Summer Corn Chowder

summer corn chowder

This post will be short and sweet….just like the brief window for summer corn. The recipe comes from Martha’s Stewart’s PBS show “Cooking School”, which if you haven’t seen it, is masterfully produced. Martha’s instruction is concisely detailed and her commentary is informative in an approachable way. I personally love how relaxed and focused the show is versus the hyper, over-the-top gimmicky food shows that seem to be flowing out of the TV lately.

I hadn’t intended to post this soup (as evidenced by the image drought) and for the life of me I’m not sure why. However, I quickly changed my tune after spooning it out of the pot for a taste test. It’s a simple chowder. Fresh, sweet and composed of minimal ingredients so as not to overshadow the corn’s delicate flavor. It’s creamy because it’s been mostly pureed, although it is finished with a minimal amount of half and half. Right before serving, snip some fresh chives for garnish- their oniony zip will nicely contrast the sweetness of the corn.

If you are looking for a complete meal idea, I made Garlic Roasted Potatoes with Spinach and Eggs to go along side. Almost forgot to mention….this soup smells like fresh plucked corn and its gorgeous pale yellow hue simply beckons. It’s a treat to all your senses. Please breath it in before you take that first bite…it will only make it better.

Summer Corn Chowder

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.

I wasn’t happy with the fresh corn in the market, so I begrudglingly used frozen. I know it’s a perfectly acceptable substitute and my end result wasn’t compromised in the least, but I really wanted to shuck corn! Let me know when you make this and I’ll come by and do the honors.

Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white onion, diced (about 1 large)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme wrapped in cheesecloth and bound with twine
  • 5 cups yellow corn (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 1 lb red new potatoes, cut into 1/2" discs
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh chives for serving

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven (I used a 6.75 quart) over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onion, thyme, corn and season with salt.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Do not let the onions brown.
  4. Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and then bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Extract the thyme and discard.
  7. Remove 3-4 cups of the soup and set aside.
  8. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  9. Return the reserved soup to the pot along with the half and half. Stir and gently heat.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve with freshly snipped chives.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/07/21/summer-corn-chowder/

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Best Enjoyed Poolside

charred poblano for Cold Mexican Avocado Soup

In case you wondered, it’s still hot in Texas.  When the thermometer in the car reads 100, 102, 107 (no joke) I get kind of mesmerized by disbelief and obsessed with revealing the big news to everyone I encounter as if 1. They don’t already know and 2. They’ve never seen it before.  I guess I’ll start being a Texan and stop being a Carolinian relocated to Texas once my fascination with the weather subsides. In the mean time I keep trying to figure out how to prevent my make-up from sliding off my face……nice visual, huh? Kind of scary movie creepy…..

You might recall my post from last year about Caribbean Gazpacho with cool cucumber and juicy pineapple chunks. It, like most chilled soups, is most flavorful when enjoyed without the blanket of a perfectly air-conditioned dining room. They are meant to refresh, cool down, perk you up and quench parched taste buds. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy them inside, but you’re really missing the point and therefore the pleasure if you aren’t “glistening” a bit when you dive in.

My husband and I have always been fans of avocados and in Texas you can find perfectly ripe ones any time of day in just about any store that carries provisions. My crystal ball (bet you didn’t know I had one) has been busy spinning images of silky avocado ice cream, chunky guac, spicy avocado for Cold Mexican Avocado Soupavocado toast and a cold Mexican avocado soup! Poblano peppers, cilantro, Mexican oregano, chili powder and lime meld together to create the perfect first course for a light summer meal. I’d personally love to pair it with sweet butter roasted shrimp, however, my other half is not a fan…ah hem….. what will we do with him? Instead we built tomato bacon sandwiches (definitely not a shabby alternative) from extra-thick peppery slices and juicy heirlooms that we showered with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano – before lightly warming them under the broiler. There is something very satisfying, almost instinctually so, when you pair foods of contrasting temperatures.  After dinner my crystal ball had another vision….me in January counting the days until the mercury hits 100! I think I’m settling in just fine.

Cold Avocado Soup with Chili-Lime Pepitas

Cold Avocado Soup with Chili-Lime Pepitas

Adapted from Fine Cooking.

