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Midsummer Corn Chowder

Midsummer Corn Chowder

I grew up in a climate where the constant threat of frost or snow from May – August prevented abundant crops. In fact, the only thing that we could successfully grow was rhubarb. Thus, when I first read through Veganomicon (like a novel, as one should do with a new cookbook), I was instantly filled with awe and wonder at the recipe entitled Midsummer Corn Chowder. The description starts with the line “This soup just screams “I just came back from the Farmer’s Market! Look at my bulging canvas sack!””, and the concept of being able to buy corn, tomatoes, basil, and fennel at the farmer’s market in the middle of summer was so completely foreign to me I thought they were making it up. So imagine my joy and excitement when I came back from my weekly CSA share last week (admittedly mid-September) with a bulging backpack of corn, heirloom tomatoes, basil, onions, and other goodies! I had arrived at that mythical land, and so I knew I had to make this chowder.

I will admit I have never had “real” corn chowder before, due to my corn issues, but since I have somewhat overcome them with the Chickpea Pastel de Choclo, I thought I was ready to tackle the chowder. Although calling mid-September “midsummer” is a bit of a stretch, I kept to the spirit of the recipe and adapted it to accommodate my bulging backpack of CSA vegetables. To the soup I added zucchini (last of the season), collard greens, and extra carrots (to make up for lack of celery. To this day growing celery is a bit of a mystery to me). I am not a jet setter, but I am lazy, so I didn’t make the corn stock as suggested. Instead, I simmered the soup with the corn cobs and the top of the fennel fronds, which added a nice depth to the stock. I did have to buy potatoes and fennel to complete the dish, but that’s not too bad! I also modified the cooking instructions slightly: Instead of sautéing in oil, I sautéed the vegetables using water. I have discovered that if you add the onions to the pan with a splash of water and cover, it lets them sweat and caramelize way better than if you use oil. To prevent sticking, add splashes of water periodically. I did this technique for all the vegetables, resulting in caramelized garlic, onions, and fennel which added smoky depth and deliciousness. The soup is simply seasoned with the fresh basil and dried thyme – no additional seasonings required! Let the fresh produce shine through. I did add a healthy splash of Habanero Hot Sauce, because the habaneros also came from the garden and I didn’t want them to be neglected.

The end result is a surprisingly light stew that does scream “farmer’s market bulging sack of goodies”. Fresh and vibrant, it is worth turning the stove on if it’s +30dC, or it will remind you of the fleeting days of summer if it’s mid-September and pumpkin season is just around the corner. Delicious, creamy, and vibrant, I believe this soup has terminated my corn-issues for good! Reminisce of the fleeting days of summer and honour your farmer’s market haul.

(Note: the soup freezes wonderfully, so if you are like me and enthusiastically waiting for pumpkin season and thoroughly sick of summer produce, make this soup fresh today, then save the leftovers for December, when all you want is a garden-fresh zucchini.)

The recipe can be found on page 144 of Veganomicon, or in the Google Book Preview here: Midsummer Corn Chowder with Basil, Tomato, and Fennel

 


Chickpea Pastel de Choclo

Chickpea Pastel de Choclo

When I first flipped through Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero, I had significant difficulty choosing which recipe to try first. From the sheer volume of posts regarding this cookbook, it’s quite clear that I’m slowly making progress, and loving every delicious morsel. One recipe that was initially tagged as a “hm. that’s interesting” recipe was Chickpea Pastel de Choclo. Pastel de Choclo is a Chilean shepherd’s pie, but with a pureed fresh corn topping instead of the mashed potatoes. This particular version uses crumbled tempeh or chickpeas instead of meat, and retains all other flavours of the original.

What made me hesitant about this dish at first was that it includes raisins, green olives, and corn. Three ingredients that I go out of my way to avoid. Put them together? Apocalypse now, baby! Buoyed by all the other successes of Viva Vegan!, I put my faith in Terry one Saturday and tried it out. This very well be my favourite dish of the cookbook thus far! The raisins and olives marry together in a subtly sweet/salty combo that is nothing like I’ve ever tasted before. The other seasonings of oregano, cumin, and paprika round out the stew filling, making the filling utterly irresistible – a definite repeat by itself! I don’t know what sort of magic happens when these ingredients combine in the pot, but it has encouraged me to not be so hasty on judging the demure raisin.

The other real surprise of the dish is the corn topping. I used frozen corn making the topping method that much easier. Thawed kernels are pureed with garlic, salt, pepper, cornstarch, and a heavy cream. I used Almond Breeze, and it worked wonderfully. After the food processor works its magic, you’re left with something that looks like gruel. A quick simmer to thicken the topping (similar to Burmese Tofu), the addition of fresh basil, and it’s ready to pour over the filling. The fresh basil adds such punch to the pie as a whole; it complements the raisin/olive filling wonderfully. The pureed corn topping gets a nice browned crunch layer once baked – something I could never achieve with mashed potatoes. Overall, this dish was a pleasant surprise, and a nice departure from the spicy Latin dishes one comes to expect. It opened my eyes to new flavour combinations, and once again opened my kitchen to the glorious cuisine of Chile. I was greatly rewarded with my choice to expand my culinary horizons – I will remember this deliciousness the next time I see an ingredient list that makes me go “ick”!

