Tag Archives: corn

Corn Milk Soup

Rosemary-Scented corn milk soup

The other night, I swooned over an entrée at Spring Hill. It wasn’t so much the salmon, seared crisp on the outside, hot all the way through but still perfectly puddingish at the center. Or that kale, massaged into tenderness, kissed with just enough acidic bite, that someone nested under the fish. No, my heart beat hardest for the corn under all that – ‘creamed’ corn, the menu said.

I wondered, at the time, how much ambiguity there really could be about whether something is creamed or not. I mean, it has cream, or it doesn’t, right? Why the quotes?

In a bite, I understood: The corn had the consistency of great creamed corn, each kernel whole, but still connected to its cousins by a velvety liquid. Only the liquid, instead of cream, was something sweeter, something more pure. Something more corn.

Maybe the chef had juiced corn, separately, and cooked the whole kernels in the juice? The liquid wasn’t exactly clear; it was milky, only there was no real dairy flavor.

It occurred to me that he might have used the corn’s own “milk” – that sweet, creamy layer left on the cob when you cut the kernels off by hand. When you scrape the corn milk off a cob – whether it’s really called “milk,” I can’t say, that’s just what I’ve always called it – it looks like pale yellow Cream of Wheat, dumped onto a cutting board. Try it with a spoon, you’ll see. It tastes like sweet, summery cream, made of corn.

I picked up a few cobs at the farmers’ market, determined to channel that sweetness into a soup. I wanted something that would be as good cold as it was hot, with a pinch of surprise that would make that vegetal sweetness really stand out. I chose rosemary – sweet in its own way, but piney enough to hopefully make me appreciate the corn’s flavor all that much more.

It didn’t take long at all. I just simmered the rosemary in a bit of milk, and squirreled it away in the fridge overnight. (Note to self: Must remember to try that milk again this winter, as a base for hot chocolate.) When I added it to the soup pot, with melting shallots, and all the cobs’ edibles, it sent up a puff of rosemary air. I worried there’d be too much rosemary.

The next day, when I went to serve the soup – cold, because the day got good and warm – the rosemary was much more timid. Gone, actually. But when I let the soup roll around in my mouth, to heat up a bit, the pineyness came back again, shy but present. I added a dab of the pesto I made with my neighbor’s monster basil, though, and the rosemary puff came back. Just a little. Just enough.

My best little taster came over for lunch, in her corn-colored shirt. She played with my corn-colored monster, who demanded a baby bowl of soup.

I should warn you: Monsters don’t like corn soup. You will, though.

Monster ready to try my corn soup

Rosemary-Scented Corn Milk Soup (PDF)

Though I’m not sure what its official name is, I find what I call the corn “milk” – the juicy, creamy roots of the kernels left attached to corn cobs after you cut the actual kernels off – to be sweeter than the kernels themselves. Here, I scrape this “milk” off the cob with the back of a knife, and add it to a smooth corn soup whose creamy texture has nothing to do with actual cream. For a stronger herbal flavor, increase the rosemary to 2 or 2 1/2 tablespoons.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 2 regular or 4 small servings

2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 ears sweet corn, shucked
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped shallot
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Basil pesto, for garnish (optional)

The day before you plan to serve the soup, heat the milk and rosemary to a simmer in a small saucepan. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels off the corn cobs and transfer to a mixing bowl. Using the back of the knife, scrape all the remaining corn bits and corn milk from the cobs, and add this corn “milk” to the bowl.

(Here’s a photo of one cob after being cut, next to a cob after being scraped.)

Corn with milk and without

Strain the rosemary milk into the bowl, too, and set aside. Discard the rosemary.

Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted, add the shallot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add the corn mixture, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 3 minutes. Carefully puree the soup in a blender (or using a stick blender, if you have one), season to taste, and serve warm, or chill and serve cold. Garnish with pesto, if desired.

Abi eating corn milk soup

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Filed under appetizers, farmer's market, gluten-free, recipe, soup, vegetables, vegetarian

A quick kvetch

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad 2

All that complaining about April being the cruelest month? I was lying. If you’re a food writer, August is the worst.

It’s so wrong, the way these things work. The way corn and zucchini and tomatoes run screaming into the markets, just when those of us that pepper magazines and websites with delicious recipes are gearing up for winter.

This week, I’m putting the finishing touches on a Christmas menu. (Beef tenderloin. Quinoa with nuts and dried berries. Bitter green salad.) I’m editing a recipe for lemon cake. I’m writing an apple-focused fall dinner party ($4.39 for three Washington state apples, please), brainstorming ideas for Superbowl appetizers, and combing grocery stores for cranberries and Kabocha squash.

All delicious things? Yes. Delicious now? No. It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees today, and I’m trying to figure out how to fit a braise and a cake into the oven at the same time.

Honestly. Is this a joke?

In February, writing summer grilling recipes didn’t feel completely right, but it sure did taste like optimism. This week, with my garden positively jungling with peas and tomatoes and beets and (bolting) fennel, it annoys me that those of us who are trying to champion local, seasonal food can’t always cook it. It would be easier, for sure, if all food magazines wrote their stories a full year ahead, but, ahem, we can’t all write for those.

I know, I have no room to kvetch. I spend my days learning and writing about food, and cooking, and by golly, that’s a pretty nice way to live, especially when an old t-shirt feels like high fashion.

So between assignments, I’m cobbling. My lunches have been salads, mostly – big piles of crunchy things, married together in an attempt to put as much summer into my mouth as possible with each bite.

Oh, that it were different. That I could have recipes for corn everything due in, say, August. But I guess I can’t have my corn and eat it, too.

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad 1

Grilled Corn and Cotija Salad (PDF)
Call it the little black dress of summer salads. Or the one essential tool you need for your shop. Or forget the analogies, and call it a summer salad that distills the most exciting bites of summer into each and every spoonful. It does go anywhere, though—I’ve made it twice this week, and I’ve served it to company, next to grilled bratwurst. I had some for breakfast, flashed in a skillet and dumped over two sunnyside-up eggs. I folded some into a green salad, and tonight, I’ll stir in a finely chopped chipotle pepper, along with some adobo sauce, and stuff it into chicken burritos.

You’ll find cotija – a firm, easy-to-crumble Mexican cow’s milk cheese – near the feta in most large grocery stores. You can easily substitute feta or crumbled goat cheese.

If doing anything to corn besides dumping it in a pot of hot water makes you nervous, never fear – it’s really easy to cut off the cob:

TIME: 15 minutes, start to finish
MAKES: 4 servings

1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 corn cobs, shucked
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3/4 pound assorted ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1” chunks
2 canned roasted green chilies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 large lime (about 2 tablespoons)
1/4 pound cotija cheese, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat a grill over medium heat. Brush the zucchini and corn cobs with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil, and grill for about 5 minutes, turning occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly charred and soft. Set aside to cool.

Combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, tomatoes, chilies, herbs, lime juice, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Chop the zucchini into 1/2” half moons, cut the corn kernels off the cobs, and add both to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper, stir to blend, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Corn salad in salad

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Filed under farmer's market, garden, recipe, side dish, vegetables