A classic summer pairing in a bowl
As much as I love cold soups, they can get tiresome, especially because chilling mutes flavors. Even in the heat of summer, I frequently crave something hot – as long as it’s easy and quick to put together.
Fresh-from-the-cob corn often makes its way into those hot dishes, sometimes starring in them. Every year, I try different strategies for maximizing and clarifying corn’s essence, including using the cobs, husks and silks to make a vibrant broth. Sooner or later (usually sooner), corn soup – combined with poblanos or white beans or sweet potatoes – shows up on my summertime table.
Some combinations – corn and dairy, for instance – are classic, and that’s what attracted me to Nina Planck’s corn soup in The Real Food Cookbook. Planck knows her way around fresh ingredients: She grew up on a farm in Loudoun County, Va.; is former director of New York’s Greenmarkets; and set up a company that runs multiple markets in London.
To Planck, corn soup requires little fussing, but she does simmer the cobs in the milk to draw out more of that sweet taste, and she makes a quick red pepper puree to dollop in the center of each bowl.
Oh, and here’s the brilliant addition: a little apple cider for a touch of brightness. If you have everything else but the cider on hand, the soup is plenty tasty without it.
It’s summer, so don’t sweat it.
Cream of Corn Soup With Red Pepper Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (may substitute olive oil)
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
1 cup whole milk (may substitute low- or nonfat), plus more as needed
2 tablespoons apple cider (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
Pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional), more to taste
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper and stir to coat. Cover and cook until it is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, leaving as much butter in the pot as possible; transfer to a food processor. Puree until smooth.
Add the onion to the pot and stir to coat; cook (over medium heat) until very soft, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Cut the kernels from the corn cobs, then cut the cobs into 2-inch pieces. Add the corn to the pot and cook until it barely starts to soften and turns brighter, a few minutes. Add the milk, cider, if using, and cob pieces to the pot; adjust the heat so that the liquid is barely bubbling around the edges. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the corn is very soft.
Discard the cob pieces. Add the salt and cayenne pepper, if using. Taste, and add more of each if desired.
Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender; remove the center knob in the lid so steam can escape. Hold a towel over the opening; puree until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add milk as needed. (Alternatively, you can blend the soup in a food processor or with an immersion blender, but you may want to then push it through a fine-mesh strainer if the texture of the corn kernel skins is bothersome.)
Divide the soup among bowls. Top each portion with a dollop of the red pepper sauce.
Makes 4 servings.
MAKE AHEAD: The soup and the red pepper sauce can be refrigerated, separately, for 1 week or frozen for 3 months.