corn chowder

KENTUCKY (1/15/13) - When it is twenty degrees outside, like it is this week, I remind myself of the foods I eat during summer: fresh-shucked sweet corn, sun-kissed peppers and vine-ripe tomatoes.

No. Not to torture myself, but because when the days are shorter and the cold, like they are this week, there’s nothing like a replayed summer scene to make me feel better.

My thoughts transported me to my summer corn salsa recipe. But I wanted warm food, not cold.

In my effort to stick with my three 2013 New Year’s words, Focus, Inspire and Create, and prompted by my new online “secret” cooking challenge, where this month’s challenge was to cook Vegan, I rummaged through my freezer, and then through The Conscious Cook, by Tal Ronnen.

This past summer, I cooked and shucked corn from the cob, then froze it. Roonen’s cookbook offered a dreamy-looking corn chowder.

And like that, I pulled out my stock pot, removed frozen corn from the freezer and started dicing vegetables.

But this isn’t just any old corn chowder.

This corn chowder has cashew cream.

Say what?

That’s right. Cashew cream.

Don’t go away, it’s easy to make. You need raw cashews, water and a blender.

I know, it sounded weird to me, too. But I don’t think I’ll ever use dairy cream to thicken a soup again.

Seriously. I know. That’s a big statement. But that’s how I feel.

You’ll see. Here’s Roonen’s recipe for cashew cream.

I followed the recipe per Tal’s suggestions and only adapted it slightly. I didn’t have Yukon gold’s, so I subbed sweet potatoes. And I didn’t have homemade Vegan stock, or chicken stock, so I used Chicken bouillon. Technically, because of that, my corn chowder is not Vegan, but this soup is about feelings, not about politics.

Cook’s notes: During these cold winter months, fresh corn, peppers and tomatoes aren’t available. That is unless, you’ve shucked and frozen corn all summer long. And if you didn’t, then you can sub frozen corn from the grocery. Peppers are available almost anywhere.

Oh, and those tomatoes? Unless you’re one of those people that has to follow all the rules, then go ahead and omit tomatoes from the garnish.

Unless you’re making this during summertime.

The vegetables are diced in this recipe, so give yourself a little extra prep time. After all, it’s twenty degrees and the dog probably doesn’t want to go out for a walk either.

Ingredients
¼ cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
½ sweet red pepper, diced
½ poblano, pepper, diced
5 medium carrots, or two large carrots
2 celery stalks
6 cups sweet corn
6 cups stock or bouillon, vegan or chicken
1 teaspoon  dried thyme, or 2 fresh sprigs
1 ½ cups cashew cream
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
Fresh chives, chopped
Hot sauce (optional)

Method
In a large stock pot over medium heat, add a pinch of kosher salt and heat for one minute.

Add the olive oil and heat another thirty seconds.

According to Roonen, this creates a non-stick surface. I normally start my recipes by heating the oil, then adding the vegetables, but I tried his method. It worked.

Add the onion, peppers, carrots and celery. Cook about ten minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add the corn, stock and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about twenty minutes.

Add the cashew cream and stir. Season with salt and pepper and simmer another fifteen minutes. If you’ve used fresh thyme sprigs, remove the sprigs and discard.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle chives over the top and a dash of hot sauce (optional).

What are you cooking this winter?

Maureen C. Berry
Freelance Writer and Blogger
Visit Maureen’s nationally renowned culinary website at www.cuisinebymaureen.com

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