As any good Ohioan knows, late summer brings the best Ohio sweet corn. But by the end of summer, we’ve all had just one too many nights of corn-on-the-cob, brushed with butter and sprinkled with salt & pepper. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good stuff (although I prefer to take mine off the cob before eating) – but I like to look outside the cob too. There are many uses for fresh corn – shave it into salads, use it as an omelet stuffer, make cornbread (which, as a baker hater, I would never do). Tonight, I decided to use it as the base for a soup – a healthy corn chowder (full recipe at bottom of post)!
Per Saturday afternoon tradition, I met Karen for lunch yesterday (at Northstar – we split the big burrito and chopped salad – be jealous). She had visited the farmer’s market that morning and generously offered to pick me up some produce. With corn chowder in mind, I requested lots of corn, and she delivered. This morning, I tackled the dreaded task of shucking 11 ears of corn (Karen took two of the baker’s dozen). You might be saying, “What’s the big deal about shucking corn, Sarah?”, and I would tell you that the task is MUCH easier if you have a backyard or a garage, neither of which my apartment affords me. So I’m forced to shuck in my kitchen, standing over the garbage can and making a giant mess.
Once all the corn was shucked, I moved onto the even more annoying second step – removing the kernels off the cob. Luckily, Rachael Ray taught me a trick to make the task do-able: flip a small bowl upside down inside a larger bowl, then place the cob on the flat surface and run your knife down the side of the cob. The kernels will fall into the bowl and not all over your kitchen (well, most of them). This is what 11 ears of corn looks like off the cob:
Fast-forward to 7 PM – soup making time! I loosely followed a recipe my Mom gave me years ago that I believe was from Cooking Light. First things first: chop up a leek. For those of you who are not familiar with leeks, they contain a lot of sand and thus must be thoroughly cleaned before using. Slice up the leek into rounds and place in a bowl of cold water – the sand will sink and the leeks will float. When you’re ready to use the leeks, use a hand strainer to remove them from the bowl so you don’t get any of the sand that’s sitting at the bottom.
Next up, chop a few cloves of garlic, an onion, and a red pepper or two (I used 1.5). Another Rachael tip: to slice an onion, cut off both ends, peel, and slice in half. Place the flat side down and make a bunch of thin cuts along the short end of the onion. Then cut the opposite way. The result will be uniform small diced onion:
Heat a little olive oil or cooking spray in a large pot. Add the garlic, onions, leeks, and half of the red pepper. Cook for ~5 min.
Then add the corn and most of a 32 oz container of chicken broth. For a totally vegetarian chowder, feel free to use veggie broth – I prefer the look and flavor of the chicken broth. Bring the corn mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer.
After the mixture has simmered for ~20 minutes, remove it from the heat and let slightly cool (I folded one load of laundry during this stage). Then comes the interesting part. Scoop about half the mixture into a food processor (I used my mini one) and blend until creamy, then add back to the pot. This makes the soup into more of a chowder.
And last, but definitely not least, add the rest of the red pepper and some spices! The recipe calls for saffron, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. If you’re not familiar with saffron, it’s a Spanish spice that comes in threads and is very expensive. I buy it at trader joes – a little jar was maybe $4 and I’ve had it for years. You only need a few threads to give the soup some warmth and color.
In addition to those spices, I also added some cumin. Cumin is my favorite spice, and I pretty much think it makes all soups better. This soup can be a little on the bland side, so the more spices, the better! Then I reheated the soup and let the flavors meld for a bit on the stove. The recipe also calls for adding the rest of the chicken broth, but I like my soup thick so I omitted that step.
To serve with the soup, I whipped up a batch of homemade croutons. Seem overwhelming? Trust me – it’s not! All I did was buy a bag of cut-up french bread in the bakery section of my grocery, then spray those slices with oil olive and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper before baking for ~15 minutes at 250 degrees. When the bread is crispy but still chewy, it’s done. These croutons will stay fresh in your pantry for a couple of weeks when stored in an airtight container. Yum!
I serve the soup with a dollop of sour cream, some chopped green onions (you could use chives), the croutons, and, what else – BACON! I fried up a whole package of bacon this morning, ate some for breakfast, and then put the rest in the fridge to crumble on soup or salads all week. I also added a couple drops of Sriracha ‘cuz I like it hot!
The soup was tasty! I look forward to eating it tomorrow for lunch, and I’ll probably freeze the rest of it to enjoy at a later time. You could also remove the corn from the cob and freeze in a ziplock bag for future use – a taste of Ohio summer in January!
Healthy Corn Chowder
1 onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1-2 red peppers, diced
~10-12 ears of corn, off the cob
~32 oz chicken broth
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
~6 threads of saffron
S & P to taste
sour cream, green onions, and crumbled bacon for serving (optional)
- Heat pot with oil olive or cooking spray and add onion, leek, and 1/2 of the red pepper. Saute ~5 mins.
- Add corn and most of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for ~20 min.
- Remove soup from heat, cool slightly. Puree half of mixture and add back to pot.
- Add remaining broth (optional), red pepper, and spices and reheat.
- Serve with sour cream, green onions, and crumbled bacon