Make an outdoor event out of it and take it poolside, lakeside, to the park or zoo. Soup is so portable, but chilled soup is even easier to tote around. Just pour into a thermos and throw in the ice chest, or make it special with individual containers and sweet little spoons.

Ingredients

  • 1 large poblano pepper
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped white onion (about 1 small)
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 3 ½ cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 ripe avocados (about 20 oz total), pitted and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • ¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 8 oz crème fraiche

Instructions

  1. Position the oven rack on the highest groove and turn the broiler to Hi. Place the poblano on the rack and roast for about 10 minutes, turning every few minutes in order to char all sides. It will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it cool completely then peel off the skin, pull out the stem and remove the core and seeds. Give it a rough chop reserving a few tablespoons to garnish the soup with. You might want to finely dice the pepper that you plan to use for a garnish….for pretty sake.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Cook the onion until it’s nicely browned- about 5 minutes.
  3. Place the pepper and onion in a blender, along with the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the crème fraiche. Purée until creamy smooth. Depending on the capacity of your blender you may need to do this in two batches.
  4. Once puréed, blend in the crème fraiche.
  5. Tastes for seasoning and then pour into a container or bowl and chill overnight or for at least 6 hours.
  6. Garnish with Chili-Lime Pepitas and reserved roasted poblano pepper. I also like a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/08/16/best-enjoyed-poolside/

Chili-Lime Pepitas

Chili-Lime Pepitas

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 2 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp Ancho chili powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. In a small skillet (I used an 8”) heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the pepitas and cook until they begin to pop (about 3 minutes).
  3. Pour in the lime juice and remaining ingredients.
  4. Stir continuously until all the liquid has evaporated and the pepitas are glazed.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/08/16/best-enjoyed-poolside/

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Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

I woke up this morning with a double whammy of excitement. Not only did I have nothing to do but make a pot of tomato soup, but I planned to christen my new, totally gorgeous, Le Creuset Dutch oven.  The most beautiful (and might I add functional) dune colored round 9-quart jobby you’ve ever seen. Since I bought it at our locally famed Southern Season in Chapel Hill, it’s been migrating between the stove and the counter for the sole purpose of my admiration. The little beauty was just calling out to be used for something just as glorious. So tomato soup it is!

Specifically, Ina’s Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup. A simple, nostalgic tomato soup with just enough cream to make it comforting without giving your tongue that nasty oil slick feeling.  If you haven’t learned this trick already, use a bread knife to chop your tomatoes. It works like a charm. Also, don’t be tempted to add more basil than the recipe calls for. Being an herb lover, I always tend to put a bit more in, but basil is so distinct too much would turn it into Cream of Fresh Tomato and Basil Soup….although….that might be just what you are looking for.

Now for the sad news…..the soup is not for us! It’s for our friends who own a wine store.  We actually have a nice little barter system set up, a few quarts of my soup, for a bottle or two of my favorite wine. It’s a great gig if you can get it!

Ina recommends fresh julienned basil to garnish and/or parmesan crisps. I actually prefer it with her Cheddar Dill Scones making it a somewhat updated version of the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese combo.

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup

Adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook.

This is my go-to summer tomato soup. It pairs with just about any sandwich, couldn’t be easier to make and I never, ever, tire of the quenching satisfaction of transforming oodles of fresh tomatoes into something so lovely.

Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 ½ cup chopped red onion (1-2 onions depending on size)
  • 1 cup of chopped carrots (2-3 carrots depending on size)
  • 4 lbs vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsly chopped
  • 1 TBSP minced garlic (3 large cloves)
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. In a large pot (like a 9-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven...teeheehee!) heat olive oil over medium-low.
  2. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, stock, salt and pepper. Stir and bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes until the tomatoes are tender; stir often. The liquid will have reduced and concentrated the flavors.
  6. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender.
  7. Using a fine mesh sieve strain the soup into another pot to remove tomato skin, seeds and other solids.
  8. Add cream, reheat, check for seasonings and enjoy.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/30/cream-of-fresh-tomato-soup/

 

