Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Sugar

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.


ben wideman said...

As someone who had a mother who encouraged "hard labor" in the garden mixed with multiple daily cool down swims, AND someone who spent their teenage years picking sweet corn - you've touched on several very personal emotions here. Thanks for giving me back some memories!

Bec said...

Wonderful description. I instantly bookmarked this recipe and I'll be making it soon.

The Allotment Blogger said...

Until very recently, the only place in the UK that regularly grew sweetcorn was the Isle of Wight (where I grew up), which was also the place that reliably grew garlic. Now many more of us on the South Coast are finding we can get a reasonable sweetcorn and garlic harvest and this is the first year I've ever grown corn, so I am hoping I'll be as lucky as you and get enough to make soup!

Unknown said...

I can't get enough sweet corn! I'm loving your recipe too. Don't think I ever had corn soup. Thanks for sharing. If you don't mind, I'd love to direct Foodista readers to your blog. Just add your choice of widget to this post and you're all set!

Anonymous said...

christina! Initially I linked the last post to your blog, but then was afraid it wouldn't be taken in the spirit in which it was written. I've offended so many people of late. You know I love what you write and photograph.

Now I'm taking my fat snicker-loving behind out for a run. It needs it.

Christina said...

AH: No worries. You know I love what you write too! And, you're a better woman than I--I need that run tonight and I'm just not going to do it.

Christina said...

Ben: Thank you for your kind words--it makes me feel good to know that someone shares those summer days so full of contrast.

Bec: Thanks! I hope you enjoy the soup.

The Allotment Blogger: That's really interesting--I didn't realize it was so difficult to grow sweet corn in the UK. I hope yours grows well this year.

FTD: Thank you--try making the soup. I think you'll like it.

Anonymous said...

Just saying hello from over the other side of the world and exploring your really wonderful blogs :) Amazing garlic! Unfortunately most of our strawberries were eaten by raccoons. Still, whatever. The food is for everyone irrespective of how many legs they use to get around on. All the best, Michael.

@The Allotment Blogger
I used to have a small allotment many years ago in the UK. It was a two year passion and then I kind of drifted into other things. But the vegetables didn’t forget and, although I ran, they finally caught up with me in Japan. Now I have no social life. But I do have vegetables. Oh yes. Lots of vegetables :)

Jean Z. said...

I never ate raw corn, but sweet "Bread and Butter" corn steamed with a little butter and salt. For me that is summer at its best. I too, would suck the juice out of the cob. A little dessert after the meal. Great site. -- Jean

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) said...

Sweet sweet summer. What a beautiful soup recipe.

Susan said...

A recipe after my own spice heart. I will try it this summer when the local corn (Silver Queen, Butter & Sugar) are ready.

I loved growing corn as a kid, and am ticking the months until I have a garden to do it again. What variety/ies are you growing?

Christina said...

Hi Michael: The raccoons and squirrels get most of my strawberries too. I figure if I grow enough, sometime I may actually collect enough for a pie. Thanks for the compliments on the garlic.

Jean: Just barely steamed corn is wonderful, I agree. I also like it on the grill.

Meghan: Thank you!

Hi Susan: This is my first year growing corn as an adult, so I started off with an old open-pollinated variety, which tend to be heartier for the novice. It's Luther Hill, and so far, it's growing well for me. I hope to plant another bed of corn once the first round of beans are done. Ticking the months away until your own place? Are you in the market? I hope you find exactly what you're looking for!

Anonymous said...

Christina: Yes that's a good philosophy with the strawberries and is what we're doing here. Trouble is, the raccoons figured our response and are bringing their friends. Whatever. It's truly their land more than it is ours...so they're welcome :)

June said...

A swim in the river is one of the sweet rewards of gardening here. But this year it's not yet been hot enough to need a swim, which is just as well because the river hardly dips below flood stage with all the rain.

I am going to make that lovely soup and pretend the day is as summery as the feast. Thanks!

Soilman said...

Oh. My. God.



Jeez, the mere thought of finding a rattlesnake in my compost heap is giving me the heeby-jeebies.