Friday, August 21, 2009

Just the right soup - even in summer!

By Helen Klein

Hot soup is among the most soul-satisfying of comfort foods.

For my husband, this corn chowder is especially reassuring. It’s a variant on his mother’s recipe, which he beguiled from her a couple of decades back, and which he requests when we sit down to multi-course meals -- Thanksgiving, a birthday dinner, a Father’s Day feast.

And, with all the chilly, rainy days we’ve had recently, a warm soup that I usually prepare once the leaves begin falling seemed just right, even in early summer.

Needless to say, however, the soup I put on the table is not exactly like the one my mother-in-law used to make. I’ve adjusted it, intensifying the flavors as I’ve streamlined the preparation. I may love to cook, but that doesn’t mean I want to do extra work that really doesn’t add anything to the flavor or appearance of the final dish.

In my variation, the corn chowder is studded with chunks of potato, onion and sweet red pepper, and swirled with chopped fresh cilantro leaves just before serving, for a dish that brings together flavors of New England and the American Southwest for a result that provides a savory twist on a familiar dish.

The colors of the ingredients mean that it not only tastes good, but looks gorgeous too.In midsummer, you could add some fresh corn to the mix, scraping the kernels from a cooked ear into the pot.

In summer, I usually have an ear or two of grilled corn ready in my refrigerator to add to impromptu salads. The grilled corn intensifies the sweetness of the soup, but you could use boiled corn, as well. I use only one pot to cook it -- simplifying both cooking and cleanup.

Interestingly enough, while I served it piping hot on its first appearance, I sat down to lunch, one warm day, in front of a bowl of chilled left-over corn chowder and discovered that the flavors held up beautifully cold.

Southwestern Corn Chowder


1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium red pepper, cored and chunked
1 medium potato, cubed
1 15-oz. can creamed corn
Milk, to fill the can
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped


Sauté onion in oil over medium heat in stockpot till golden and translucent. Add red pepper chunks, and sauté till softened slightly. Add potato and water to cover, salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 20 minutes, till potato can be pierced easily by the tine of a fork. Add corn and milk, pepper and added salt, if desired, and heat slowly till chowder is hot, simmering till flavors are combined.

Garnish with cilantro.

Serves 4.


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