Hot-weather produce is waning, and I’m savoring corn on the cob like it’s going out of season. Because it is. My family, however, isn’t sentimental about vegetables. They fail to see the everyday miracle of the first bite of corn — the one that tells you that the ear is sweet, the texture is crunchy-juicy, and you get to spend another meal holding summer in your hands. So instead of serving corn cob-style for the gagillionth supper in a row, I’ve made a roasted corn soup that’s packed with summer flavor, and foreshadows cooler temps to come.
First, decide how you want to roast the corn. If your grill is already hot, toss water-soaked ears, husks and all, on a medium fire for 20-ish minutes, turning frequently. If you’ve just washed your hair and don’t want it to smell smoky, you can get the same effect by roasting corn kernels in the oven. Remove the kernels by holding a shucked ear on its end, and use a sharp knife to slice down the sides. I like to rest the corn in the center of a Bundt cake pan, whose high edges corral rogue bouncing kernels. Then cook the kernels in a single layer on a baking sheet for all of the roasted flavor, and none of the extra shampooing. Whichever method you use, be sure to reserve the cobs after you’ve relieved them of their kernels. You’re going to boil those cobs in the vegetable broth to infuse it with deep corn yumminess.
The broth is the foundation of this dish, so use one of high quality. I always suggest making your own, particularly if you are watching your sodium intake. Deepen the vegetable flavors by adding sauteed onions, carrots and red bell peppers. Back in my pre-middle-aged-metabolism days, I would have sauteed my veggies in several glugs of oil. Now that I’m a calorie-counter, I experimented with how little heart-healthy olive oil is really necessary (which is, quite possibly, the saddest game ever). Sauteing veggies in only 2 teaspoons of oil is possible, but you need to be vigilant with stirring. If any veggies stick to the bottom of the pot and burn a bit, it’s not a deal-breaker. We’ll call the brown bits “flavor nuggets” and scrape them up when we deglaze the pan with vegetable broth.
As anyone dealing with a wheat restriction knows, corn is cheerfully gluten-free. But gluten can sneak into your soup if you use flour to thicken it. Instead, I used starch-happy potatoes to make soup that’s thick enough to stay on the spoon, but thin enough to appeal in late summer months. Fresh out of spuds? Mix a spoonful of cornstarch in a little bit of cold water, and add it to the hot broth instead.
Once I nailed down the basic recipe, I made a more savory, protein-rich variety using chicken broth, rotisserie chicken, minced garlic and smoked paprika. When I craved heat, a diced jalapeno tossed into the veggie saute kicked up the spice. And if you’re feeling fancy, make your soup bright and tangy by blending in four tomatillos (husks removed), which have been roasted alongside your corn kernels. All of these variations are fabulous, but I keep coming back to the basic recipe. It’s pure and simple and good, just like corn on the cob.