In the summers when I was a kid, my mom often gave my brother and me irrigation duty out in the huge veggie garden. It daily topped 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so we lived in our swim suits during the summers, dunking ourselves occasionally in the above-ground swimming pool behind the back yard to cool off. When my brother and I went out back to water the garden, my mom always required us to wear our cowboy boots for protection against the rattlesnakes that we occasionally found near our compost pile. Swimsuits and cowboy boots, those are two of the things that make me think of the long days of childhood summers.
The other thing that brings me right back to being 11 years old, chlorinated water drying on my brown skin and lots and lots of dreams in my head, is sweet, just-picked corn. Sometimes, when my brother and I were out watering, we would rip an ear right off the plant, husk it there in the garden, and eat the sweet thing raw.
After gnawing the cob to oblivion, not a kernel left untouched (as a side note—my husband eats his corn haphazardly, often missing a kernel here or there as he scarfs up its goodness, and it drives me crazy; it is all I can do to keep from picking up his cob after he is done and nibbling at the remaining kernels), we'd suck the juices out of the sugary stalk attached to the ears. So, so good.
Now that I am able to have my own out back veggie garden in which I have to keep my eyes open for rattlesnakes, I can finally grow my own corn.
No, it isn't ready to harvest yet, but every time I look at it, I drool a little. Okay, I drool a lot. I hear, however, that drool is a great fertilizer for sweet corn, so that means I should have a remarkable crop.
Curried Corn Soup
This is my own recipe that I created last night when I had a pile of good farmers market corn on my hands. In it, the corn's sweetness is enriched by coconut and curry, and brightened with lemon juice. It's spicy, smoky, and summery, and eating it, you may just experience that lifting warm freedom of summer.
You will need:
1 large red (or orange or yellow) sweet pepper
4 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 can coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
lemon juice to taste
diced avocado and cilantro for garnish
optional: diced leftover grilled zucchini or yellow squash
To make the soup:
Place the pepper on your gas burner and blacken it on all sides, turning it occasionally with tongs. Once the pepper is blackened, set it aside to cool a bit before carefully removing the skin. After peeling, split the pepper open, remove the seeds, and dice. Set aside.
Over a large bowl, run a sharp knife down the length of the corn cops, cutting the kernels off the cob at their base. After you've cut all the kernels off each cob, scrape the flat side of the knife firmly down the length of the cob to squeeze out all the milky juice into the same bowl. Set the bowl of corn aside.
In a large, heavy pot, heat the butter and a tablespoon of coconut cream that has risen to the top of the can of coconut milk. The burner should be set to medium-low. Add the diced onion and garlic, and toss the alliums with the fat in the pan. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is less opaque all the way through, but is not browned. Add the salt and curry powder to the pan, stir, and heat until fragrant.
Add the diced sweet pepper, corn, and collected juices (and leftover grilled vegetables, if you have them—I used two pieces of leftover grilled yellow squash, finely diced) to the pan. Stir to mix and coat the corn with the flavors of onion, garlic, and curry. Stir in the coconut milk then add the chicken broth. Simmer the soup for 10-15 minutes until the corn is tender and the flavors melded. Add lemon juice to taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary with salt and black pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with cilantro and diced avocado.
Serves four people on a dreamy summer day.