Simmer Down: Cool Corn Soup

sweet cornDo you believe in spontaneous combustion? Because I may burst into flames as I’m writing this. If I trail off you will know what happened.

Sometimes (like right now) it is too damn hot to cook.

But don’t resort to delivery yet!

The silver lining to this searing misery is local vegetables, which are in top form right now. They are fresh and lively and didn’t arrive on the red eye from Lima. Jet-lagged veggies, like people, are not very inspiring. But when produce is at its peak, minimal effort is required to make it something special.

At the moment corn is on my mind. It should be on yours, too because it is abundant and CHEAP. Until recently, corn for me was strictly on the cob, slathered with butter and salt, and promptly consumed in typewriter fashion. While delicious, this method is limiting and requires the use of a heat source. And that ain’t happening when it’s 90 degrees in my kitchen.

A sweet and cold corn soup, made with the assistance of a blender, is the antidote to days where I actually begin to think fondly of February. It’s even better when it takes about 20 minutes to prepare. I would say that I didn’t break a sweat while making this, but I would be lying.

Cool Corn Soup*
Serves 4

Three ears of corn, shucked (Use the freshest corn possible, and see my tips below for buying and storing fresh corn.)
1 ½ cups buttermilk (not low fat) or plain, full-fat yogurt (not Greek)
½ cup basil leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
1/3 cup of chives, chopped, plus a few extra for garnish
One Tbsp fresh lime juice
One garlic clove, chopped
½ tsp salt, or more to taste

First, cut the kernels off the cobs. To do this, place the cob in a large bowl, with the skinnier end facing up towards the ceiling. Grasp the skinny end with one hand, and using your other hand, slice down the cob with a sharp knife. The kernels will fall into the bowl. Do this on all sides until all kernels have been removed.

Put the cobs in a freezer bag to store for a future vegetable stock.

Add the kernels to a blender, along with the basil, chives, lime juice, garlic and salt. Add three ice cubes (should be equal to about 1/3 cup) and blend until smooth. Pour the soup through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Use the back of a large spoon to press on any solids caught in the sieve. You want every last drop!

OR, if you like the consistency of the soup as is (or don’t have a sieve), you can skip this step altogether. I’m happy with this recipe either way.

Place in serving bowls and garnish with basil leaves and chives. I used chive flowers, since they are pretty and edible.

Store any leftovers in the fridge for a quick, cooling meal, no sweat.

*Adapted from Melissa Clark of the New York Times


Corn Tips!

  • When selecting corn, look for husks that are green and not dried out.
  • The corn silk, that crown of hair poking out of the husk, should be brown  to light green and shiny, not black or slimy.
  • Give the corn a good rub down to make sure there are no obvious dents or soft spots (keep this outside the husk, thank you).
  • DO NOT shuck the corn before buying. I see people doing this all the time, but it just speeds up the aging process and dries it out. Think of the husk as a built-in storage container. Shuck the corn right before you’re ready to prepare it.sweet corn 2
  • If you’re dying to make sure the naked cob looks OK before buying: Gently peel back the husk an inch or so from the top and peek inside. The kernels should not be dried out, moldy, or have little worms or other critters in residence.
  • If you don’t plan to prepare the corn immediately, put the UNSHUCKED corn in a wet brown paper bag. Place the paper bag into a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator. For maximum sweetness, you should consume the corn within 24 hours. This tip is care of  Cooks Illustrated.


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