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Caribbean Gazpacho

Pineapple owns a little corner of my heart. I was 23 the first time I ever really tasted it. It was at breakfast the first morning of our honeymoon.  My mind was drifting, processing that I was actually in St. Lucia gazing at the Caribbean Sea and flirting with my “husband” when I was shocked back to reality by an intense acidity and sweetness overtaking my mouth. I hadn’t even acknowledged that there was pineapple on my plate. That is how little respect I had for this fruit. Never have I been so wrong. And never again will I bring home a pineapple that doesn’t smell like pineapple. If you can’t smell it, it’s not ripe and never will be. That was almost 12 years ago and mostly we enjoy pineapple au natural, untarnished by sauces, grill marks, herbs, glazes, etc., but every once in a while we make an exception….especially when it comes to Caribbean Gazpacho.

This time, making the gazpacho was an unselfish act. The sister of one of my best girlfriends is expecting and I was honored (and terrified) when they asked me to make this for the shower. It’s not that I haven’t made it 100 times; it’s just that I’ve never made it for 30 hungry, many of them pregnant, women. Self-doubt started whispering in my ear “what if they don’t like it”, “what if they think it is bland”, “what if no one eats it”, “what if they take one spoonful and leave the rest as warning to others not to risk it”. There is a reason catering is left to the professionals.

However, after a few juice-dripping chunks of pineapple disappeared in my mouth, I started gloating, alone in the kitchen, about how fabulous this soup was going to be. With pineapple like this who needs an escape route! Turns out I was right. The gazpacho was a hit. I actually got a request to make it for someone else’s shower. Not to mention that my no-kid self went home with, not one, but two prizes…whoo hoo! Not too shabby being that I barely know the difference between Desitin and Orajel.

Caribbean Gazpacho

Caribbean Gazpacho

Adapted from Governors Club culinary archives.

This recipe comes from my former employer. A dear friend, who also worked there, replicated it for a special wedding after practically bathing in it at a local restaurant.

Ingredients

  • 2 fresh pineapples (3 cups chopped into 1” cubes and 2 cups into ¼” dice)
  • 2-3 English cucumbers, seeded (3 cups chopped into 1” cubes and 2 cups into ¼” dice
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions (3-4 )
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 4 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a food processor, puree the 3 cups pineapple, the 3 cups cucumber, scallions, jalapeno, pineapple juice, salt, cilantro and olive oil until smooth.
  2. Pour into a bowl and add the remaining pineapple and cucumber.
  3. Chill for at least 2 hours.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/22/caribbean-gazpacho/

 

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In Honor of Catherine, By Way of Sara

Even if you don’t live in North Carolina there is a good chance you are familiar with Sara Foster.  She is an award-winning cookbook author that celebrates simple, fresh, southern food AND rubs elbows with the likes of Martha Stewart and photographer Peter Frank Edwards. For those of us fortunate to be in her backyard she has two gourmet market cafés called “Foster’s Market”. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel like you are part of something and leaves you with a constant hankering for more. I’m actually scheming at this very moment on how, in the shortest time possible, to get my hands on one of her thick, perfectly measured nut-to-batter, chewy, deep chocolate brownies. I always prefer the savory to sweet, but these fat, fudgy squares that she wraps in basic no-fuss plastic cling could make me change my ways. Anyway to get back on track and off my personal food obsessions, Foster’s serves homemade food, but with a sophisticated undertone and always with a devotion to local ingredients.  Thankfully, Sara shares many of her café recipes in her enticing cookbooks and on her website.

Years ago I started making her Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder and shared it with my colleague, Catherine, who always delighted me with her enthusiasm to taste whatever I toted in that day.  It’s her favorite for a reason.  If you never quite got the “layers of flavor” thing, this is your chance to experience it without having to concentrate and analyze what you are supposed to be “experiencing”. It’s as if one spoonful just keeps going and going and going, working hard for your enjoyment.  As I imagine Sara Foster would tell you, this soup is best made with the freshest produce you can get your hands on.  Please, never ever make it with jarred roasted red peppers. They are so incredibly easy to prepare yourself and play a key role in making this soup special. There are quite a few techniques for roasting peppers, but I prefer the oven for “forgettaboutit” ease and no mess. You’ll be pleased with their fresh, firm, sweetness over the mushy jarred version.

