Back in the day, I worked weekends at a little grocery store slash deli in the Maple Leaf neighborhood. While I nurtured my obsessive compulsiveness by straightening vegetables and items on shelves, the amazing cook in the back whipped up some pretty delicious food. She had a passion for vegetarian food and healthy eating. One day she concocted a chilled corn soup. It was a mouth explosion – the most mind blowing, surprising thing I ever ate. And … I remember nothing about it besides that.
Every summer I troll the internet, looking for recipes that might harken back to the magical soup and find … not much. Lots of people have a lovely corn soup, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not MY soup. Since I only remember the magic of it and no details about the taste, I decided to make my own version. I’m sure it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but I’m calling it a close second.
This soup is very simple, and draws on how magical corn tastes at the peak of summer – so fresh and bursting with flavor. I love cilantro, but feel free to dial that down (or omit it entirely) if you don’t love the taste. If you don’t put the cream on top as a garnish, this soup is completely vegan. You can mix and match a variety of topping flavors. Feel free to create your own magical summer experience!
Difficulty Level: Easy
12 cups water
6 corn cobs
3 Tb olive oil
1 ½ cups roughly chopped cilantro
1 cup creme fraiche
1 ½ teaspoons pimenton
½ teaspoon allspice
Coarse Kosher salt (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
Chives (for garnish)
To make the soup:
Heat 12 cups of water in a large pot until it comes to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. While it’s heating, cut off the corn kernels from the cobs. (I’ve read some recipes where people tell you to cut into a large salad bowl, which is really messy and always makes me fearful of cutting myself. I recommend you cut the corn on a cutting board, rotating around and cutting off a few rows at a time like you see in this picture. Less messy and safer for fingertips!) You should have about 4 ½ cups of kernels. Place the 6 cobs in the stockpot (I usually break them in half with my hands first), and simmer them covered (for at least 20 minutes) while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
You can dice the onion and mince the garlic while you’re waiting. Did you know that letting your garlic sit for 15 minutes after cutting releases enzymes that make it even healthier for you? Add a little salt to the garlic and use the side of the knife blade to smash the garlic into a paste.
Remove the cobs from the stock pot with tongs, and put them on a plate to cool. When the cooked cobs are cool enough to handle, take a spoon and scrape down the sides of the cobs to collect the remainder of the kernel bits. Put them aside. Reserve the corn stock.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a large pinch of salt to the onions, which helps to draw out the moisture. Sweat the onions for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Try not to let them brown so they don’t add a brown color, or caramelized flavor, to the soup. But if some do, don’t worry about it. Add the garlic and cook gently for another minute. Add the raw corn kernels and let cook for 5 minutes.
Add 4 cups of the reserved corn stock to the skillet, another large pinch or two of salt and fresh pepper (to taste) and turn up the heat to medium high to bring the water up to a high simmer (almost boiling). Turn down and cover, cooking for 15-20 minutes.
Depending on your blender or food processor, feel free to cool the soup a little before blending. In batches, puree the cooked corn soup mixture, adding another 2 cups of reserved corn water and the kernel bits you scraped from the cob as you go. Transfer each batch to a refrigerator safe bowl until all of the soup is pureed. You can puree to whatever your desired consistency is. I really like to taste a lot of corn kernels in the soup, so I do a very rough puree, so there are still lots of kernels intact. Taste the soup and add any salt or pepper as needed. If you think the soup is too thick, add some of the reserved corn water until it reaches your desired consistency.
Make sure to keep any of the leftover corn water to add next time you’re making vegetable stock. You can throw it in a mason jar and keep it safely in the fridge until you need it.
Let the soup cool uncovered at room temperature for about 30 minutes, then cover and chill for at least 3-4 hours. This soup is great to make ahead and can last for up to a week in the fridge.
After the soup is chilled, remove from fridge and stir in chopped cilantro. I like a lot of cilantro, but start with one cup and add more as needed.
For the topping, mix creme fraiche with the allspice, pimenton/paprika and a small pinch of salt and stir well. To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, and top with the creme fraiche and chives. You can use greek yogurt or sour cream in place of the creme fraiche, or just serve the soup without any dairy product for a vegan soup – all versions taste great!
This soup will easily serve 6 healthy portions.