Monday, September 6, 2010

RECIPE: Tomato and Corn Soup with a Kick

Photos (Lexi Van de Walle): Corn and Tomato Soup with fresh thyme

I read a lot of cookbooks and recipes online and so does my husband. He tends to go for grilled and roasted meats, winter stews and soups and ninety percent of the recipes he shows me or cooks himself are from New Orleans and Louisiana and typically call for a "cup of heavy cream" or a "stick of butter".

My challenge is to lighten up some of these delicious sounding dishes and make light, lighthearted and local comfort food dishes from N'awlins but with a lot fewer calories. I decided to keep the butter and flour roux and substitute a puree of skim milk and corn for the heavy cream. Roux is the cornerstone of New Orleans, Creole and Cajun cuisine as is the "trinity" which is sauteed onions, garlic and green bell pepper. For more on how to make a roux,
read here.

Last weekend, Rick and Susan Salomon joined us for dinner and I made an adaptation of Creole Tomato and Corn Soup from Kit Wohl's New Orleans Classic Gumbos and Soups but with Halsey's heirloom tomatoes not Creole tomatoes as there aren't a lot of Creole tomatoes in the Northeast.

It's a winner. Don't wait for frozen corn and Mardis Gras and don't be afraid of making a roux -- make this soup now while corn and tomatoes are at the peak at the farmers market.

Tomato and Corn Soup with a Kick
Adapted from Kit Wohl's Creole Tomato and Corn Soup

Servings: 6

6 ears of local corn
6 ripe local red tomatoes, diced
1 T olive oil
3 T garlic, minced
1/2 cup medium local onion, diced
1/4 local celery, diced
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 T fresh thyme leaves
6 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
6 T butter (I keep Ronnybrook in the freezer)
5 T all purpose flour
1 cup of skim milk (original recipe calls for heavy cream)

If using fresh, sweet corn, remove the husks and silk and cut kernels away from the cob using a sharp knife. Separate the corn into three small bowls: Two ears of corn will be cooked with the vegetables and stock, two ears will be blended with skim milk to make "heavy cream" and two ears will be stirred in at the end to make a nice chunky soup. Two pounds of thawed frozen corn or canned corn kernels can be substituted. I like Cascadian Farms organic frozen vegetables.

If using fresh tomatoes, remove the skins. This can be done in a large pot of boiling water. Submerge whole tomato for 45 to 60 seconds. Remove and slip off the outer skins. Dice tomatoes being sure to remove the hard core. Move tomato and juices to a bowl until ready to use. A 14.5 ounce can of organic canned tomatoes can be substituted.

Pour the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and saute the garlic making sure not to let it burn. When the garlic is golden, add the onions and celery until the onions become opaque. Add the cayenne pepper, thyme leaves and stock and bring to a boil. Then, add two ears of corn to the broth and boil for 5 minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender, strain it, and let it cool.

In a large Dutch oven or deep cast-iron skillet, make a blond roux with the butter and flour, stirring and cooking the butter and flour mixture over low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. It will suddenly turn a blond color so it's important to stir constantly and watch the skillet.

Add the pureed corn and vegetable mixture to the roux and simmer.

In a blender add 1 cup of skim milk and kernels from two ears of corn and blend on high speed to create a non-fat "heavy cream". Add the "heavy cream" to the soup, along with the remaining corn kernels and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat. If soup is too think you can add some more stock.

Serve hot. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with thyme leaves.

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