Racy Corn Soup with Ginger & Basil

by Liz Caskey on May 24, 2013

We are officially in soup season. While the afternoons here in Santiago still reach the mid-60s, the mornings and nights are frigid and have taken a dip into the 30s-40s. I have put to good use my favorite new hat, a chullo, made from alpaca from Taquile Island in Lake Titicaca.

I recently kicked off my first 60-day Bikram Yoga Challenge at my local downtown studio (Day 17 and going strong). Since class is every night from 6:30-8:00pm, by the time I get home and showered, I am hungry and want something filling, but also light so I can get to sleep. Soup (and some salad) have been my solution to keeping it light in the evening. Eating more vegetable-based soups was something I learned last year at Rancho La Puerta as a fantastic way to fill you up without ingesting tons of calories. The Ranch served them at nearly ever lunch and dinner. Since then, we usually have three different vegetable-based soups per week, rotating between what’s in season and where my cravings are headed. In the summer I love raw soups like gazpacho or cucumber-dill-yogurt, but right now, I need warm soups with late fall/Winter upon us. My internal thermometer needs some help getting warm, even though I sweat in a sauna every evening.

This particular soup is one of my favorites. I found this in a great cookbook called “Everyday Greens”, from the famous vegetarian restaurant Greens in San Francisco, from Chef Annie Sommerville. While corn and potatoes are ubiquitous in South America, particularly in Peru and Chile, the addition of basil and ginger adds an exotic, slightly racy flavor twist. I also love that you get a creamy, almost chowder-like texture from pureeing part of the soup without having to add an dairy, soy or coconut milk. Thus, it keeps the soup on the very low fat side. It is so light, flavorful and uplifting. If you are stuffed up, the ginger will clear out your sinuses; or if you are habitually cold as I am, it will really warm you up. The ginger is not too much though, it’s just the right amount. Do not add more, as tempted as you may be, or it will overpower the other flavors.

In these types of simple soups, I really want to encourage you to use all natural ingredients that are fresh, not canned/frozen/jarred. Soups clean flavors really shine through this way and for my palate, produce an umami that can only come from the inherent sweetness in ripe vegetables and homemade stock. More time? Yes. More work? A little, but aren’t you and your body are worth it? Plus, this recipe makes a big batch so you can freeze it for easy eating later.

A note on wine pairings with this soup…I find that fresh, unoaked Chardonnay is a natural partner with sweet corn in this creamy, addictive dairy-free soup. Here that spicy kick from the ginger plays with the tropical fruit notes inherent in this variety. The creaminess that comes from the  partial blending will have a nice contrast to a lean-bodied Chardonnay. Keep the chard unoaked though. You don’t want to be pairing this with a caramel-tasting bon bon. If you want to move past Chardonnays or had some past flavor trauma around this varietal, try a dry Riesling or Gerwurztraminer.

Ingredients:

8 cups homemade corn stock, see below (substitute: vegetable stock if in a pinch)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger

6 cups fresh corn kernels, reserve cobs if making stock

1 1/2 cups potatoes

1 red pepper, diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and minced

¼ cup cilantro, minced

For corn stock:

6-8 corncobs, broken in half

1 large yellow onion, sliced

2 celery ribs, sliced

1 large potato, sliced

5 garlic cloves, smashed with flat side of knife, skins on

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon peppercorns

5 parsley sprigs

2 fresh thyme sprigs

10 cups cold water

Make the stock. Combine all the ingredients in large stockpot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the stock through a strainer, pressing as much liquid from the vegetables as possible, then discard them. This stock will be lighter in color than a regular vegetable stock. The flavor is sweet and fresh. If not going to use, freeze since this won’t keep long in the frig.

Heat oil in pot. Sauté onions, garlic, and ginger with a pinch of salt until soft. Add the corn, potatoes, and 6 cups of the stock. Simmer over medium heat with lid covered until vegetables are tender. Once cooked, reserve 4 cups of the mixture. Allow the rest to cool and purée in a blender until silky smooth.

In a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil. Cook the pepper and chili until soft. Add to the reserved corn and potato mixture. Incorporate to the puréed soup and bring to a soft simmer for 10-15 minutes. Adjust seasoning

Serve in large bowls with a sprinkle of cilantro.

Serves 4-6.

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