It has been almost two years since Catherine and I have enjoyed regular morning coffee and although making this soup in her honor brings a twinge of sadness, it also brings me closer to her gentle, kind spirit.

That is Catherine on the left!
Photo by Paul Franitza.

Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder

Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder

Adapted from Sara Foster’s “The Foster’s Market Cookbook”.

Ingredients

  • 5 TBSP of unsalted butter, divided
  • A few drops of olive oil
  • 2 large leeks (about 4 cups)
  • 1 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 ribs of celery (2 cups), medium dice
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • Kernels from 6 ears of corn, divided (never buy pre-husked corn because without them the kernels have a tendency to dry out)
  • 3 fresh roasted red bell peppers, peeled, cored, seeded and medium chopped, divided
  • 3 tsp of Kosher salt
  • 1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 TBSP fresh minced thyme
  • 2 TBSP fresh minced parsley
  • 1 cup of half & half

Instructions

  1. To roast the peppers, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Make sure your oven is clean, the exhaust van is on and ventilation is good….otherwise your kitchen is apt to cloud with smoke and your fire alarm will shriek. Consider yourself warned! Place the peppers on a baking sheet and use your hands to rub them with a few drops of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, turning about every 10 minutes so you get a char on all sides. They will become beautifully blistered with black flavor-packing blemishes. This is good! Transfer them to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. They will continue to cook and concentrate their sugars. Let them cool completely then peel their skins off, pull out the stem and remove the core and seeds. Give them a rough chop, reserving ½ cup in a separate bowl and setting the rest aside.
  2. Trim the leeks so that you have only the white and light green parts, then slice in-half lengthwise and cut ¼” half moons. Rinse like crazy in a colander using your fingers to move them around and around to ensure all the dirt is removed.
  3. Cut the kernels from the cob reserving 2 cups in a separate bowl. Set the rest aside.
  4. Melt 3 TBSP butter in a large pot (I use a round 9-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven) over medium heat.
  5. Reduce to medium-low, add the onion and cook until it is soft and translucent- about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  6. Add the leeks and celery and cook for another 10 minutes. You want the celery tender. Stir occasionally.
  7. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. It will become beautifully fragrant.
  8. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil; then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  9. Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, melt 2 TBSP of butter over medium heat and sauté the 2 cups of reserved corn with a ½ tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  10. To the soup pot, add remaining corn (not the corn from the skillet), roasted red peppers and any accumulated juices (continue to reserve the 1/2 cup for later), 2 ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and thyme and simmer for another 15 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and add the parsley.
  12. Cool slightly and using an immersion blender puree for a rustic consistency.
  13. Add the corn from the skillet, the ½ cup reserved roasted red peppers and half & half.
  14. Taste for seasoning.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/15/in-honor-of-catherine-by-way-of-sara/

 

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The Temper Tantrum

But, I want to go to Paris! Me! Me! Me!

I’m all but stomping my feet and throwing myself to the floor when I read the email that our good friends are going to France this summer for a month. Jerks. Yes, jealousy is unbecoming and of course I’m happy for them (they did share with me some luscious crème de cassis procured from their last trip to you know where) but I can’t keep wondering when will it be my turn? I’m 36…..maybe for my 40th? I cling to this notion for hope…and that it might mitigate my envy.

To celebrate the trip we met at a French place down the road…..not across the Atlantic like I’d dreamed…had champagne, eggs, steak frites, béarnaise sauce and of course leeks. It seems as though every cookbook, TV personality, chef are always saying “leeks are so French”.  Embarrassingly, I’ve even caught myself saying it when I’m trying to impress, but I honestly I don’t have a clue why leeks are soooo French. Thank goodness no one ever challenged me!

