Curried Corn and Potato Soup


How do you make a hot summer soup that is hearty enough to be a meal but not siesta inducing?  This question and a picture of a chef shaving off kernels of corn in Ottolenghi’s Plenty serve as the inspirations of this soup.

I wanted the soup to be served hot and highlight the sweetness of fresh-off-the-cob corn.  At the same time, some potato would add substance and body to the soup.  I decided to use two lonely mushrooms in my fridge to add some umami flavor.

I am very happy with how the soup turned out and would definitely make it again. If you don’t have all the spices, you can experiment with flavors that you have in your own pantry.

The only thing I would change for next time would be to leave out the buttermilk.  The corn and potato bring plenty of flavor and vegetal creaminess.  This soup would be nice to serve with chips and fresh guacamole.

<h2>Curried Corn and Potato Soup</h2>

Serves 3

  • 2 ears of corn, shucked
  • 2 small red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed well and finely diced into 1/4 in. thick pieces the size of corn kernels.
  • 2 mushrooms (optional), finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 10-20 fresh curry leaves (you’ll need less if you’re using fresh leaves and more if you are using frozen leaves)
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • Tiny pinch asafoetida (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 cup buttermilk (optional but I’d probably omit next time)

Corn Soup IngredientsIMG_0331

  1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a wide frying pan that will be deep enough to hold all ingredients.
  2. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves to release the flavors of these spices.
  3. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until translucent.  Then, add mushrooms and potatoes.  Stir occasionally.  Cook for another 5-7 min.
  4. While the other ingredients are cooking, use a sharp knife to shave kernels off the cobs of corn.
  5. Check a piece of potato.  It should be relatively soft but may have a little bite.  Add the garlic and reduce to medium heat.  Cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add corn kernels, salt and spices and fry for another 3 minutes.
  7. Stir in 1/2 cup of water and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potatoes have cooked through.  If you are adding buttermilk, reduce heat to low and heat until the buttermilk has been warmed through.
  8. If you want a very pretty soup, you can remove all the curry leaves at this point.  Add half the solids to a food processor and blend to a paste.  Add this paste back to the soup and stir until the soup is evenly thickened.  Add water if you wish to thin out the soup more.  Reheat if the soup has cooled.
  9. Divide the soup among 3 bowls and serve.  You can garnish with fried curry leaves if you’d like.

* Confession – I’ve never actually had chowder but recalling from memory, many seem to have potatoes and corn.

Tomato Jam

One of my favorite part of the summer are all the tomatoes at the farmer’s markets.  Living in San Francisco, I’m incredibly spoiled — I have a small farmer’s market  3 blocks from my house and a larger market only a 5 min drive away.

Last year, I bought Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  The book caught my eye given how vegetarian friendly it is for a Southern cookbook.  What I really like about this book is how Sheri Castle mixes traditional recipes with modern revisions of recipes.

My favorite recipe in the book is her tomato jam recipe.  Last year I made two batches and a couple weeks ago, I made a double batch and put half in the freezer for later in the year.  This tomato jam is DEELICIOUS and it’s a good condiment to have on hand.  I’ve had it schmeared on hunks of sour flour bread with fancy cheese, as a replacement for achaar as a condiment with Indian food, as a topping for crumpets and alongside Greek-style fava.

Tomato Jam (adapted from Sheri Castle’s The New Southern Garden Cookbook)

(time required:  a morning or an afternoon although borrowing a friend will reduce prep work time)

(yield – 5ish cups)

  • 10 cups peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes**
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbs chai masala*
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 jalapeno chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup honey (can be omitted to be vegan)
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice (around 1 1/2 lemons)

* I use a homemade chai masala based on Tarla Dalal’s recipes but if you don’t have chai masala, use a mix of cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  I’m sure a little pumpkin pie spice would probably work in this scenario

** I accidentally used heirloom tomatoes which was a bad idea.  While they have a lot of flavor, they’re really watery so they’re not good for making jams.

