Summer lingers on, and so do some of our favorite seasonal foods. My passion for fresh local corn invariably results in enthusiastic overbuying at the local farm stands.
After I have eaten as much grilled corn as I can, what to do with excess before it shrivels up and loses its juicy sweetness? As the temperatures dip slightly in late summer, I turn to a creamy and comforting corn chowder. Served with crusty bread and a salad, it makes a perfect light lunch or supper and can also be served chilled.
Four perfectly ripe (but not overripe) peaches on my counter were excellent for poaching in a rosé wine syrup with a hint of fresh ginger. The peaches will soon be a distant memory and my summer stocks of wine were down to the last few bottles, so this was a happy pairing. Enjoy these last remnants of summer eating before the chill sets in and our thoughts turn to fall and pumpkins and apples.
To get that wonderful fresh-picked flavor, there are several steps to this recipe. The results are well worth the effort. Simmering the corn kernels in milk, then pureeing and sieving it, brings out the corn flavor and gives a smoother texture. Saving the cobs and adding to the simmering soup squeezes out even more of that sweetness. I usually make a vegetarian version, but you can add a light chicken stock for a richer taste, and the last-minute addition of chopped clams or fresh crabmeat makes for a hearty main dish.
4-5 ears fresh local corn
1 ½ cups whole milk
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cubed
2 local plum tomatoes, diced
Salt and fresh black pepper
Remove all the husk and silk from the ears of corn. Scrape the kernels from the cobs (reserve for later) using a sharp knife. Reserving one cup of the kernels, place the rest in a heavy saucepan with the milk, thyme sprigs and a good pinch of salt. Gently simmer the mixture for 15 minutes, until corn is tender, and remove from the heat. Do not let the mixture boil, as it will destroy the delicate flavor.
Discard the thyme sprigs and cool slightly. Place in a blender and process until smooth. Place a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and sieve the mixture, pressing down to extract as much juice and puree as you can. Discard the remaining solids and set puree aside.
If you are doing this step more than an hour in advance, refrigerate the mixture. If you have a very powerful blender, such as a Vitamix, you can skip the sieving. Cut the reserved corn cobs in half. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the butter and oil and add the onions, celery, and bay leaf and a pinch of salt.
Sauté gently until the vegetables are softened, but not browned. Add the reserved corn cobs and stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the cubed potatoes and cook until vegetables are just tender.
Discard the bay leaf and corn cobs and puree a couple of cups of the mixture in a blender, before returning them to the pan and stirring in the corn/milk puree. Add the reserved cup of corn kernels and the chopped plum tomato and simmer gently for five minutes. Add salt and fresh black pepper to taste.
The chowder will keep in the refrigerator for up to two days. If you plan to freeze it, do not add the tomato and additional corn kernels until you reheat. If it seems too thick, thin it down with a little more broth, and/or milk.
Rosé Wine Poached Peaches
Use ripe or nearly ripe peaches. Late summer peaches are usually the freestone variety, so the pits will slip out easily. Poaching them in their skins holds the shape better, and you can slip the skins off before serving, although I do not bother. Cooking time should be 10 to 12 minutes maximum. You will have lots of luscious leftover poaching liquid and syrup, which can be poured over melon or pears, served over ice cream, or added to a summery cocktail. The ginger notes are very subtle and really enhance the natural flavors.
4 just-ripe local peaches
2 cups rosé wine
1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1-inch piece fresh ginger peeled
Slice the fresh ginger into three rounds. Halve the peaches and remove the pits, leaving on the skins. Place the wine, water and sugar in a heavy, wide-bottomed pan that will hold the peaches in one layer.
Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fresh ginger pieces and continue simmering for a couple more minutes. Add the peaches, cut side down, and simmer gently for about five minutes before carefully turning and cooking on the other side for about four minutes. The peaches are cooked when the tip of a small knife easily pierces the flesh, but they hold their shape. If they’re not done, turn the peaches over and cook for a further two minutes.
Discard the ginger and cool the peaches, cut side down, in their poaching liquid. Remove one cup of the poaching liquid and simmer gently in a small pan until it reduces and thickens to a syrup. Store the peaches in the refrigerator as you’d cool them (cut side down in their liquid), along with the freshly made syrup. The peaches will keep for up to four days.
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup mascarpone cheese
Place the heavy cream in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until it thickens slightly. Add the mascarpone and beat on medium speed until the mixture is thick and creamy. Store up to one day in the refrigerator.
Place a peach half in a small dessert bowl and drizzle on a tablespoon or two of the rosé syrup. Garnish with a generous dollop of mascarpone cream.