Monday, August 18, 2008

Corn and Zucchini Bisque

August can be such a bittersweet month. On the one hand, summer is drawing to a close, the days are getting shorter, and the whole back-to-school thing looms ever larger on the horizon. It's sort of like the Sunday afternoon of the year: there's nothing on TV but "Wild Kingdom," and you haven't even started your homework yet. On the other hand, Mother Nature's bounty is at it's zenith: there's fresh corn! And tomatoes! And zucchini...lots and lots and lots of zucchini. As noted in a previous post, I'm personally incapable of raising anything but our annual bumper crop of mint, but we're blessed with green-fingered friends who are generous with their bounty (Christine and Jeffrey, you know who you are). Why, in the past three days alone we've produced a couple dozen zucchini muffins, a pile of party-bound crudites to accompany muhammara and hummus, and the zucchini pasta with raw cashew alfredo sauce from "Ani's Raw Food Kitchen," which was not only incredibly easy but totally yum; highly recommended. Nonetheless, we still have a few left, just crying out to be eaten before it's too late.

To complement this plethora of pulses, two days ago we picked up a dozen ears of beautiful corn, of which we ate only six. I am a firm believer that just-shucked corn should be cooked immediately and eaten right off the cob, but the fact is that it's easy to get a little excited at the farm stand and overbuy. All that uneaten corn provoked the overpowering urge to make some sort of chowder or bisque, and it occurred to me that here we had two summery things could only be made better by swimming together (well, actually, being pureed together) in a lovely, thick, thyme and tarragon-scented soup. And so they were; this recipe is the perfect use for the extra ears you couldn't quite finish, and tastes really good on those late August evenings that carry just a hint of cooler nights to come...and it will get rid of some of that zucchini, too!

Before making this, you should banish any nasty childhood memories of those gross, mushy chowders with the flavor of bacon grease and the texture of {{shudder}} canned creamed corn, and get ready for this fresh, mildly spicy concoction that knows what a corn-based soup should be. Be forewarned that this recipe calls for a ton of vegetables, and the lion's share of the labor is in the chopping; don't be alarmed by the volume of the ingredients, because they cook down a lot, and once pureed make a perfectly reasonable quantity of soup. You're going to want it for leftovers, anyway, because it will be even better the next day. This soup is actually surprisingly filling, and a little goes a long way. We had it with just a great big salad, but it would be delicious with some nice crusty bread, especially as the weather cools down. Neither corn nor zucchini season is over yet, so we'll probably be having this at least another once or twice before it's time for apple pie.

Corn and Zucchini Bisque
~ 1 tbsp. oil
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 2 cups chopped onions
~ 1 cup chopped scallions
~ 1 cup diced celery
~ 1 cup diced carrots
~ 1 cup diced bell pepper
~ 8 cups chopped zucchini
~ 8 cups corn (about 8 cobs' worth)
~ 1 tbsp. tarragon
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, parsley, basil
~ 2 tsp. each: rosemary, dill
~ ½ tsp. nutmeg
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper,
~ ¼ cup fresh thyme
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 cup soymilk

~ In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for a minute or two before adding the garlic and celery. Sauté another 3-4 minutes, adding a little of the broth to prevent sticking if necessary.
~ Add the scallions, carrots, bell peppers and all the seasonings except the fresh thyme. Stir until well combined and cook another 5 minutes.
~ Add the zucchini and mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup of the broth, bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 10 minutes, until the zucchini is getting soft.
~ Add the corn, fresh thyme and remaining broth, return to a boil, then replace the cover and cook over low heat for 10 more minutes.
~ Remove from heat and add the soymilk. At this point, you can transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend in batches, or simply puree with an immersion blender; we're going for a smooth, bisquelike texture here.
~ Return to heat, being careful not to boil, and serve immediately.


  1. Oh, man. This reminds me, I've been meaning to make a corn-y soup.