Tag Archives: fennel

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

 


Ciambotta

 

A delicious light stew from the southern part of Italy

 This delicious rustic Italian stew is a cross between a Ratatouille and a Primavera sauce – in fact, depending on how you serve it, it could be either! Originally from Sicily, many versions of this stew exist, and are subject to the whims of your pantry. Eggplant, tomatoes, and fresh basil are must-haves in the composition. The rest is at the discretion of the cook!

For my version, I added fresh fennel which added a nice liquorish crunch to the dish. Bell peppers added some colour, and spinach and mushrooms added nice texture contrasts. The dish is simply seasoned with some red wine vinegar, chili flakes and fresh basil, making it a nice light change to the hearty winter stews of the season. Serve with some chickpeas or socca bread, and it’s a complete meal! Pour on top of pasta, and you have a saucy change to the standard primavera. Yet another dimension of Italian cooking, proving that there is more to the country than spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna!

 

Ciambotta

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 lbs. eggplant, cubed
1½ cup red onion, diced large
1 bulb fennel, cubed
2 bell peppers, diced large
5 cloves garlic, minced
1½ lbs. zucchini, cubed
2½ cups tomatoes, diced large OR 1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 tsp. chili pepper flakes
½ cup fresh basil, chiffoned
salt and pepper, to taste

Optional:
2 tbsp. capers
¾ lb. Potatoes, cubed
celery
mushrooms
cauliflower
greens: spinach, kale, Swiss chard

Directions:
1) Sauté onion, garlic, and fennel in olive oil until onion soft
2) Add eggplant. Stir. Add water as necessary to prevent sticking. Cook until eggplant beginning to soften, approx. 10min.
3) Add bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, vinegar, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until all veggies are tender, approx. 15min.
4) Stir in fresh basil, salt, pepper, and optional capers and greens. Simmer approx. 5min.
5) Serve as a soup, over pasta, with bread, or with socca.

 


Eggplant Provincial

The picture doesn't do it justice!

 

This recipe is from Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, one of my cookbooks in permanent recipe rotation. I love the cookbook because it is the first that I have owned (aside from Papa Tofu, another tome of excellence) that does not dedicate space to baked goods and desserts. Space that could be used for separate sections for curries, stews, and one-pot meals, which is what I’m interested in! Let’s face it: curry is a meal. Cookies are not. This cookbook is almost like Veganomicon-lite, with recipes composed of cupboard staples that are quick to throw together, minimal leftovers, and are delicious too-boot! There is even an entire section devoted to the greatness of a bowl. Not everybody appreciates the science behind a well-proportioned and thought out bowl of food, but this cookbook pays homage to that unsung everyday hero!

 

I have been to France more than once, and the best part of French cooking is the baguettes. Munching on a fresh baguette and an apple while wandering Paris while the city is waking up is one of my favourite memories of that gorgeous city. I am not a lover of crèmes, butter, or very rich food, which is what springs to mind when someone says “French cuisine” (or Julia Child!). I tried this recipe full of trepidation, and came away liking something other than baguettes! Spurred by my French-themed dinner and a movie (I’ve Loved You so Long, and a bottle of red wine), I gave this recipe a try because it had my favourite vegetable, eggplant, and a fail-safe legume: lentils. The dish itself is a boozy stew, with fennel, potatoes, and tomatoes. Spiced with marjoram and thyme, it is almost a French chili, which I can definitely get behind! The eggplant and potatoes soak up the delicate spices, making leftovers almost better than the day-of dish. Be prepared for sideways glances from co-workers if brining for lunch – the wine makes its presence known! Serve it with a simple spinach salad dressed with red-wine vinegar and olive oil, and the meal is a nice taste of the Mediterranean – perfect for a cold winter evening!


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