When it comes to eating, in many ways I am a creature of habit. I eat three square meals a day, usually at about the same time every day (that six-small-meals-a-day diet trend just wouldn’t work for me). My husband Eric, on the other hand, will sometimes come home from work at 7p.m. and tell me that he is starving because he "forgot" to eat that day. What??? How can one forget to eat? Doesn’t that pain in your stomach and feeling of faintness remind you? Well, he usually makes up for it on those days by downing a family-sized dinner all by himself–to each his own I suppose.
Another thing that I tend to do is get "hooked" on certain foods for periods of time. There have been times when I have eaten hummus every day for a month, or I’ll make a huge batch of butternut squash soup and eat it for lunch and dinner every day until it’s gone. While I love to try new foods, I never tire of the ones that I already enjoy. During the summer, I love to eat fresh sweet corn every day. Growing up in New Jersey, we always had plenty of sweet Jersey corn from the farm stands, and while the selection we have here in Las Vegas is no comparison, it is still very good.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a large batch of fresh white corn, which looked fantastic for being out of season, at our grocery store this week, so of course I brought a dozen ears home to do "something" with. If I don’t eat the corn straight off the cob, I usually make either a fresh corn salad with red onion, herbs, and a vinaigrette, or I’ll make a light corn chowder. I don’t care for the typically heavy chowders, which use large amounts of cream, butter, and cheese, because I don’t think these ingredients are necessary to make a rich and hearty soup, and in the case of corn, they often mask the flavor of the star ingredient. This healthier version uses milk (you can use low-fat) and chicken broth for the base, potatoes for thickening, wine and spices for seasoning, and it is topped with the cheese so that each person can have as little or as much as they like. The end result is a filling and satisfying soup with a variety of flavors that complement each other. Here are some tips and techniques for the Cheddar Corn Chowder:
- The chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
- An easy way to cut the corn off the cob, without the usual problem of having the kernels land all over your kitchen counter and floor, is demonstrated in the picture to the right. Take a small bowl and invert in inside a large bowl. Stand the corn cob on one end on top of the small bowl, holding the opposite end with one hand. Cut the kernels off of the sides using a very sharp knife. They will fall neatly into the larger bowl along with any excess juices.
- If you own an immersion blender or a stick blender, you can skip the step of pureeing the two cups of soup in a normal blender and then returning it to the pot. Instead, pulse the entire batch of soup with your immersion blender, just until the soup is partially pureed and there are still pieces of potato and corn kernels visible. This will have the same effect of thickening the soup while maintaining texture.
- Add shredded chicken to the soup to make a chicken corn chowder.
- For a lighter, lowfat soup, use nonfat milk and reduced fat cheese.
Cheddar Corn Chowder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
3 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (5-6 ears)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the celery and cook until tender, 4 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Raise the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, chicken stock, and the milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the corn and cook until tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Transfer 2 cups of the soup to a blender and puree. Return the puree to the pan and stir. Rewarm the soup and season with the salt and pepper. Pour the soup into bowls and top with the grated cheddar cheese.