Even in Colorado, it’s tomato time and that’s saying a lot.
I had three stunnably gorgeous tomato plants on my deck this year in perky orange pots and we happily ate and ate off them. They were supposed to be cherry tomatoes, but, uh, not so much. They’re gone now, more’s the pity. Quite odd to have Colorado tomatoes ripen quite that early, but this hasn’t been a typical summer weather-wise. (We had half of our precipitation for the year fall in July, 2017.)
In fact, I’d stick my neck out and call this local tomato haul a downright miracle. Of course, I am a cook, and miracles — for me– are of the food variety. To me, the entire Christian bible revolves around the story of loaves and fishes. It does, right?
I’ve got four more late bloomers out in the garden that the deer, bear, raccoons and squirrels haven’t yet eaten. They don’t look very promising for producing before the first freeze, which may come while we’re in France. I do have well-fenced yellow and zucchini squash still blossoming and coming on.
I’m also watching the ice on Pike’s Peak from yesterday’s blow-up and wondering. Snow in August isn’t unusual, though nor is a sunny dry September afterward. I went up the pass today and saw there’s definitely snow on the north face, but we’re at the one point in the year when there’s no visible snow from Colorado Springs.
Here’s what Pike’s Peak looks like on an early evening dog walk from our neighborhood. This is a bit of an odd view, but the peak is actually to the right of the tree in the middle of the photo.
- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
- Our local does wean their fawns on this proverb. My garden location–shown below– is imprinted on the neighborhood deer population nearly from birth. Salad bar at Morgan’s…
In other words, I bought my tomatoes at the store with no apologies. We’ve got lots of local produce there right now. I’ll admit I miss mid-west and north-west farmer’s markets.
Above: Japanese eggplant, yellow zucchini, and basil from St. Paul Farmer’s Market. Below: Carrots from Seattle, Pike Place Market
And not only did I buy my fresh tomatoes at the grocery store, I got them for a buck a pound. Yep. Can’t beat that. I don’t do cheap, but I lust after inexpensive.
Fresh Tomato and Corn Chowder isn’t your typical white chowdery-type soup such as corn or clam, but is named a chowder as it contains both potatoes and cream despite the other ingredients. Just for grins and giggles, Your Dictionary defines chowder like this:
a thick soup made variously, but usually containing onions, potatoes, and salt pork, sometimes corn, tomatoes, or other vegetables, and often, specif., clams or fish and milk
Origin of chowder
French chaudière, a pot from Late Latin caldaria: see caldron
I skipped the salt pork, but did consider bacon until I thought harder about wanting an easily-switched-to vegan or vegetarian soup because so many of you like these versions. (Thanks!) Bacon would make that pretty difficult. You can add it if you like! (LATER: I did add a little bacon as a garnish the second day we ate this–just because I had some. It was tasty, no doubt.) Whichever way you make it, try this:
FRESH TOMATO AND CORN CHOWDER
If fresh corn and tomatoes aren’t in season and you still really want this soup, use cherry tomatoes and frozen corn and enjoy! Alternately, make a double batch now and freeze half for a cold winter’s night. (Don’t add the cream to the freezer batch; add it when you re-heat.) No fresh herbs? You can substitute minced scallions. For ease of preparation, I minced the first vegetables together in the food processor, and also chopped the tomatoes there, better to contain their juices.
(Follow parenthetical side notes) for vegan/vegetarian option
- 4 tablespoons salted butter (vegan: olive oil)
- 1 medium sweet onion, minced
- 1 fennel bulb, cored and minced. Reserve fronds if available, chopping for garnish.
- 1 stalk celery with leaves, minced
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- Small handful chopped fresh parsley
- 4 tablespoons –1/4 cup– fresh chopped dill or 2 tablespoons dried dill
- 4 ears fresh corn, shucked–you’ll cut kernels off to total 2-3 cups of corn
- 1.5 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, well-chopped with juices –do not peel or seed
- 2 quarts chicken broth (vegan or vegetarian: vegetable broth)
- 1 cup water
- 6 2-inch new potatoes–any color, unpeeled, scrubbed and diced
- 2 cups half-and-half (vegan: coconut or almond milk)
- A few drops of hot sauce to taste
- 1 cup grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese, 3 ounces (vegan: crumbled freshly-made croutons or grated vegan cheese)
- 1 cup chopped fresh soft herbs dill and/or basil for garnish. Parsley and chives are other options, but dill is the first and best choice.
Heat the butter over low flame in a large heavy soup pot. Add the onions, fennel, and celery. Sprinkle with a pinch each salt and pepper. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until soft, stirring in garlic, parsley, and dill for last minute. Meanwhile, cut kernels off the 4 ears of corn and set aside. Add tomatoes to the pot, raise heat and bring to a simmer, stirring, for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Pour in broth and water; cover and bring to a boil and stir in diced potatoes. Reduce heat, partially cover, and simmer until potatoes are nearly tender– about 15 minutes.
Stir in corn and cook another 15 or 20 minutes to reduce, stirring regularly. Using a potato masher, mash the soup ingredients briefly in order to thicken the soup a bit. (Alternately, puree 3 or 4 cups in a food processor and return to the pot.) Turn down heat so that soup has stopped boiling. Stir in half and half and warm through; do not boil. Season with hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot garnished with cheese and fresh herbs, including the reserved chopped fennel fronds. As with many soups, this one improves upon chilling, storing overnight, and gently reheating.
Cook’s Note: If your tomatoes are too acidic, stir in a teaspoon of granulated sugar or honey and/or add a bit extra salt. (Vegans: skip honey.) Easy way to cut the corn kernels shown below. Put a small bowl upside down in a larger one and hold flat end of cob in place on smaller bowl, using other hand to slice off kernels. The kernels and juices are then caught in the larger bowl and aren’t flying all over the counter.
If you wanted more typical TOMATO BASIL SOUP, this wasn’t it, but here’s a closer version of mine:
How will the Amazon-Whole Foods merger affect you? (Even if you didn’t shop Whole Foods before.)
I very much appreciate reader and old friend Jan Jardon, who offered to test this chowder before it was posted and caught a mistake in the printed recipe. Thanks, Jan! Thanks to all for being here, too; I am grateful for your reading presence.
All positive thoughts, too, for those who suffered through the hurricane and now its attendant flooding. Ways to help are listed here.