Spicy Corn and Poblano Pepper Soup with Cream

I’ve opined before in this space about eating seasonally. I do truly love making myself totally sick on what’s in season before the next thing becomes available. Right now it’s corn.

DH bought a pint container of half-and-half a couple weeks back for a batch of Dal Makhani. When we have it, we should use it up, of course – shouldn’t waste food – so we’ve had spicy carrot soup (made using red chili paste he made), a couple batches of spinach, cooked in an Indian style, and now spicy corn soup, all in the service of using up the half-and-half. He cooked this.

It might seem silly to have hot soup on a broiling day in Fresno. However, you can only eat so much corn-and-tomato salad, so much corn-and-lima salad, and so much corn on the cob. I have made cream of corn soup in the dead of winter with bagged frozen corn, and that’s nice too, but the incomparable flavor of really fresh corn enriched with the heat of a triumvirate of peppers and a lashing of rich dairy is really incomparable.

We ate this with edamame (for protein). It would also like lima beans with basil and olive oil, green beans, or a big honkin’ ripe tomato on the side. We also have a little cardboard box full of diminutive prune plums for dessert. It’s really nice living in stone fruit country, and they’re not even paying me extra to say that.

Forget gluey, gloppy, eggy potato salad. This is the flavor of summer.

6 ears corn
1 T. butter
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 small chipotle, minced
4 cups of water
2 poblano peppers, chopped
1 T. canola oil
juice of 1 lime
1 c. cream or half and half
salt and pepper

In a large pot, bring to a boil enough water to cover the corn. Salt it when it comes to a boil. Place the corn in the water and boil five minutes. Remove the corn from the water and allow to stand until cool enough to handle, then cut the kernels off into a bowl. Set aside.

Sauté the onion in the butter till translucent. Add the garlic, jalapeno and chipotle and sauté briefly. Add the corn and enough water to barely cover the contents of the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer. Break up any large groups of kernels.

While the soup is simmering, sauté the poblano peppers in the canola oil until tender but still toothsome, about 4 minutes. Add the lime juice, stir to combine, and set aside.

Remove the soup from the heat and scoop most of the solids into a blender, leaving the liquid and about 10% of the solids aside. Puree and return to the pot with the reserved portion of the mixture. Stir to combine. Add the cream or half-and-half.

Stir in the reserved poblanos and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Dal Makhani (Curried Lentils)

These are rich, buttery, aromatic curried lentils – a Punjabi recipe. They aren’t hard and they taste amazing. Well, a half-cup of cream will do that for a lot of things.

This came from a long-ago e-newsletter from Tarla Dalal. We made it last night. I just had the last of it for lunch, which tells you that it was good and also that the recipe doesn’t make my usual 2-gallon amount. I didn’t even manage to get a picture of it, which might be okay – this is one of those vegetarian things that tastes better than it presents.

It seems like I have made this before, but it’s never made it onto the site. It certainly deserves to. M. gives it high marks. This could be served alongside just about any other curry, with rice or bread.

You can use just about any type of lentils to make this dish. I used French green lentils, which are my favorite.

Ingredients
3/4 c. whole urad dal (black lentils) or other lentils
1/4 c. kidney beans, soaked overnight or quick-soaked for 1 hour
1 t. cumin seeds
2 green chilles, slit
1-in. stick cinnamon (dalchini)
6 whole cloves
6 whole cardamom pods
1/2 cup onions, finely chopped
1/2 T. minced garlic
1/2 T. minced ginger
1/2 t. cayenne powder (or to taste)
1 t. turmeric powder
2 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped (fresh give a much better result than canned here)
1/2 cup cream (you can get away with 1/4 c. if you just can’t imagine using that much)
3 tablespoons butter
salt to taste
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped fine

If using a pressure cooker, combine the lentils and kidney beans and cover with water plus 1/2 in. Add salt to taste (normally I wouldn’t advocate salting beans beforehand, though it’s okay to do with lentils, and there are so few kidney beans in here that it’s not a big deal. Pressure cook for 20 minutes, and release pressure under running water.

Alternatively, place the same ingredients in a conventional pan, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender.

Heat the butter in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the green chilies, cinnamon, cloves, green cardamom, onions, ginger and garlic and sauté till the onions begin to turn golden brown around the edges.

Add the cayenne powder, turmeric powder and tomato pulp and cook over medium heat until tomatoes have collapsed into a gravy.

Add the lentil and kidney bean mixture, water to thin if necessary, and salt if required and simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors.

Add the cream and mix well. Stir in the cilantro and serve hot.

Makes 4 servings (or serves two hungry lentil-lovers.)

Squash & Tomato Soup

This is hardly a recipe, it’s so easy. I feel like I’m half cheating by putting this up.  I made this myself, though Michael baked the squash for me, which mostly consists of putting it in the oven. If you can remember to do that the day before and then just pop the squash in the fridge, you’ll have most of the recipe ready to go in minutes.

