Many people assume that summertime brings the most fruits and veggies to the table, but early fall is actually the prime time for both home gardeners and farmers: in September, corn is the sweetest, tomatoes are bursting at the stems, herbs are going gangbusters. And then there are the furiously growing zucchinis and pumpkins and all manner of squashes. Lettuce, too, flourishes in the slightly cooler temperatures. (Which will also make for smoother, less-bitter-tasting leaves. Cool weather brings out the best in lettuces and cabbages.)
In an ode to September crops, I’ve come up with a simple soup featuring a rind of Parmesan and some fresh pesto as the main flavor enhancers. If you don’t have a spare rind of Parmesan, don’t worry, but do keep this recipe in mind for future potential rinds. Tossing a clean rind into the soup (don’t use a rind that has been stamped with ink or covered with wax!) adds a deep flavor that’s undefinable but most assuredly there. When I had this soup the next day for lunch, I took a bite and wondered what in the heck was in it that had a roasted, almost bacon-like quality. Then I remembered the rind. (One of the occupational hazards of being a recipe developer who is always dreaming up new dishes is that — unless you’re consulting your notes — you tend to forget what you put in something the day before.)
You can make classic basil-and-pine-nut pesto for this dish, or the less-expensive cilantro-and-almond version. Either one can be stirred into the soup or served in a dollop on top.
Fresh Tomato & Corn Soup with Pesto
Makes 4 lunchtime servings. Feel free to halve or double the recipe as you wish.
2 ears of fresh corn, shucked
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 cups chicken broth, preferably made with free-range chickens
6 large tomatoes, peeled*
Parmesan rind OR 1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup pesto (see above paragraph for alternative pesto recipes)
Get out a large stockpot and make sure the ears of corn will fit into it. Fill the pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Slip in the ears of corn and boil for 3 minutes. To keep your corn crisp and sweet, promptly remove with tongs and set in a colander or dish rack to cool.
While the corn cools, drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil in a medium stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, or until onion is just starting to turn golden brown. Pour in broth, add tomatoes, and pop in the Parmesan rind. Let the soup simmer for 10 minutes, turning up the heat if necessary to get the simmer started.
While the soup simmers, hold an ear of corn at an angle over a large cutting board and use a large, sharp knife to cut the kernels free of the ear. Flip over the ear and slice away the rest of the kernels. Repeat with other ear. If you’re making pesto from scratch, you can do this while the soup simmers, too. Set both corn and pesto aside.
Remove soup from heat and use a potato masher to smash the tomatoes into smoothness. You can take out the rind if you like or leave it in the pot. (Just be sure to discard it rather than serve it. Trust me, although the rind flavors the soup beautifully, it isn’t appealing on its own.) Stir the corn and pesto into the soup.
Serve immediately. Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days. I had mine for lunch the following day straight out of the fridge and thought it tasted just as good chilled, but feel free to reheat it if you like.
* To peel fresh tomatoes, either use the douse-with-boiling-water method or a tomato peeler. (It’s like a vegetable peeler, but serrated to enable it to pierce and pull away the thin tomato skin more easily.) If you don’t have a peeler, place the tomatoes in a deep bowl, pour boiling water over them, and let them sit for 30 seconds before quickly pulling them out and letting them cool. The heat will make the skins loosen and shrivel, making it easy to pull away the skins with your fingers.
Courtesy of The Cultured Cook.