  1. To peel your tomatoes, slit tiny x’s (just enough to pierce the skin) into the bottom of whole tomatoes, put them in boiling water for a few seconds and then put them in a bowl of ice cold water for a few seconds.  It should now be much easier to peel them.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 min.
  3. Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  4. Add all the spices and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
  5. Add the tomatoes, salt, brown sugar and vinegar to the pot.
  6. After the ingredients have come to a gentle boil, reduce the head to medium low and cook until most of the water has evaporated and the mixture is thick and jammy.  For me, this took about 3 hours which was spent cleaning up and reading cookbooks.
  7. Stir in the pepper and honey and boil until the jam is shiny — about 2 minutes.
  8. Let the jam cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  9. Transfer the jam into clean glass jars with tight fitting lids.  The jam will keep a couple months refrigerated and up to a few months if frozen.

Sunshine Soup in a Culinary Terrarium: Golden Gazpacho

If you have been searching for liquid essence of the summer sun, this is the soup for you.  The yellow gazpacho recipe from Ana Sortun’s Spice cookbook has a vibrant tomato flavor and a velvety texture from bread and good extra virgin olive oil.  Since the summer sun also has heat, I added a quarter of a habanero pepper which gives it a lovely floral citrusy punch.  If there is any chance you get pints of high quality cherry tomatoes (sungold or even red), please make this recipe before the end of the summer.

Although the recipe is simple (throwing a few things in a blender or food processor), I want to point out a couple techniques in the recipe which are important in terms of texture and consistency:

  • Using bread as a thickener in the soup.  Gazpacho without bread will separate out into liquid and pulp.  The bread acts as a “body” keeping the pulp, juice and olive oil to produce a well-bodied, smooth texture.
  • Straining the soup (in my case, a metal tea strainer) to get rid of skin and seeds and larger bits of bread.
  • Use of contrasting textures between smooth soup, crunchy juicy peppers and crunchy dry home-made croutons

Golden Gazpacho with Habanero

Continue reading “Sunshine Soup in a Culinary Terrarium: Golden Gazpacho”

Cooking Notes: Grilled Pineapple Slices and Ice Cream

This is a simple dessert that is the perfect finish to a meal on the grill.  I wouldn’t fire up a grill just to make these but if you’re already making veggie burgers, halloumi kebabs or soft tacos stuffed with grilled veggies, this is a quick easy to make dessert that is a perfect ending.

Grilled Pineapple and Ice Cream

  • Fresh Pineapple sliced into 1/3 – 1/2 inch thick pieces (we bought a pre-peeled and cored pineapple and cut them into half rings)
  • Vanilla ice cream (or another favorite)
  1. Make sure your grill is still warm enough after making your main meal.  Add a few extra charcoal if not.
  2. Lay out your pineapples on a lightly oiled grill topper over your grill.
  3. Cook until the slices are warmed through and there are grill marks on the bottom.
  4. Flip slices over and grill the other side.
  5. Arrange slices of pineapple with scoops of ice cream.
  6. Enjoy the sunset but go inside if the mosquitos are getting bad.

Cooking Notes: Pasta Pomodoro

A lot of what I eat doesn’t come with a formal recipe.  When I first started cooking, I could not understand how people could cook without recipes yet as I’ve cooked more (and perhaps, become more used to my mother’s cooking notes), more and more of my cooking repertoire are these recipe-less dishes.  In some cases, I will get around to converting these notes into formal recipes but in many cases, I’d like to save and share the dish.

Pasta pomodoro is all about tomatoes.  It’s incredibly delicious IF you have good tomatoes.  If you can’t get tomatoes from your backyard or a farmer, it won’t taste the same.  It’s a simple, quintessential summer dish that I like making during the summer when my bag of produce from the farmer’s market inevitably has tomatoes.  \If I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll have pasta pomodoro with a glass of milk.  If I’m feeling fancy, it’s with a glass of red wine.  Here are my notes:

Pasta Pomodoro

  • 1.5 cups peeled and crushed fresh tomatoes (plum, early girl or another meaty variety)
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (approximately)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (approximately)
  • Capellini or another long skinny pasta, enough for one serving
  • Hunk of parmesan cheese for grating
  1. Set a pot of water, generously salted, to boil the pasta.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly and making sure that the garlic does not burn.
  3. Add the tomatoes and salt and cook over medium-low heat until you reach a desired amount of cooked-ness.  Personally, I like my tomato sauce cooked at least for 15 minutes as I don’t like very raw sauce.
  4. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet.  If you are using capellini, it will probably take about 5-7 minutes or even less.
  5. Remove the pasta and add to a plate.  Top with sauce.
  6. Grate a generous amount of fresh parmesan cheese atop the pasta.