There’s something special about being at the lake in September, and this year the weather has been especially beautiful. Yes, it’s been hot, humid and stormy at times this first week of the ninth month, but it’s also been sunny, breezy and crisp. The nights are cool enough to entice deep slumber. The lake has been calm all week, and a study in shades of blue. And the light …. there’s that golden glow that happens only in autumn. The leaves of the poplars are starting to yellow and drop, skittering across the ground. It’s the best of summer and fall combined.
My heart is filled with gratitude to be able to be here and bask in all that nature offers. It’s been a balm and a blessing.
Fresh-picked corn is another of life’s great pleasures, and it’s available in abundance at the local farm market. An idea for corn soup has been playing around in my mind, and what better place to make it than here?
I’ve used corn in soups before, but this time it was to be the star of the pot. I grilled the corn to enhance its flavour before cutting it off the cob. The corn was complemented by a supporting cast of local, seasonal produce: new potatoes, field tomatoes, onion and garlic, and the assertive, herbaceous note of fresh basil.
I made this soup on September 1, and I have to say that if I didn’t cook another thing in September this would still be a memorable month in the kitchen. It’s one of the best soups I’ve ever made.
The first night I enjoyed it under lamplight during a thunderstorm, watching the lightning over the lake. It was even better the next couple of days, especially eaten down on the beach under the shade of the big umbrella.
I used the seasonings of the southwest, but kept them restrained so the crisp sweetness of the corn shines. The onions are tangy, the tomatoes mellow, the slices of new potato tender. This soup is a celebration of texture, flavour, colour and, above all, the bounty of this glorious season.
Grilled Corn Soup
- 4 cobs fresh corn
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, cut lengthwise, then thinly sliced
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 large field tomatoes, cubed (but not peeled)
- 5 – 7 small new potatoes, halved and sliced 1/4″ thick (skins on)
- 900 ml vegetable stock (low sodium if possible)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- generous grinding of fresh pepper (I estimate I used at least 1/2 tsp)
- optional: salt to taste
- juice of 1/2 lime (about 1 to 1-1/2 tbsp)
- handful fresh basil leaves, chiffonaded
While the barbecue or grill is heating up, shuck and trim four cobs of corn and rub them with a little bit of olive oil. Grill the corn, turning every few minutes, until there’s a nice degree of caramelization. Many of the kernels will still be yellow, but that’s okay. Set the grilled cobs aside to cool while you work on other elements of the soup.
Heat the rest of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, then add the sliced onion and minced garlic. Cook for a few minutes until they soften but don’t let them brown.
Add the paprika and ground cumin, stirring well, and let the spices mellow out with the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Then stir in the tomatoes and potatoes and add the stock. It’s time to toss in the oregano and a good grinding of pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to the lowest setting and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the potatoes are almost tender enough to eat.
While the soup is simmering, cut the corn kernels from the cobs. To do this, set a small bowl upside down in a wide, shallow dish. Holding the cob with the stem end on the small dish, and using a good chef’s knife, slice off the kernels. This method prevents escapee kernels all over your counter. Once the kernels are removed, scrape the cobs with the back of your chef’s knife to extract all the delicious corn juices. Waste not!
When the potatoes are almost tender, taste and adjust the soup for seasonings. Then add the corn kernels and simmer the soup for another 20 minutes.
Just before serving, add the lime juice to the soup pot and the basil, reserving some for garnish.