Tuesday, August 03, 2004
CORN AND RED PEPPER CHOWDER
I’m not a big soup fan. Sure, it’s comforting in the winter, it’s soothing when you’re ill, and it makes a nice side dish with grilled cheese sandwiches (mmm, Campbell’s tomato) or a light first course of a large dinner (mmm, won-ton). But. I just can’t really enjoy it as a meal. After about six spoonfuls, the texture starts to get to me. But occasionally, when I feel obliged to make something that isn’t pasta, I’ll make soup. It’s usually easy to make, and it often yields large quantities, which I can freeze and keep in reserve for when I’m desperate for a lunch to take to work. This is one of my better soup recipes; you’ll just have to excuse me if I’m not completely enthused about it. It’s nice and fresh and summery (boy, I use that term a lot), especially with ingredients from the farmer’s market, and A gives it the thumbs-up. It was a bit labor-intensive, but in a relaxing cutting-lots-of-things-up way in which you can zone out and watch TV. I made this on Sunday night, by the way. Recipe is from some long-forgotten library cookbook.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed when I have this many ingredients, so I cut everything up before I start the recipe. It takes longer, but it keeps my head on straight. In this case, first I cut up the potatoes (I always leave the skin on; it’s good for you), red pepper, celery, and basil and dumped all that into one bowl and set it aside. (To cut down on dishes, if I’m not having company over I typically just use whatever bowls I’m going to serve the food in. Very handy.) Then I husked the corn and cut off the kernels (which flew all over the kitchen), sliced the scallions, and put that stuff aside in a second bowl. Finally, I cut up the onions and garlic and was ready to start the recipe proper.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 large potatoes, peeled (optional) and finely diced (about 2½ cups)
2 medium-sized red bell peppers, finely diced
1 celery rib, very thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, or ½ teaspoon dried (use fresh unless you’re desperate)
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
freshly ground pepper
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (if you’re using fresh, which I recommend if you can get it, that’s about 6-7 ears)
6 scallions, thinly sliced (I use the white part, the light green part, and at least an inch of the dark green)
½ cup milk
½ cup cream
1. Combine the butter and oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions and garlic and sauté them until the onions are tender but not brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the stock and raise the heat to medium-high to bring it to a boil. When the stock boils, add the potatoes, red peppers, celery, bay leaf, basil, salt, sugar, and pepper and wait for the stock to return to a boil. When it does, lower the heat “to a lively simmer” (somewhere around medium), partially cover the pot with a lid, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in the corn and scallions and cook for about 10 more minutes (you only need to cook for about 2-5 minutes if you’re using frozen corn). Remove the bay leaf and throw it away.
4. Get out the blender or food processor. Scoop 3 cups of soup out of the pot, put it in the blender, and puree it. Return the pureed soup to the pot, stir in the milk and cream (if you’re skittish about the fattiness of cream, I’m sure you could get away with just milk, but the soup would be thinner), and heat everything a few more minutes. Grind in black pepper before serving.
Serves: The recipe claims 4, but we got 5 large portions out of it.
Time: About an hour for me, but I think it could be done more quickly.