This will knock out your beta-carotene needs for the day for sure. Somehow the combination of squash and tomato is slightly more than plain squash or plain tomato soup alone.  You could throw a little cream or milk in this when it’s done if you have it.  A dollop of yogurt or sour cream would make a nice addition too.

We had this with quesadillas made with corn tortillas, and Grafton Village Classic Reserve Cheddar, arugula, and a little Frontera salsa tucked inside.  It was a nice simple dinner.

Here’s the cheese:

http://www.graftonvillagecheese.com/store/index.html?action=browse&CategoryNum=301239320933905

And here’s the salsa:

http://www.fronterakitchens.com/shopping/food/frontera/salsas/13020

And here’s my little soup recipe:

1 medium butternut squash

Olive oil for the pan

1 medium onion, chopped

2 T. minced fresh ginger

1 chipotle chili en adobo, minced

1 28 oz. can Muir Glen diced tomatoes

zest of one lemon (organic, please)

½ c. parsley, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375.  Poke the squash a few times with a fork and place it on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour, or until tender. Remove and allow to cool.  Cut the bottom of the cooled squash off and remove its seedy innards, then cut it in half lengthwise.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Sauté the onion in the oil until nearly tender, then add the ginger and chipotle chili and sauté briefly, just to remove the ginger’s raw smell.  Add the tomatoes and their juice, then scoop the flesh of the squash from its skin and add it to the pan. Add a small amount of water if necessary to make the mixture stirrable, but do not add enough to bring it to a soup-like consistency. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until the onions have become tender. 

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor and return it to the pan.  Add to it the lemon zest, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste (taste before adding salt – the tomatoes already contain a significant amount).  Serves 4.

Mogul “Lamb” with Turnips

Okay, I have to get this one posted before the weekend ends. This…is….so…good. I cannot even begin to tell you how good it is. It’s going to be a new standard recipe of mine. There is a beautiful full-page shot of this recipe in The Food of India published by Murdoch Books, which I got recently. (It was published in the UK, and I can’t find it listed on Amazon, or else I’d put up a link.) I took one look at the picture and decided I had to make this dish. Of course, in the cookbook it’s lamb and I’ve used seitan, but it’s truly, absolutely, unbelievably wonderful. I upped some of the seasoning a little bit because seitan wouldn’t bring as much nuanced flavor to the dish as lamb would, but it was already a pretty highly seasoned recipe to begin with. This isn’t hard, either. It is a little expensive – three containers of seitan – but I swear I’m going to do some experiments on how to make seitan at home. I have the gluten flour, I just have to find a good formula.

The amount of oil is ridiculous, I know – wanting to be true to the recipe the first time I made it, I used the full amount, but I think it could be reduced by half and still be good, though it would lack the glorious oily juiciness. It’s Indian-restaurant-level oily – not quite Afghan-restaurant-level oily.

The note in the book says this recipe is usually reserved for special occasions (the amount of oil is certainly a special-occasion amount) and served with chapatis or naan. I made chapatis.

2 onions, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves
5 cm piece of ginger
2 green chilies (serranos)
1/2 c. oil
2 bay leaves
3 packages White Wave Chicken-Style Seitan (it’s the kind in the tofu tub with the yellow label. I know chicken-style isn’t lamb-style, but vegetarians don’t have that many seitan styles to choose from.)
pinch of asafetida
1/2 t. cayenne powder
2 T. ground coriander
2 T. ground cumin
1/4 t. turmeric
1/2 t. garam masala
2 T. tomato paste
2 T. plain yogurt
1 T. salt
1 t. ground black pepper
2 lbs. turnips, peeled and quartered (it’d be nice if you could find baby ones – I had some the week before I made this, but when I went back I struck out.)
1 c. minced cilantro

Put the garlic, ginger, and chilies in a food processor and chop them to form a paste. Heat all the oil except 1 T. in a large, deep pan and add the onions, the mixture from the food processor, and the bay leaves. Fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and fry for another 2 minutes. Don’t let the onions turn more than golden brown. Add the seitan, increasing the heat if necessary, and stir until all the pieces are thoroughly coated with the onion mixture. Fry for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The seitan will brown somewhat.

While the seitan is frying, add the last T. of oil to a small frying pan and heat over medium-high heat. When it is hot but not smoking, add the asafetida, cayenne powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Be careful that it doesn’t burn. When the seitan is finished frying, turn the fried spice mixture into the seitan. Add the tomato paste and yogurt. Fry for another minute and add the salt and pepper. Place the turnips in the pan, pour in 2 c. water, cover the pan, and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you have a pressure cooker, you can bring the stew to pressure, cook for 15 minutes, then release the pressure under running water.

When the stew is finished cooking, add the cilantro and stir gently. Serve with flatbread.

Mexican Gazpacho

I typically make this on the first hot day of the spring. Having never really reached the “cold” stage this past winter in Fresno, I figured I’d throw tradition to the wind and make it just because I felt like it, and I figured it had already been up into the mid-80s recently, so it wasn’t as if it hadn’t been hot already and I couldn’t justify making it.

