While folks east of the Rockies often wax poetic about miles of midwestern corn billowing in the breeze this time of year, we here in Colorado know a little bit more than that. The corn might be “as high as an elephant’s eye” in say, Illinois, (and since I was raised right where the Illinois cornfields begin south of Chicago, I know), we higher country dwellers are sold on Colorado’s own Olathe sweet corn. Come corn time, we run to heat the butter, ready the grill, put out the extra salt shakers, and even a jar of mayo and Queso Fresco for those who like their corn Mexican style. There’s a trip planned out to the Olathe Corn Festival, when possible — or at least a quick run to the grocery store when the corn first gets into town. 2020 finds us in a different spot. The festival’s canceled and we’re a little teary over the whole thing if you really want to know. I mean, great fresh produce is at a premium out here and we wait all year for our sweet corn that comes just about the same time as Colorado’s Rocky Ford melons and Western Slope peaches, and not long before our tasty San Luis valley potatoes. It’s almost too much good stuff at once!
But we’re patient out west and we’ll wait until next year for the run to the Montrose County party as long as we know we can soon grab a dozen ears (or maybe two?) at the store. No doubt we’ll run home to cook them all together and all at once because “the only good sweet corn is fresh sweet corn.”
HOW A CHOWDER IS BORN: Last week, I was flush with corn. (Not a problem, right?) My grocery order arrived with my requested four ears (not sure if it actually was Olathe) and then my CSA box landed on the front porch with two more. 6 ears of corn isn’t that much, but it’s more than two would eat for dinner. I had my resident sous chef and griller, husband Dave, cook it all on the grill (see above method) to make sure none went to waste since old corn is tough corn. The extra grilled ears went in the fridge just as they were and a day or two later were the impetus for this lunch-quick chowder. Since it’s just about the time when zucchini is appearing in many a different guise at your house and mine (Can you say zucchini bread five times fast?), I tossed in squash as well. My tomatoes are coming on — though right now only cherry tomatoes are ripe in Colorado — so a little bright red accent felt right. Onions and garlic for taste, curry, et al for seasonings, one big potato for thickening, and we were on the way to eating. I could have stopped there. This might have been plain old soup, but a bit of canned coconut milk was leftover from Sunday’s waffles and…in it went and glad it was to be there. Hence: chowder! Lunch figured, cooked, and served. There was enough for dinner the next night, too, though I added a salad with cheese to round out the meal.
TOP OFF THAT SOUP WITH SOME KIND OF GARNISH. Soup is twice or three times as good if you think a minute or two about what you’ll put on top. And you should put something on top. (Think chili without tortilla chips or French Onion Soup without cheese, tomato soup without crushed saltines or basil.) A garnish will enhance soup like little else except salt. Soup calls out for a last minute gesture featuring texture (think chopped onion, toasted nuts or freshly fried croutons), but is so much more itself with the right topping. Soup will never be content without the perfect accessory. Here I used sliced green onions — something you can nearly always try if that’s what you’ve got and have no other idea — for color and taste, but later gave some fresh cilantro a whirl, too. I liked both. I even liked them together. You might want diced sweet red pepper or sliced hot peppers. Minced celery and parsley. Toasted almonds. Or ____________________? Fill in the blank.
Need something else to call this dinner? I would never say no to a bowl of hummus and maybe some grilled pita bread. Or go with my salad and cheese idea. Otherwise, chowder could be a whole meal on its own.
THINKING OF WINE: This is a cold white night. Try a Pinot Gris (Oregon or Washington) or Gewürztraminer (Alsace,Germany, Washington state) if it suits you.
Ok, now that you’re all set for sides and drinks/or not, you’re ready to cook this fast pot of satisfying sustenance. Try this:
coconut curry corn-zucchini chowder
- 1 tablespoon each salted butter and olive oil (vegan: all olive oil)
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
- Medium yellow onion, diced
- Stalk of celery, diced
- 1 medium ripe tomato, diced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, and cut into small dice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Small handful fresh parsley, chopped finely
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper (Pass the pepper grinder or hot sauce at the table.)
- Pinch crushed red pepper–optional
- 1 teaspoon sweet curry powder – or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon each ground cumin and turmeric
- ½ cup white wine or water
- 4 cups 32 ounces chicken broth (vegetarian/vegan: vegetable broth)
- 1 cup water
- 1 large potato, peeled and cut into small dice
- 4 ears of corn, fresh or cooked, husked and cut off the cob (or 2 cups frozen corn)
- 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into medium dice
- 1 cup lite or regular canned coconut milk
- Sliced scallions and/or chopped cilantro for garnish
- Hot sauce to pass at table, optional (I like Tabasco.)
- In a six-quart soup pan, warm the butter and oil (or all oil) over medium heat for a minute or two until the butter melts and begins to bubble. Add the ginger and stir for about a few seconds. Tip in the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and parsley and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, crushed red pepper if using, the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric; stir. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, or until vegetables are softening.
- Pour in the wine or water and cook down 2-3 minutes. Pour in the broth and water; raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a good simmer and add the potato and corn, simmering 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring in the zucchini for the last 10 minutes or so. Don’t let the zucchini get too soft. Reduce heat to low, pour in coconut milk, and heat through. Do not boil. Taste, adjusting seasonings as needed. Serve hot garnished with scallions and/or cilantro, passing pepper grinder/hot sauce at the table.
Storage: 3-4 days in the fridge if all of your ingredients are fresh. (If you cooked your corn 2 days ago, and then made the soup, it’s good a day or so.) Don’t freeze this soup.
What’s a chowder anyway?
chowder noun[ U ]US /ˈtʃɑʊ·dər/
IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THESE OTHER MORE TIME AT THE TABLE FAVORITES:
This same salsa is great on salmon, too:
LIFE GOES ON…
Looking to give? FEEDING AMERICA supports 200 food banks nationwide.
From the beginning of March through the end of June, food banks nationwide distributed more than 1.9 billion meals to people facing hunger in the United States. In March alone, food banks gave out 20 percent more food than an average month.Feeding America
There’s often nothing more comforting than soup, but in our world, music helps, too. I’m a big supporter of our CO NPR station, CPR (virtual concert list here), but also adore MPR (Minnesota Public Radio). MPR has several fine streams you can click on and listen to as you work on the computer or even while you read a sleazy novel. Check them out.
Get your pot on the stove,