Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Corn, Off the Cob and Into the Bowl

Hot August memories of driving with my parents in that same Ford Country Squire station wagon to The Corn Palace to get the freshest ears that were picked that morning. My sister and I squabbling about something and my mother's red, laquered fingernails reaching to separate the two of us from the front seat, while my father bellowed, "You don't want me to stop this car do you? I will!" That was enough for the two of us to quiet down, but still glare at each other when my father wasn't looking in the rearview mirror. My mother patting her French twist hair-do to make sure that it was in place, a subtle signal for the two of us to keep quiet.
My sister and father were the "corn experts" in the family. They could detect the freshness, the sweetness and knew everything there was to picking out and buying the best ears for our dinner. When I was younger I considered corn to be solely a vehicle to sop up that precious butter that held more interest. That glistening and well-anointed cob, dripping its salty slick down my arm as I devoured those kernels from one side of the cob to the other. My front teeth acting like voracious keys on an old-fashioned typewriter carriage, back and forth, back and forth.
But, while it's gratifying to eat a buttery ear of corn right off the cob, (although now with no butter or salt, but simply a splash of juice from a lemon or lime) there is so much that I really love to do with those sweet, milky kernels once they have been freed from the ear that they had clung. No, I'm not going far back to the times of the local Pequot and Narragansett Indians and dry it, grind it in the old stone mill that I just happen to have lying about in the backyard and serve up some Rhode Island Johnnycakes. That's another lesson. Oh, I could sauté the corn in some sweet-cream butter with a few simply snipped garlic chives from the garden, some diced tomatoes and christen it with crumbs of a salty feta or a ricotta salata. Or, I could add it to my Hush Puppies that are crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside, spiced with some heat from the Kung Pao peppers that I've dried and cherished from last year's garden.
I'd rather share with you a recipe that contains the ulitmate in creaminess and the maximum in flavor from each kernel (and the cob) to create a soup that is lusciously simple. My Summer Corn Soup with Tomato Gremolata. The gremolata is an accent that enlivens it more with "Summer". But, feel free to add a couple of tablespoons of fresh crab or lobster to each bowl. Sauté a few shrimp and then chop them up to sprinkle on top. Or maybe use it as a base for a chowder inspired by the unlimited imaginations that I know you have within you.

Summer Corn Soup
Tomato Gremolatta

2 Tbl. Butter, unsalted
½ Yellow Onion, medium; diced
½ Russet Potato, large; diced
Cups Milk, plus 1 Cup
1½ Cups Corn Stock* (okay, you can use veg. or chicken stock if you must)
4 ears of Corn, cut from the cob, or
     3 Cups of Corn kernels, frozen
½ tsp. Sea Salt or to taste
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, melt the butter until it begins to foam. Add the onion and thyme; cook until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add potato, 1 ½ cups of milk and stock, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes and add corn kernels. Cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove soup from stove and take out the thyme sprig. Using a hand held emersion blender, purée the soup until the corn and onions are smooth (if using a blender, work in batches, puréeing until smooth).
Return soup to a medium low heat and add salt and remaining cup of milk. Stirring occasionally, cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from stove and serve with the garnish of your choice. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with more stock.

*Corn Stock

4 Corn Cobs, kernels removed
4 Cups Water
8 Black Peppercorns, whole
1 Bay leaf, small
2-4” Thyme sprigs

In a small stock pot, add all of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, lower it to a simmer and cover for 1 hour.
After the hour has finished, remove the cover. With tongs, take out the cobs, bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Turn heat back to high and boil, reducing to 1 ½ -2 cups. Use as directed.

Hot Summer Corn Soup with a Cool Tomato Gremolata & Sauteed Shrimp 
Tomato Gremolata

1 Heirloom tomato, seeded and diced ¼ ″
½ Cup Italian Parsley, chopped fine
½ Lemon, juiced and zested
1 Green Onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste.
3 Tbl. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix all ingredients and set aside for drizzling on the soup.


  1. Love This Recipe. I am going to make it tomorrow night. Here is somthjing to blog about next; What is you best Spagetti/tomatoe sauce to make with the last of my tomatoes???

  2. Now you are opening up yourself for an encyclopedia of tomato sauces, Dean! I'll post my favorite and the simplest soon. Hope you like the soup!