Friday, July 25, 2008

Tomato and Corn Soup Menu

Summer Soup Menu
Roasted Tomato, Red Pepper and Corn Soup
Biscuits and Bacon
Southern Style Green Beans with Country Ham
Honeydew Melon Chunks with Blueberries in Honey-Lime Dressing

The soup is my variation of a recipe from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. This book has sat on my shelf for at least eight years. I've admired the bright orange binding for several years, but only started reading it a couple days ago, inspired by its new Gourmet Magazine Cookbook Club status. I feel a little like when I realized what Yertle the Turtle is really all about - this is a tremendous book, more of a cooking primer than the preachy vegetarian treatise I expected it to be. In fact, reading through the introductory material so far, I've yet to encounter the "I'm Vegetarian and I'm Saving the Planet, Why Aren't You?" sermon. Instead, there is all sorts of practical, basic cooking information. I've read a lot of Cooking 101 books and this goes beyond those and more - lots of valuable info on ingredients and equipment, even pictures demonstrating proper knife technique.
Tonight's soup is based on the Corn Soup recipe, using the Quick Broth instead of water. I loved the use-it-all-up stock method that incorporated the scraped corn cobs. My version of the Corn Soup turned out just a bit bland, so I upped the flavor with the really ripe produce on my kitchen counter - tomatoes and peppers. I slow-roasted the vegetables with a bit of garlic and olive oil, then pureed the cool mixture. I poured off some of the liquid in the corn soup and added the vegeatable puree, et voila, roasted tomato, red pepper and corn soup a la Deborah Madison. Excellent.
The Honey and Lime dressing is a trick I use to liven up so-so fruit, especially melons. I'm thoroughly convinced that I will win the lottery before I find a sweet honeydew melon. The melon my husband brought home was beautiful as all get-out, but tasted of green nothing. A tablespoon of lime juice and a drizzle of honey solved the problem.

Madison describes the quick vegetable tock as relaxed and improvisational, a riff on whatever soup is being made that night. For example, I added the scraped corn cobs to the stock as I prepared the soup vegetables, then poured the strained stock directly into the soup pot. Here is Madison's recipe, with my variations noted in parentheses.

Quick Stock
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
2 tsp. vegetable oil

1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (if the peel is clean, I add the onion straight to the pot without peeling)

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

1 celery rib, coarsely chopped

Trimmings from the soup vegetables, rinsed

2 bay leaves and several thyme sprigs or 1/4 teaspoon dried

4 or more garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

8 parsley branches, including the stems, or a small handful of stems

Additional herbs and spices appropriate for the soup

Heat the oil over high heat and add the onion, carrot and celery. While they're browning, peel the vegetables and add the trimmings to the soup along with the aromatics. Stir occasionally. After about 10 minutes, add 2 teaspoons salt and 2 quarts cold water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 25 to 35 minutes. Strain as soon as the stock is finished.

Sweet Corn Soup
from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

6 ears corn

1 tablespoon butter

1 small onion, thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated waxy potato, such as Yellow Finn (I substituted a smallish red potato, hope that was waxy enough)

7 cups water; or Quick Stock (I thought this was about 3 cups too much liquid)


Half and half or milk, optional

Chopped parsley, basil, or other herbs, for garnish

Shuck the corn, remove the silk, then slice off the kernels. You should have about 4 cups. Use the flavor-filled cobs in the stock (yes, got that!).

In a wide soup pot, melt the butter, then add the onion, potato and 1 cup of the water or stock. Cover the pot and stew over medium heat until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the corn, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes. Cool briefly, then puree in a blender in two batches, allowing 3 minutes for each batch. Pass through a food mill or fine straineer then return the soup to the stove and stir in the dairy to thin it, if desired. Taste for salt and serve sprinkled with herbs. When reheating, stir frequently and don't boil or the soup will curdle.

Serves 6 to 8.

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