At our dinner the leeks were classically combined with potatoes for a remarkable soup- one that both my husband and I gravitated towards and ordered, among other things, to share. When it arrived I was envious (again) that the waiter placed it in front of him. And then it sat there. He didn’t move. He just kept talking and ignoring the soup while my mouth became an ocean and my eyes fixated on the steaming bowl with perfectly minced chives scattered atop its smooth silky canvas.  Suddenly my instincts took over and I grabbed the bowl with an abrupt, strange verbalization that was intended to say “It’s going to get cold.” My startled husband relinquished the soup (like he had a choice) with a strange embarrassed look presumably directed at my animal like behavior. So what. I was spooning those delicate, creamy puréed leeks into my soup-hole…..

Sadly I don’t have the recipe, but there are so many online it’s ok. I’m infatuated with Ina’s Roasted Potato Leek (when no one is looking I’ve used my finger to scrape the bowl clean, it’s that good.), but I thought as homage to Paris I should try David Lebovitz vichyssoise-like version. I’m a big fan of his blog, but sheepishly (thank god he doesn’t know I exist) I’ve never made any of his recipes. So here’s to David and my impending visit to Paris.

Turns out leeks have been cultivated in Europe for so many centuries, actually thousands of years, that they are an inexpensive market staple (not the chic explanation I was hoping to uncover) and therefore a mainstay in restaurant and home kitchens alike.  No matter, they still make me feel very chefy when I cook with them.

Potato Leek Soup

Potato Leek Soup

Adapted from David Lebovitz.

The Yukon’s lend an inviting golden hue, while the leeks are subtle and the white pepper has just enough presence to make this soup interesting, not just healthy. It’s strangely delicate in an earthy way. Make the soup and you’ll know what I mean.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 cups washed and sliced leeks (about 4 leeks)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • ¼ tsp chile powder
  • 1 ¼ lbs peeled and chopped Yukon gold potatoes
  • 6 cups of filtered water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ tsp freshly-ground white pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp salt (divided)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven (I used 6.75 quart) heat olive oil over medium.
  2. Add leeks, season with ½ tsp salt and cook for 5-7 minutes stirring frequently until soft and translucent.
  3. Add thyme and chili powder and stir for about 30 seconds until their fragrance is released.
  4. Add water, potato and bay leaves.
  5. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife- about 15 minutes.
  6. Remove bay leaves, add white pepper and remaining 1 tsp of salt.
  7. Remove from heat and purée with an immersion blender.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/11/the-temper-tantrum/

 

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Corn, Sweet, Corn

 I’ve simply never met a corn chowder recipe that I didn’t have to take out for a test spin. It’s always welcome in our bowls and is one of the few things my husband requests. Over the years we’ve enjoyed Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder, Pumpkin Chicken Corn Chowder, Potato Corn Chowder….I promise I’ll share some of these soon! I try to keep this love affair seasonal, but sometimes I do use frozen kernels. But really, when fresh sweet corn is available you just feel summer and without knowing it find yourself in childhood memories of summer meals when the cook yells, “Can someone run down to _______________ (insert your favorite farm stand) and get a few ears”?

Soon you’re cruising down the road and the wind blowing through the windows is bringing with it that sweet, grassy, summer fragrance that I swear sticks to your skin until Labor Day. In minutes you arrive at the cart/wagon/stand/pick-up and grab the perfect dozen, drop a couple of bucks in the padlocked box and head home to save dinner.

When sweet corn from Florida showed up earlier this summer at Whole Foods, I couldn’t resist. Living in North Carolina, it had been a little too early for me to be reliving childhood memories and we were overdue for a corn chowder feast!  A new recipe, of course.  This one from Ina Garten. I served it with jalapeño cheddar corn bread  (my husband’s all time favorite cornbread because it’s a bit sweet and not as dense as most)  and called it a meal, but for a little protein kick you can always add shredded chicken or my favorite, seared scallops or grilled shrimp.

