Here's a way to enjoy corn off the cob
There's nothing that shouts summer louder than the sight of just-picked sweet corn piled high in the back of a pickup parked along the side of a country road. This time of year, I carry a cooler in my trunk, always ready to load it with fresh, fat ears of corn. There's always someplace to stop for some ice to add to the cooler. By keeping the corn cool, I know its sweet flavor will be at its best when I get home and cook it in a pot of simmering water.
As a child, I remember eating the old-fashioned variety, with orderly rows of only yellow kernels. Back then, the St. Paul suburb where I grew up was still more country than city. My mom could buy fresh sweet corn from a farmer just minutes from our house. There was nothing I enjoyed more than poking sharp little prongs with corncob-shaped handles into each end of a steaming ear of corn, biting into the crunchy kernels that dripped with butter and a sprinkling of salt. Then I would maneuver my tongue, trying to move pieces of corn kernels that were stuck between my teeth.
Last week, the freshest, most local corn I could get my hands on was grown just a few hours drive from my house. The cobs were filled with plump, light yellow and creamy ivory-colored kernels.
Fresh Corn Soup is one way to enjoy the sweet flavor of fresh corn without eating it right off the cob.
Corn kernels, once removed from the cob, are pureed to form a liquid pulp. Pure corn juice is released from the pulp. This juice thickens as it heats because it contains natural cornstarch. No other thickening agents that may interfere with the pure, sweet flavor of the corn are needed in this soup.
Some onions, a little garlic and bay leaf are my choices to partner with corn kernels as they simmer in corn juice. In just 30 minutes from start to finish, warm, delicious soup is ready to ladle from the pot.
Garden-fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped, along with fresh basil, are spooned over the soup at serving time.
Fresh Corn Soup can be prepared ahead. Warm the chilled soup over low heat when you want to serve it.
Hot or cold, cooked or uncooked, on the cob or off, for lunch or dinner or anytime in between, the sweet flavor of plump, milky corn kernels just can't be beat.
Fresh Corn Soup
12 ears of corn
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 to 1 cup vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Fresh basil leaves, chopped
Strip the husks from the corn. Using a sharp knife, cut the corn off the cobs. You will have 6 to 8 cups of kernels. Discard the cobs.
Place half of the corn kernels in a blender or food processor and puree until it becomes liquid pulp. Transfer the pulp to a fine mesh sieve. Press on the pulp to extract as much juice from it as you can. Pour the juice into a 2-cup glass measure. Add enough vegetable broth to the corn juice for a total of 2 cups of liquid. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and sauté. Cook and stir until onions are tender, but not brown. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Stir in remaining half of corn kernels. Pour in corn juice and vegetable broth mixture. Add bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil. Turn down heat, cover pot and simmer the soup for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
Stir in salt. Remove bay leaves. Add cream and stir to blend. Season with black pepper to taste.
Ladle soup into serving bowls. Top with some chopped tomato and fresh basil. Makes about 6 cups of soup.
Tips from the cook
--Buy the freshest corn possible, still in its green husks, for this soup.
--To turn this soup into a meal, top it with some chopped cooked chicken, smoked turkey or ham.
--If you'd like more mileage from the corn cobs before discarding, place the stripped cobs in a large pot and cover them with cold water. Add a couple of bay leaves, trimmings from the onion, a clove of garlic and the stems from the basil leaves. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. Strain the broth and discard the solids. The broth can be refrigerated for a few days or kept frozen for up to three months. Use the sweet, corn-flavored broth for making corn soup, potato soup and risotto.