This is a nontraditional gazpacho – really, it’s thinned down pico de gallo with cucumber and corn added. There’s nothing wrong with that, though. The traditional Andalusian kind is great, but this is a nice change of pace. The corn stands in for the bread that acts as a thickener in the traditional version. It requires a modicum of cooking – but it’s only one ingredient, corn, and you can do that in the microwave if you would like to. Fresh corn is better than frozen when the season is right, but right now the season is not right.

If you are So Inclined, you can add a shot of vodka to make this Gazpacho Borrado.

Ingredients:

1 bottle Looza tomato juice
1 large cucumber, peeled
2 medium tomatoes
1 medium yellow pepper
½ medium red onion
1 ½ c. frozen corn (or about 2 cobs worth)
2 T. olive oil
juice of ½ a lime
1/3 c. chopped cilantro, minced
hot sauce to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the corn briefly – just enough to heat through.

Chop half of the cucumber, tomatoes, yellow pepper, and onion into small dice and set aside. Cut the other half of those vegetables roughly enough that the blender can handle them. Place the roughly chopped vegetables in the blender, along with half the cooked corn, the olive oil, the lime juice, and about ½ of the bottle of tomato juice. Puree. Pour the mixture out into a large bowl and add the chopped vegetables and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste. (Remember, the tomato juice is salty to begin with.) Serve cold.

Cream of Roasted Red Pepper & Carrot Soup

This is a failure that turned into a moderate success. I had the idea of saucing cauliflower with a nice vegetable puree, and it turned out a lot more boring than I thought it would. It was fine, but it needed something else besides just the straight-ahead flavors of red peppers and carrots to move it along. So into a plastic container it went, until a couple days later, when I was nosing around for something for lunch and I spotted it. It had come out too thick, and I wondered how it would thin out as a soup. Pretty well, as it turns out, and if, in the initial cooking, you’re trying to produce a soup, and you’re not trying to massively reduce the amount of water in it (as you do if you’re trying to produce an intense vegetable puree) you don’t have to mess around with cooking it quite so long. It makes things drastically easier.

Since I didn’t make this recipe exactly in the form I am giving it, this is a rough approximation. The only thing I’m really unsure on is how much water to tell you to add to the puree.

If I made this again as a soup I’d probably add a little mint, basil, or dill for interest before I pureed.

1 – 13 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and rinsed briefly
4 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into large chunks
¼ c. heavy cream
2 drops lemon oil (optional – a little bit of organic lemon zest on the finished soup would be a fine replacement if you don’t have lemon oil)
small amount of salt (remember, RRP are salty) and pepper

Boil the carrots in a small amount of lightly salted water until tender. Drain the carrots, reserving the liquid in a bowl. Place the carrots in a blender or food processor. Add the roasted red peppers and puree thoroughly. Return the puree to the carrot pan, and add the cream and lemon oil, if using. Thin the soup slightly, using the carrot water, to the consistency desired. Salt and pepper to taste, taking into account the saltiness of the roasted red peppers.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

I usually set aside broccoli stems. I sometimes make cream of broccoli soup. I sometimes slice the stems into matchsticks and use them in stir-fry or fried rice. I sometimes end up putting the stems in the compost bin. When I do get around to making soup, there is usually a large amount of raw stems and a small amount of leftover cooked flowerets left. I peel the stems and chop them into dice, cook them, then chop up the flowerets finely and add them at the end.

The first time I made this for Michael, it was the height of summer, and he was living on North 4th Rd. in Arlington. I believe that this took place in that brief period before we officially moved in together. I had the ingredients for it and so I made it, though I think it was 95 degrees outside. Since Michael did not have a dining room table, we sat on the floor in the bedroom (as close to the air conditioner as we could bear) and had Cream of Broccoli soup and popovers and pretended it was winter. I made popovers when I made this soup this week, too, in fact. It’s a good accompaniment.

This is a good blueprint for “Cream of” soup – you could use cauliflower, potatoes, asparagus, carrots, peas – it’s pretty flexible. The white wine gives it a nice tartness and keeps it from being too Campbell’s-y.

This is adapted from the new Joy of Cooking – they put too much water in it, (as I did the first time I made it) so I’ve reduced it, along with a couple other small changes.

Heat in a soup pot over medium heat until the butter is melted:

¼ c. water or stock
1 T. unsalted butter (optional – you can use oil instead)

Add and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned, 5-10 minutes:
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Stir in:
2 c. vegetable stock
1 c. white wine
1 ½ lbs. trimmed broccoli stems, diced

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the broccoli stems are tender, 15-20 minutes. If they aren’t tender after 20 minutes, continuing to cook them until they are tender is fine. Overcooking them a little will be easier on your blender than undercooking them a little. Once the stems are tender, puree the soup – a standard blender will handle it in two batches. Return the soup to the pot and stir in:

the reserved chopped broccoli flowerets
1/3 c. heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
¼ t. paprika

Simmer briefly and serve (in warm bowls, if you’re that coordinated). Garnish with chives, if you have ‘em, a dash of paprika, or a swirl of cream.