Savoring the Flavor of Summer

This time of year, I always try to savor every bite of summer—tomatoes, corn, peppers, and fresh herbs. As the morning and evening chill begins to creep into our days, the summer produce fades from the farmer’s market. Thankfully, I remembered how good a bowl of piping hot roasted Poblano pepper and sweet corn soup tastes in the dead of winter. Before corn disappeared from the vendor’s table at the market, I bought a bounty, shucked it, cut the kernels off the cob, and froze it. The cobs are frozen, too. They will be used in the stock. I also took home a bag full of Poblano peppers, roasted them to charred perfection, removed the skins and seeds, and placed them in the freezer.

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Sometimes my occasional forethought amazes even me. I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I save summer flavors to enjoy in the winter. I haven’t quite found the time for canning and preserving, so I tend to stock the freezer with the remnants of the previous season. The pay off will come in February when I am stuck at home due to snow with nothing to do but make a pot of delicious corn soup and dream of summer.

Below is my recipe for Roasted Poblano Sweet Corn Soup in its entirety using fresh ingredients. If you don’t have a Vitamix, you can certainly use an immersion blender to puree the soup.   Enjoy!

Roasted Poblano Sweet Corn Soup

  • 10 ears of sweet corn – husks removed
  • 3 large Poblano peppers
  • 1 medium onion – halved and sliced
  • 4 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic – coarsely chopped
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika – divided
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lime
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • crème fraiche or Mexican crema

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  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cut the corn off the cobs. This should yield about 6-7 cups of kernels.
  3. Put the Poblano peppers on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes per side or until the skins are blistered and charred. Place in an airtight container for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Place 5 of the corncobs in a stockpot with the vegetable stock and water. Bring to a simmer. Cover and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
  5. Peel the skins off of the peppers. Cut the top off each pepper and make a slit down the side to open the pepper. Removed the seeds and the membranes. Set aside.
  6. In a skillet, heat two tbs. olive oil. Sauté the onion over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Add a generous pinch of salt. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 2-3 more minutes.
  7. Add the spices to the onion/garlic mixture. Stir to incorporate. Add ½ cup of the vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. Pour this mixture into the Vitamix.
  8. Place the following ingredients into the Vitamix in this order: vegetable stock, 5 cups corn kernels, Poblano peppers, pinch of salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Process on the Hot Soup setting or turn up to setting 10 for 7 minutes.
  9. In a skillet, heat two tbs. olive oil. Sauté 1-2 cups of corn kernels over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add smoked paprika and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Use to garnish soup.
  10. Once the soup in the Vitamix is done processing, pour it into a saucepan to keep it warm. Add the juice of half a lime. Stir to combine.
  11. Serve topped with crème fraiche, sautéed corn kernels, and cilantro.

Peaches and Tomatoes: Summer’s Last Gasp

Soon, we’ll be eating our fair share of sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and kale. As we enjoy these fall favorites, we’ll also be reminiscing about the tomatoes, peaches, peppers, and other summer abundance. It always amazes me how the first taste of a season can be wonderful, but by the end of the season, we often tire of those same wonderful flavors. It happens to the best of us. Creativity is the key to eating seasonally!

During my weekly visit to LL Urban Farms, I loaded up on tomatoes and peaches. I knew the peaches would be disappearing from the market soon. We still have some time for the tomatoes, but with temperatures falling into the 50’s at night next week—they won’t be around long.   So, how do I savor these delicacies one more time before they are gone?

When we lived in southern California, one of our favorite spots was San Diego.   In San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, there is a restaurant called La Villa. If you visit San Diego, you must go there. Farm-to-fork is their mission, and they do it well. Their simple Italian recipes will make you weak in the knees. One of my favorite salads there was an heirloom tomato and stone fruit salad with burrata and micro greens. Many of my dishes are an attempt at recreating an amazing dining out experience. I had been thinking about this salad for years!

Using this for inspiration, I threw together some peaches, cherry tomatoes, burrata, and basil from my garden. A little drizzle of balsamic, and the dish was complete. Not exactly the same, yet satisfying. It’s the perfect use of the “last gasp of summer”—which is a phrase my friend, Chana (a.k.a @raleighwhatsup), used to describe the recent hot weather. I couldn’t have said it better. I suppose this last gasp of summer weather and summer bounty will give way to chilly nights and crisp autumn air soon enough. Fall is my favorite season, so I am eagerly awaiting this change. Until then, I plan to get my fill of corn, tomatoes, peppers, and peaches because it’s going to be a long time until we see them at the farmers markets again.

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Market Abundance – Green Beans

It seems that the theme for my culinary life during the summer is: What to do with all this abundance? I am speaking of farmer’s market abundance, of course. Some items are short-lived in the spring, and we almost cry when they disappear from the market tables: strawberries, tender lettuce, peas, scapes, and asparagus to name a few. We just cannot get enough, and then…they are gone. Soon, the tomatoes make an entrance, mounds of green beans appear, and the peppers are piled high.   I start to get excited about all of those Caprese salads I will be inhaling—fresh mozzarella, homegrown basil, olive oil from Olive Wagon—I feel giddy! What about the green beans and peppers? A girl cannot live on Caprese salad alone. Or could she?

Let’s talk green beans—so plentiful, so green, so basic—they beg to be with the tomatoes. Green beans are somewhat alkaline so they do well with the acidity of a tomato or a little vinaigrette. Green beans are forgiving, too. They can be eaten blanched and sautéed (still crisp) or stewed until they are delicately tender. If you are accustomed to the green beans you pour into a saucepan out of the can, I urge you to put down the can and get some fresh beans at your local farmer’s market.   Try this recipe and see if you ever go back to canned beans again. I doubt it.

Stewed Green Beans and Tomatoes

  • 1 pound green beans – trimmed & cut in half
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes OR 4 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion – halved and sliced thin
  • 3 cloves garlic – chopped
  • 3 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • salt & pepper
  1. Prep your green beans, onion, and garlic. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half (or chop the Roma tomatoes).
  2. In a heavy cast iron pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium heat.
  3. Add the onion and sauté for about 4-5 minutes until translucent and softened.
  4. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, honey, and red pepper. Stir to combine ingredients. Continue to cook for about 1 minute.
  6. Add the green beans and continue to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add the wine. Stir to incorporate the ingredients and turn the heat down to Low. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer for about 40-45 minutes.
  8. Stir in the cinnamon, salt, and pepper.

* If you don’t have a heavy cast iron pot, use a sauté pan or stockpot with a lid.

** I serve this as a main dish with roasted garlic cheese breadImageImageImageImage

Roasted Garlic Cheese Bread

  • 8 slices of artisan bread (please get good bread—it makes all of the difference here!)
  • 3 tbs. softened butter
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • Asiago, Parmesan, Fontina, or Havarti cheese
  1. Chop or puree the roasted garlic cloves. Thoroughly combine the garlic, butter and salt.
  2. Grate or slice the cheese of your choice.
  3. Spread the mixture on the bread slices and top with the cheese. Place under a broiler for a few minutes until cheese is bubbly.