2 ears fresh corn, un-shucked
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed (more, if you really love garlic)
4-5 lbs fresh, very ripe, whole, raw tomatoes
1 or 2 roasted red peppers, seeds and inner membranes removed, cut in chunks
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon high-quality sweet Hungarian paprika or Spanish pimentón1/4 teaspoon crushed dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons crème fraîche, sour cream, or plain yogurt, drained*
1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)
1 small bunch pea shoots, watercress or cilantro, whichever you have handy (all are good, but each one adds a different quality to the soup.)
1. Cook corn in husks until barely done and let cool. (Or use leftover grilled corn-on-the-cob from a cookout: different, and equally good.) Remove husks and silk, cut kernels from cobs and set aside.
2. Sauté onion in butter just until limp: do not let it brown.
3. Core tomatoes, remove any discolored areas and fibrous inner membranes, and cut in quarters.
4. Combine half the corn, and all the onion, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers in food processor or blender, and process at high speed, scraping down sides once or twice, until everything is very finely and uniformly ground up. (You may need to do this in a few batches, depending on your processor’s capacity.
5. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, stir together tomato mixture and the dry seasonings. Heat gently over low flame until soup is hot through and beginning to bubble, then simmer, stirring frequently, just a couple minutes more, until the ‘raw tomato’ taste is gone. (Beware of overcooking: you don’t want to lose the delicate, fresh flavors.) Take out the bay leaf.
6. If you want a velvety purée, you should re-process the soup at this point, and possibly put it through a sieve. I like the bit of texture it has, though, and don’t consider this step necessary or desirable.
7. Remove from heat. Whisk a little of the soup into 1/2 cup of the crème fraîche, then whisk that mixture back into the soup pot, making sure no blobs of cream are visible.
8. Taste and add more salt if needed. If the flavor is thin, stir in soy sauce: it will add depth without giving the soup a recognizable soy taste. There should be enough acid, between the tomatoes and the crème fraîche, to give the soup a tart flavor, but if it’s bland, add a squirt of fresh lemon juice.
9. Right before serving, mince some of the pea shoots or other greens and stir in, so that the soup is green-flecked. Add a grating of fresh-ground pepper.
10. Serve this soup hot or chilled, garnished with remaining corn and crème fraîche, and a sprig or two of greens.
* This is best made with crème fraîche (click here to learn about crème fraîche) but sour cream is good, too. If you’re watching cholesterol and/or calories, you can use plain yogurt drained in a coffee filter inside a sieve for several hours: it’s a little less nuanced in flavor, but pretty darn good.
This soup really should be called just “Cream of Summer.” It’s light and delicate in flavor, and utterly dependent on the taste of fresh-picked summer corn and tomatoes. There’s little point in making it without these elements. If you’re faced with lackluster tomatoes and starchy corn, you could
· take the soup in a whole other direction, adding hot pepper, raw garlic, lime juice, chopped avocado, and lots of cilantro, for a Southwestern flair; or
· go in the direction of a bisque instead, cooking down the soup and thickening it with breadcrumbs before puréeing, seasoning with plenty of cumin, paprika, etc. for robust flavor, and adding lots of heavy cream. Or how about
· red pepper purée soup, with tomatoes playing a supporting role?
“But,” as Rudyard Kipling says, “that’s another story…”
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