My husband barely came up for air until reaching the bottom of his bowl, but along the way he did offer a few emphatic “mmm’s”. Glad he liked it because it was dinner the next night….and the one after that.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Cheddar Corn Chowder

Adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups chopped yellow onions (4 large onions)
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 12 cups homemade chicken stock
  • 2 lbs medium-dice red boiling potatoes, unpeeled
  • 10 cups fresh corn kernels (10 ears)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 oz sharp white cheddar cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven (9 quart) over medium heat and cook the bacon until crisp, 5-7 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and reserve.
  3. Add the onions and butter to pot and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.
  4. Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  5. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes adding the fresh corn halfway through. After 20 minutes the potatoes should be tender and the corn will have a slight crunch.
  6. Add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted.
  7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle each bowl with bacon and grated cheese.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/06/corn-sweet-corn/

Notes

  1. I use yellow corn because I prefer the color it lends to the soup.
  2. To remove the silk from the cob, run a dry paper towel from top to bottom. It’s a handy little trick that I think I picked up from a Bon Appétit interview with Gwyneth Paltrow .
  3. I’ve tried every gadget imaginable to remove the kernels from the cob, but all you need is a sharp knife and a large cutting board. Lay the corn on the board, bring your knife close to the cob and cut straight down the length of the cob. This will yield a flat kernel-free surface that you can rotate to lay flat on the board and cut another side of the cob. You will make the cut four times. After the cuts are made stand the cob up and use your knife to cut close to the cob to clean off all the bits of kernels that maybe you didn’t get with the initial cuts. There’s a lot of milky, sweetness in those last bits that you want to capture.
  4. This recipe calls for turmeric, which is a peppery, slightly ginger-like spice. It calls for so little that you can’t really taste it, so I don’t suggest you go out and buy it if you aren’t going to use it in other preparations. For this chowder it is really just lending a golden yellow hue to soup. Nice, but not essential.
  5. My go-to cheddar to eat and cook with is Black Diamond. It’s a Canadian cheese that is aged to perfection. We’ve introduced it to just about all our friends who also continue to spread the word. I’m in love with the 5-year aged, but it’s difficult to find. Not many stores carry it due to the cost; however, you can usually find the 3-year aged. When you cook or bake with cheese, I think it’s important to use one that is strong and can stand up to the rest of the ingredients, otherwise, what’s the point?
  6. If you like a thick chowder with lots of texture, remove about a quart of the soup, puree it and then add it back to the pot. You can adjust this up or down based on your preference.
  7. This recipe makes enough for a small army, so plan to eat it all week, share it or just cut it in half. If you make the full recipe don’t even think about using a pot that is less than 9 quarts.
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Ciambotta

Summer produce makes me a little amorous….it starts with seductive colors and full-bodied bunches of tender greens that tease while earthy fragrances lure me in leaving me longing……for just one taste! I try to exhibit self-restraint, but my market bag always carts home a little something extra. I mean can you really live without those late season peaches, or that fat, hot pink radish ……oh, and what about the farmer at the end offering juicy tastes of blackberries that are practically the size of the radishes you just plucked.

This tryst means our household enjoys a full-on vegetarian bender all summer. As clean and glorious as this is, a meatless streak leaves my husband a bit forlorn, having his own fantasies about porterhouse encounters and salacious bison burgers.  So in an attempt to satiate his primal cravings, and using our dinner guest as an excuse, I decided to make ciambotta, pronounced cham-BOHT-tah, -the Italian version of ratatouille but with potatoes. It’s a century old peasant dish created expressly to satiate the tired bodies of a working a family while rivaling the fullness and satisfaction of meat.  Think of it as a hearty vegetable stew.

Typically stews are associated with hours of simmering tough cuts of meats in stock, water, or maybe wine, however, my luscious produce continues to please, and the ciambotta develops intense flavors in about an hour. The vegetables sweat their water leaving them a deep, concentrated interpretation of their former selves while the fresh herbs brighten the stew reminding you that this is a summer dish. We added a poached egg and a sprinkling of fresh nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano to finish.

Ciambotta is not complete without rustic white bread to sop up the tomato broth.  I paired it with a low-key yet spicy Italian red….. and imagined southern Italy through my kitchen window.