The recipe can be found in Viva Vegan! on pg. 144-145, or on Google Book Preview here.

 


Sancocho and Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

This Latin feast is compliments of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero. Once again, Terry delivers massive Latin flavour that will make you exercise all your restraint to not eat the whole thing before making it out of the kitchen. I am a novice to Latin food, but these recipes that I have previously written about (and with more to come!) have me seeking out Latin food wherever I can!

Sancocho

Sancocho: The Latin Sambar.

The Sancocho could be best described as a Latin Sambar – they are so similar in fact I often get the two confused! They are both soothing, spicy, comfort foods in a bowl. Sancocho is coloured the distinctive Latin Chorizo “hue” with Annatto spice, the Latin turmeric. The rest of the seasoning is the standard Latin combination of oregano and cumin, supplemented with some thyme and heaps of onions. The soup is loaded with veggies: carrot, yucca, green plantains, tomatoes, and corn. Lima beans add the protein element, and are deliciously creamy. For those with Lima issues, Fava beans, edamame, pinto beans, or even chickpeas would be a wonderful stand-in. I made some modifications to the recipe – I hate corn. With a passion. Thus I omitted the corn on the cob from my soup, and I think it didn’t suffer from intent at all! Although I will not deny – eating corn on a cob in a soup sounds pretty cool. I also added some spinach at the end, because greens in soups are never wrong! The resulting soup is soothing, delicious, and exotic enough to make you think you can cook any Latin dish you desire. (I may be delusional.) This is the perfect soup to usher in the not-quite-ready spring produce but tired of the winter standards of squash and potatoes.

The recipe can be found on p. 154-155 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake: Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and all around delicious!

The Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake is a surprise all in of itself. The frosting is actually Dulce de Batata, which is an orange-infused sweet potato pudding. Yes – sweet potato! I have never had sweet potato as part of a dessert before (or any non-savoury application after the Mashed Sweet Potato and Marshmallow experiences of my childhood – ick), and so I knew I had to try this cake just for that reason. To make the Dulce de Batata is relatively easy – basically boil sweet potatoes to a mash, and stir constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan. A helpful tip: use a lid when you reach pudding consistency, otherwise you will end up with sweet potato splatters all over your kitchen. The aroma from this dish was what really surprised me – it was very difficult not eating the entire pot as soon as it was made. The sweet potato taste isn’t pungent, and the cinnamon and orange pair wonderfully.

The chocolate cake is a typical chocolate cake, but with the addition of ‘spice’ cake spices and orange juice. It pairs well with the dulce de batata, and again isn’t a sweet cake. I used a combination of quinoa and buckwheat flour, and it came out wonderfully moist, and had a great crumb. The instructions say to cook the cake as one layer, and then cut the layers in two. I could foresee that disaster, and instead opted to cook two layers of cake separately, and reduced the cooking time. To “frost”, you smear as much dulce de batata as you can on the top of one half, add the second layer of cake, and frost with the remaining dulce de batata. The combination is phenomenal, and definitely something you could serve to company and bask in the compliments. Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and with the hint of orange, it is a chocolate cake you will crave. Especially so for people who are not partial to sweet desserts, and usually avoid chocolate cakes for this reason. I froze my leftovers and ate the rest like cake pops, and I think I liked that serving style even better than eating it fresh!

The recipe can be found on p. 236-239 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Sancocho and Chocolate Dulce de Batata cake – the latest Latin offerings that have continued to open my eyes to the delicious offerings of the Central and South Americas!


Quinoa Corn Chowder

The best corn chowder you will ever eat!
(Potentially the most unconventional as well)

This hearty, warm soup is like a hug in a bowl. It was the creative inspiration of some potatoes, an ear of corn, one bell pepper, some hot chili peppers, and a glut of tomatoes which I received in my CSA one week. I immediately went online to do some research as to what one could create with such a grab-bag of materials, and decided on corn chowder. This would come to a shock to many, as I loathe creamy soups and have an aversion to hot purees (sorry, potato bisques!). But this is not just any corn chowder – this chunky, scrumptious version loads on the spice and is easy on the crème. Compliments of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero, this soup is definitely another winner from that tomb of excellence!

The soup base provides a solid backdrop for your fresh produce. The clear broth is simple in its spice composure, and would let any vegetables shine through. I tried to stick as close to the recipe as possible, but I made the following changes with fantastic results:

1) As I had no Aij dried peppers, I added 1T. ancho chili powder, 1t. chipotle chili powder,  and 3 small diced hot chilis
2) Since I only had one ear of corn, I also added bell peppers, zucchini, and extra tomatoes to bulk the soup up
3) I used fava beans instead of lima beans, as they were the closest to a toothsome bean in my pantry

The quinoa adds an extra source of protein and a grain, and soaks up the broth the longer it sits, resulting in a stew when reheated. I used fava beans instead of lima beans as that is what I had on hand, and the fava beans added a nice toothsome quality to the soup. I happily slurped up the whole bowl of delicious late-summer produce, wishing I had enough to make another vat … or three!

The recipe can be found in Viva Vegan! on page 156-157. If you don’t own the cookbook, the recipe can be found on Google Books here: Quinoa Corn Chowder with Lima’s and Aji


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