There are few foods that scream the season like corn does.
Right now, ears of corn are piled sky-high on the greenmarket tables, each one seeming to say, “Pick me, pick me” as the shoppers audaciously peel back their silky tassels to take a peek at the kernels hidden inside their husk “coat.”
Sweet, succulent corn conjures up its own special, end of summer “field of dreams” memories.
Corn is so beloved there are songs written about it: Jimmy Crack Corn or Hot Corn, Cold Corn; festivals abound as homage to the distinguished grain.
There’s the Cornhuskers and their Iowa Corn Fight Song. (Can’t think of a single rice, potato, or pepper mascot!)
There’s art dedicated to corn (Diego Rivera’s artful corn painting is haunting)– there’s even a Cornhenge.
Plus, corn is the ultimate cosmopolitan — an ideal mate that blends with just about everything – there’s corn ice cream, corn and steamed clams, corn tacos, and corn really gets around, canoodling with all manner of vegetables.
It even can lay claim to its own branded recipe: Succotash – a dish made from corn and lima beans or other shell beans.
Corn is a “shape shifter” too; it can be creamed, steamed, or grilled (try it with cilantro butter or wrapped in bacon for a nice change).
Corn is a knockout eaten hot or cold.
Can’t cook? No problem. Corn is a very forgiving ingredient that will make any cook look good.
Locally grown corn reflects its terroir so tastes vary from region to region.
Long Islanders swear by their homegrown Silver King white. Garden State residents love their Silver Queen late season white.
Corn, or maize, as the Native Americans called it, is a key component in the traditional “Three Sisters” plantings of corn, beans, and squash.
And with more than 250 varieties, their names reflect our love affair with maize: Sweetie, Honey Select, Miracle, Sugar Dots and Bodacious — to name a few.
The homegrown roasted corn soup recipe below is terrific.
All but the chicken broth ingredients are fresh from the farmers market as is the recipe. It is provided by the Union Square Greenmarket as part of its Grow NYC program.
This Examiner has made it more than a few times. It’s a snap to create and gets better over time as the spices mature in the soup.
When buying corn, look for ears with husks that are clean, light green and fresh. Corn starts to lose its flavor as soon as its picked so go local, and cook it the same day as purchased. (Corn can be refrigerated for up to two days.)
Go ahead and peel back the light yellow to golden brown tassels. Look for kernels that are fresh – no worm holes – and see that the kernels are packed in tight rows.
The Roasted Corn Soup recipe provided by GrowNYC is from Fresh From the Farmers Market by Janet Fletcher. Fletcher writes that she adapted her recipe from one given to her by Mary Everly, the chef at the (beautiful) Simi Winery in Healdsburg, California. She adds that roasting the ears contributes to a subtle nuttiness, (agreed) so the soup isn’t tiresomely sweet. Fletcher notes Mary also uses a little potato and cornmeal to give the soup body.
The finished puree is a rich sunflower color. “You could drizzle the surface with basil oil or crème fraiche, but it also lovely and pure just as it is.”
6 ears of corn, with husks still intact
3 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups homemade or canned low-sodium chicken broth
1 baking potato (about ½ pound), peeled, in 6 pieces
1 tablespoon cornmeal
½ cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar, optional (Examiner’s note: gilding the lily and not at all needed. The corn is sweet enough.)
1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put husked corn and unpeeled garlic on a baking sheet and roast until corn is fragrant and husks are lightly browned, about 25 minutes. (Examiner note: added homegrown peppers for fire flavor) Let cool, then remove husks and silks. Cut kernels away from cobs. (Examiner’s note: This can be messy – put newspapers underneath and roll up the husks after to compost) Cut 4 cobs in half crosswise with a heavy knife or cleaver. (Examiner note: this part is a bit dodgy – if the cobs don’t cut, just use them whole.) Discard two of the cobs. Peel the garlic. Set corn kernels and garlic cloves aside.
2. In a saucepan, combine broth, potato, the halved corn cobs, and three cups of water. Cover partially, bring to a simmer over moderate heat and adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until potato pieces are tender, about 20 minutes. Discard corn cobs.
3. In a food processor, combine corn kernels, garlic cloves, potatoes (lift them out of the broth with a slotted spoon) and cornmeal. Puree, adding potato broth gradually through the feed tube. Transfer soup to a sieve set over a bowl and press mixture through sieve with a rubber spatula, leaving corn skins behind. (Examiner note: Skipping this sieve step makes the prep time shorter and it didn’t affect the taste or the texture.)
4. Transfer soup to a clean saucepan. Stir in cream and reheat. Season to taste with salt, pepper.
Enjoy with a homegrown garden salad, topped with fresh, locally-made ricotta cheese, fresh homemade bread.
Pour a locally brewed craft beer or a Paumanok Vineyards Riesling or Chenin Blanc.