Ciambotta

Ciambotta

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

Ciambotta varies by region depending on what’s available, so be flexible and use vegetables you have on hand like carrots, green beans, celery, peas, etc. For an alternate version, crumble with crispy pancetta or to make it more substantial add ground lamb, sausage or even fish.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup fresh oregano leaves
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 12 oz eggplant, peeled and medium-dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium-dice
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and medium-dice
  • 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini, medium-dice
  • 1 red pepper, stemmed and seeded, medium-dice
  • 1 yellow pepper, stemmed and seeded, medium-dice
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 cups homemade chicken stock
  • ¼ cup red wine
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh chopped basil for serving
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Instructions

  1. Process first four ingredients plus 2 TBSP of olive oil in a food processer until finely ground. This is a pestata- a garlicky, herb puree similar to pesto. Transfer to a small bowl and reserve.
  2. Toss eggplant with 1 ½ tsp of kosher salt in a bowl.
  3. Line a large dinner plate with coffee filters and spray with cooking oil. Do not be tempted to use paper towel unless you like fine paper flakes in your eggplant. Spread the eggplant on the coffee filters and microwave on high for 6 minutes. Stir and microwave for another 6 minutes. By this time they should look dry and shriveled.
  4. Meanwhile put the canned tomatoes, including juices, in the food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Leave for later.
  5. Heat 2 TBSP of olive oil in a Dutch oven over high heat and add the eggplant, onion and potato. Cook for about 2 minutes until the eggplant starts to brown and the potatoes become translucent.
  6. Clear a space in the pot and add 1 TBSP of olive oil along with the tomato paste. Cook for about two minutes, stirring frequently, until a fond (sticky brown bits) develops.
  7. Add the chicken stock and chopped tomatoes with their juices and scrape the bottom of the pot to free any brown bits.
  8. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. At this point the eggplant will all but dissolve and the potatoes should be tender, but not mushy. Remove from heat, but keep covered.
  9. While the eggplant mixture simmers, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in a 12 or 13-inch skillet over high heat. Add the zucchini and peppers, sprinkle with ½ tsp of kosher salt and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are browned.
  10. Make a clearing in the skillet and add the pestata and cook for about 1 minute. You know it’s done when it becomes beautifully fragrant.
  11. Working quickly, mix the pestata and vegetables and add to the eggplant mixture. Return skillet to the hot burner and add ¼ cup of red wine to deglaze the pan (dissolving yummy brown bits by the use of high heat, liquid and scraping). Add to the eggplant mixture.
  12. Let the ciambotta rest for 20 minutes covered so that the flavors can meld. Meanwhile poach 1 egg per serving.
  13. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/08/01/ciambotta/

 

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Avocado Crab Soup

This weekend we are basking at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Our friends are away and have generously offered up their gorgeous, well-equipped coastal retreat for our express pleasure and relaxation!!!! My husband has been enduring a relentless travel schedule for his business, so this respite will be just what he needs if I can hide the laptop and throw away the key.

With our priorities shifting and sunset approaching, he tackled margaritas and I managed to make some guacamole in between alternating mouthfuls of avocado chunks and tortilla chips. I’m still baffled how something that decadent can be so good for you. So because of this and their versatility, I just can’t get enough. Smeared on the egg sandwich, slivered alongside tomatoes in a caprese salad, diced in a citrusy relish for grilled fish or chicken, even by itself with a little olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper…..but soup? Nope. Nadda. Not going there. I’ve been curious, but always kept a safe distance. In reflection, I don’t think I wanted my beloved avocado to fall from its pedestal should the soup yield an uninteresting bowl of baby food.  But like time, geography can change everything.

 

Because the Outer Banks is synomous with fishing, it lures throngs of recreational anglers and houses generations of tanned, sea-crusted locals who have been working the waters to spoil the rest of us with shrimp, fish, clams and of course the prized crab. That tender, succulent, sweet, blue crab…….

 

A few days after the great guacamole feast, we passed Daniel’s Crab Shack and I realized that the days of my avocado soup drought were over. Billowing, briny tender clouds of crab were rolling in and soon would be floating in a cool green ocean…..I imagined them like little edible icebergs in the frozen Arctic. I was sure I’d seen a recipe somewhere that called for a heaping mound of lump crab as an acclaimed “perfect garnish”. So I waded through my very swollen “need-to-make-soup-recipe-folder” (never leave home without it) and found what I was looking for. Actually I found about 10 avocado soup recipes (told you I was curious) so following is a somewhat original recipe that I promise will make you a believer as well.  It’s very rich which makes it an impressive starter.  Next time (because there will be a next time!)  I’m going to make it as part of a soup flight, maybe alongside gazpacho and a corn vichysoisse. The colors would be beautiful!

