Diving into a steaming bowl of soup is the last thing you might think of when the temperature is skyrocketing.
Yet, it is also the same time of year when fresh produce is abundant. When everything looks and tastes so fresh, it's hard to stop yourself. I dare you to go to a farmers market and not buy more than you can consume. No matter what my best intentions are, I come home with bags and bags of tomatoes, corn, green beans, zucchini …
Then what? Usually, I chop the veggies, dribble on some olive oil, sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper and grill away the afternoon. I use the cooked vegetables all week long on salads, sandwiches, even in my morning eggs. (Roasted asparagus and mushroom omelets are pretty yummy.)
Another option is to put some leftover roasted veggies in a stock pot and cover with water, add a bay leaf, and let them simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and Voila! You have a richly flavored, dark veggie stock that can be put in the freezer and stored for a more soup-friendly day.
Of course, grilling the produce is not always in the cards. A few weeks ago, I was confronted with bags of fresh veggies on a hot Sunday afternoon -- much too hot for grilling. So I cranked up the A/C and cranked on the music and started chopping. I found a recipe for "Corn Cream Soup with Summer Vegetables" that called for eight ears of corn, four cups of chopped seasonal vegetables, two tomatoes and two cups of fresh herbs.
This "toss in what you've got on hand" type recipe was the perfect way to use up my haul of green beans, red peppers, zucchini, onions, as well as some thyme, rosemary and basil.
The hardest part of the whole endeavor was, as you can imagine, getting the corn off the cob. I read somewhere that bundt pan helps contain the kernels and it turns out it does. Just put one end of the cob in the center hole, hold on to the top of the cob, and with a sharp knife start cutting downward. The kernels fall into the pan, not all over the counter. Just be careful you don't make cuts into your nonstick pan.
This corn soup recipe is not really a chowder as there is no dairy in it. You blend the corn and the stock in a blender to make the base of the soup and then add in the other chopped vegetables. Make sure you blend it to smithereens. Otherwise, you wind up with a grainy texture, which tastes fine, but is definitely not attractive.
Another problem you might encounter has to do with the sweetness of the corn. Maybe it was too early in the season when I first tried this soup, but sometimes it seems like you can get corn with a lot of sugar and little flavor -- even at a farmers market.
The recipe does call for a whole jalapeño pepper, but it wasn't enough to squash the sugary flavor of the batch I made. If you can stand the heat, I would also add ½ teaspoon of chili powder and/or a healthy dose of hot sauce. I think more flavorful corn would result in better soup -- as is always the case when dealing with fresh ingredients.
So next time you over indulge at the local farmers market -- and you know you will -- give soup a try. An added benefit to making soup in this heat is that hot and spicy food makes you sweat, and that actually cools you off!
• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's director of strategic marketing and innovation, and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at soupalooza.com.