of olive oil and the corn, and season to taste.
As you can see, I added cilantro because I’m a big cilantro fan. I should also say here that this salsa is optional. Alice writes: “Other garnishes to consider [for the soup] are roasted red peppers, pureed or chopped; or chopped hot chiles and cilantro, with or without creme fraiche.”
Now then: the soup. I halved the recipe for myself but I’ll give you the full recipe here in case you want to make this for your family. You will need:
1 medium onion
1/4 small carrot
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs unsalted butter
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 small piece prosciutto or smoked bacon (I used bacon)
3 cups fresh corn kernels**
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs half-and-half
1 cup corn and roasted tomato salsa (which you’ve already made)
**To get the kernels off the corn without having the corn fly all over the place, I tried a technique I saw on Alton Brown. I may have totally misremembered this, but as it occurred to me you take a small bowl and put it in a pie pan and the walls of the pie pan catch the bits of corn as you cut down.
As you can see, I made a mess, but not as big a mess as I did the last time I cut corn.
Now then, the recipe.
Peel and finely dice the onion, carrot and garlic, and stew slowly in the butter with a little water, covered, until the onion is translucent. Add the thyme, bay leaf, and prosciutto or bacon, and stew for 3 or 4 minutes more. Add the corn and cook for another minute or so.
Pour in the stock, add the salt, bring the soup to a boil and shut off the heat. Cover and let stand for 3 minutes.
I should point out here that I used the Sarah Moulton technique of putting the cobs* in with the corn to add flavor. Since you’ll be pureeing everything in a moment, it’s very easy to take the cobs out afterwards. And even if it doesn’t do much, it feels like it does. [*NOTE: originally I wrote “husks.” That was wrong! Don’t put husks in your soup!]
Remove the thyme, bay leaf, pork (and the cobs!) and puree the soup in a blender for 3 minutes.
I used my food processor:
And encountered some trouble when liquid came pouring out of every hole:
But for the most part, the soup got blended the way it needed to be blended. Here it is, post-puree:
After that, it’s easy.
Strain through a medium-mesh sieve, add the half-and-half, reheat the soup to just below a boil, and serve, garnishing each bowl with a spoonful of the corn and roasted tomato salsa.
It’s cool because the salsa really acts as the soup’s–umm–“stuff.” You know like the stuff that’s in clam chowder? It’s the stuff you fish for when you eat. And it really makes the dish more colorful and vibrant. I served it with a simple salad and extra salsa on the side.
It’s a great recipe to make with the last of the summer corn. And if you’re not a seasonal shopper, what a great way to start. You can wear your seasonal shopper t-shirt.