Avocado Crab Soup

Avocado Crab Soup

Using a blender to puree the ingredients incorporates air into the soup giving it a thick, creamy texture- almost fluffy.

Ingredients

  • 3 small avocados
  • 2 TBSP crème fraiche
  • 4 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • ½ cup medium-diced English cucumber
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock (add more if you like a thinner consistency)
  • 1 ¼ cup water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Refrigerate overnight (minimum of 6 hours) to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with a healthy garnish of Crab Mango Garnish.
  2. Crab Mango Garnish
  3. 2 cups of lump crab
  4. 4 green onions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  5. 2 mangos, medium-diced
  6. Juice of 2 lemons
  7. Juice of 1 orange
  8. 1 tsp kosher salt
  9. 1 red jalepeno, cored, seeded and finely minced
  10. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/07/29/avocado-crab-soup/

 

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Why Soup?

 

 

 

 

 

Because it’s fun AND easy. Sorry to be so elementary, but soup is not intimidating, it’s comforting. It gives permission to dispense with the notion of being meticulous and invites spontaneity. You can play with your ingredients and if you get too crazy just make another adjustment and no one will be the wiser.

It was probably in my drafty, ice-in-the bathtub college apartment that I made my first pot of soup….just to get warm. I channeled my Oma and started recruiting refrigerator causalities. I was into Bouillon cubes then, hence my broth. After that it was carrots, celery, potatoes, onions, frozen corn, a few bay leaves, thyme and tarragon (my signature flavor of the time). Thereafter, the combination was never the same, but the contentment for creating something edible to share with those around me was. Sometimes I become so trapped by recipes (did I mention I was Type A) that I forget it’s not about a perfect dish, it’s about relishing the process and the joy your food brings others. I want to prepare incredibly satisfying, delicious food that does not require intricate techniques, expensive equipment and that most of all is forgiving.

Because of soup, I found freedom in the kitchen. It allowed me to find a creative passion that I didn’t know I possessed and let me laugh, not cry, at kitchen debacles (like a charred (very pricey) filet of beef on New Year’s Eve that had to be tagged D.O.A……it didn’t leave my new husband with the intended impression of my kitchen savvy…in fact it left him still hungry at 11:45 pm wearing his champagne (another good intention gone wrong)). I devour cookbooks, but strive to remain present in the process and nurture intuitiveness in my cooking as demonstrated by Oma.

As homage to those refrigerator raids and wanting to leave dinner for Neil (the husband) while I went out, I scoured the pantry and found an inspiring jar of organic cherry tomatoes. After rescuing a lonely zucchini, I grabbed some homemade stock from the freezer, a sweet Vidalia onion and garlic, the last of my parsley and some unused orzo.

 

It was quick, beautiful, healthy and perfect for a light summer meal.

Cherry Tomato Soup

Cherry Tomato Soup

Even when corralling leftovers for soup, it’s important to have an anchor ingredient-something to guide your flavor profile and keep you from using everything but the kitchen sink. The cherry tomatoes played that pivotal role in this soup, as did the homemade stock. The fewer the ingredients the more critical their quality.

Ingredients

  • 500 g jar of organic cherry tomatoes (if you have fresh cherry tomatoes, use them! Just saute with the zucchini.)
  • 6 cups of homemade chicken stock
  • 1 medium zucchini, medium-dice
  • 1 Vidalia onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup packed Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 8 oz orzo
  • 2 TBSP Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Instructions

  1. In a medium pot, heat 2 TBSP of olive oil over medium-low heat. Saute the onion until soft and translucent- about 5 minutes; be sure not to brow. Stir occasionally.
  2. Add the zucchini and cook for another 3 minutes, incorporating the garlic on the final minute.
  3. Add the tomatoes with their juices along with the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Return to a boil, add the orzo, parsley, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper and simmer for another 9 minutes, or until the orzo is al dente.
  5. Check for seasonings.
  6. Serve with freshly grated cheese.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2012/07/25/why-soup/

 

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