When I think of my favorite foods of summer, it always comes down to corn, peppers and tomatoes -- for me they are the essence of summer flavor. And since we have a few more weeks of summer, why not try this savory corn, sweet pepper and tomato soup? I like to make lots of raw tomato soups during the summer months, but this one is slowly simmered, giving it a more refined taste and texture. It tastes creamy with the pureed corn.
The most important tip for a flavorful result is to select very ripe tomatoes that are juicy and sweet. No need to use the pricier heirloom tomatoes here; beefsteak tomatoes work great for this recipe. Select corn that is crisp and sweet. Sweet white corn is particularly delicious in this soup. Look for firm, unblemished red peppers. The fresh basil leaves add just the right herbal touch. I love the added punch of chili flakes. If you like, you could use smoked paprika instead or different flavored chili powders like ancho or hatch.
I don't like to waste a single bit of corn flavor, so I cut the corncobs in half and cook them with the soup. If you love corn and cook with it frequently, you might want to invest in a gadget that will remove the corn kernels from the cob all at once. If you prefer the old-fashioned method, take a very sharp chef's knife, stand the husked ear of corn upright in a bowl and slice down on an angle, separating the corn from the cob and letting it fall into the bowl.
Make sure to use a fine mesh strainer when straining the soup to give the soup a velvety texture. (If you have a Vitamix, the soup will be blended into a smooth puree and no straining is needed.) Chill this for at least 4 hours. Better yet, make it a day ahead to meld the flavors. A dollop of sour cream, a sprig of basil and a scattering of cheese croutons provide an elegant garnish.
CHILLED SPICY TOMATO, RED PEPPER AND CORN SOUP
SERVES: Serves 4-6
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium leeks, cleaned, white part only, finely chopped
- 5 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped, about 2 1/2 pounds
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 red pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 1/2 cups corn kernels (about 5 medium ears; reserve corncobs and cut in half)
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes, or more to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup cheese croutons, for garnish
- 1/4 cup sour cream, for garnish
- Basil sprigs, for garnish
1. In a large soup pot heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook for 3 more minutes or until slightly softened. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure that the flour is dissolved. Continue cooking for 2 more minutes, or until flour is well blended into the vegetables.
2. Add the red pepper, corn kernels, basil sprigs, tomato paste, chicken stock, chili flakes and corncobs, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until all the vegetables are nicely softened, partially covered. Remove the corncobs and discard.
3. Puree the soup using either the hand blender or the food processor with the metal blade. Pour the soup through a fine mesh strainer into a large container. (If you have a Vitamix, the soup will be blended into a smooth puree and no straining is needed.) Add salt and pepper and taste for seasoning. Bring to room temperature and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
4. To serve: Ladle the soup into a soup bowls and place a few croutons on top. Place a spoonful of sour cream on top of the toast and then garnish each toast with a spoonful a basil sprig.