Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Red Corn Chowder

The change of season is rarely smooth in the DC area. Many falls we go directly from blasting the air conditioning to cranking up the heat in a matter of days. This year, I'm hoping for a slower transition. Though the other day I was wearing a tank top, yesterday and today there's a definite chill in the air. It's still in the 60's (unless you're up at 6 am when it's a bit colder - I'm crazy but just making sure the darling teens have something to eat before leaving the house) but I'm starting to think about soups and using the oven again. The farm stands are piled with the bounty of both summer and fall during this bridge season. Zucchini, basil and tomatoes are sharing table space with butternut squash and kale. As a result, this is a great time to take advantage of recipes that also bridge the seasons, calling for the best of both summer and fall.

I came across this beauty on a blog called The Wednesday Chef (she's a beautiful writer - check her out at, on which Luisa Weiss experiments with recipes published in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times Wednesday food sections. I had seen this Pete Wells recipe in the New York Times myself, but it just didn't click for me. After reading Luisa's description, I decided to try it after all, and it was a hit with the whole family. She made some changes and I made some more. The resulting recipe is below. It's not something I would have made several weeks ago, but it's perfect for this time of year - a hot soup calling for fresh basil and corn.

I had planned to use some homemade shrimp stock (I do remember I said I'd tell you what to do with those shrimp heads!! Keep checking back as I will get there) to make this, but completely forgot to defrost it. I think the water worked fine, but next time I might try the stock.

Red Chowder with Corn and Scallops

(adapted from The Wednesday Chef and Pete Wells)

serves 4 - 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
Half a large fennel bulb or one whole if small, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 cups fish stock, clam broth or water
4 ears corn, shucked, kernels cut off and reserved ( you can substitute frozen kernels - about 2 or 3 cups - later in the season)
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 bay leaf
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1 28-ounce can low or no sodium added diced tomatoes (Trader Joe's now carries 14 oz. cans of no sodium added diced tomatoes - just use two cans)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds bay scallops (you could also use cut up peeled shrimp which is how the recipe was originally written)
2 basil sprigs, leaves cut into fine ribbons
1. Set a large pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and carrots in the olive oil until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt.
3. Add the stock or water to the pot. Add the corn kernels, potatoes, bay leaf and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush a third to a half of the potato chunks against the side of the pot. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and juice, return to a boil, lower burner again, and simmer for 10 minutes more.
5. Add the scallops, stir well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding salt, black pepper and more red pepper flakes to taste. Let the soup simmer for 4 or 5 minutes more on a very low flame. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with the basil ribbons. I also drizzled a little bit of delicious olive oil on top of each bowl.
Eat happily with a whole grain baguette!

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