Monday, July 4, 2011

Tomato Corn Chowder

3 large potatoes, finely diced
3 leeks, thinly sliced and finely chopped
3 large carrots, finely diced
3 sticks celery, finely diced
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kernels of 6 fresh cobs of corn - remove kernels by slicing off sides
* If using frozen corn, use entire package of up to 1 kg - alternatively, use 3 - 6 cans. Do not drain the can; include the corn water for nutrients but do not use creamed version as we want the kernels to be light and slightly crunchy.
6 medium sized tomatoes - choose heirloom, organic or hothouse
1 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil
French vegetable stock - use entire quantity as per previous recipe
500 ml organic half & half (cream with 10% milkfat content)
Kosher salt to taste
Cayenne (red) pepper to taste

1. Saute all the vegetables except the tomatoes and the corn,
together in the olive oil in a large soup stock pot or Dutch oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. If you do not have leeks, onions will work just fine. Use 1 large onion or up to 3 small to medium ones as onions tend to "disappear" in the cooking process. You can also do both for a slight flavour variation. Leeks look and taste beautiful in the soup though, so do try to find them if at all possible.

2. During step 1, prepare the tomatoes as follows. Fill a stainless steel bowl or pot with boiled water and let the tomatoes sit in them until their peels start falling off. Then lift them carefully out of the hot water and let them cool down. Peel the skins off the tomatoes. I have been known to skip this step and simply to chop the tomatoes, which works fine but some people object to the tomato skins so the correct way is to remove the skins by blanching as described. Do not let them sit for too long though or they will get soggy. After they are blanched, chop them into small pieces. The original recipe said to remove the pulp as well for similar reasons since some folks object to the seeds - I do not do that as the pulp is nutritious and there is no need to discard it in fact; it gets absorbed in the soup and no-one notices the seeds.

3. Add the stock, chopped tomatoes and corn kernels and bring to a boil. Simmer on medium heat for about half an hour.

4. Add the cream and adjust the seasoning to taste. Cayenne pepper is very hot - use only a small pinch for flavour. The original recipe said to use white pepper; I use cayenne (red) because it goes beautifully with cream and has a unique flavour. Also, freshly ground black pepper works just as well, so just use what you have or experiment with different flavours.

You can add about 1 tbsp of kosher salt for such a large pot of soup, but be sure to measure conservatively and adjust very carefully by adding very small amounts at a time if you increase the amount. Also bear in mind the quantity of salt you have in your stock when you season your soup.

Serve with fresh home-baked bread and organic butter - no margarine if you can help it; that stuff is just plain evil. Gigi will tell you about that another day - the things they do to canola should not be done to canola or any other self-respecting crop. (Good luck finding margarine made from non-GMO canola or soy - if you know of a brand, please let me know.) Olivina is made (partially) with olive oil so go for that if you must. Read ingredient lists. Not only vegetarians but all consumers are well advised to be aware of the things that are in our food. It seems redundant to say this, but a lot of people trust the things we purchase in supermarkets and we really should not trust big agribusiness at all. Gigi would feel bad if you invested all the time and energy to make a beautiful organic meal like this, having taken the trouble to purchase all your veggies at the organic market and then had it ruined with GM canola in the margarine on your bread - it is worth doing every part of it right.

To me, if I am going to put it in my mouth it had better be good - as a fairly advanced almost-yogi I am virtually capable of existing without food, so if I do eat, I believe that I should honour my body by what I eat. We only have one body each, and one planet to live on.

The tomato corn chowder keeps really well - keep it in the fridge of course, unless you are like another environmentalist I know, who does not believe in fridges and uses snow instead ... I would put a smiley but you know we are very serious here, kidding you not - this would only be possible in Canada and not in the summer for most of us! At our farmhouse on the moon we have no problem because it is usually quite chilly outside anyway, on the moon. (It is not for naught that our main family vehicle is called The Iceman.) The soup will last even for a week and the flavour only improves as it sits. You can also freeze it if you want to keep some to hand for special occasions; it freezes well and tastes fine on the re-heat. This is one of the great advantages of vegetarian food; it is economical to make and it keeps much longer than meat-based recipes.

- DJ Gigi


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