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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Last Bits

The October farmers' market.

Frost on the pumpkins.
Crisp cool breezes.
Damp fallen leaves.
Fresh Summer corn.

Fresh summer corn? Really? Yep.  Perched on a farm stand table, a lone basket of Shelby County sweet corn seemed oddly out of place surrounded by a sea of pumpkins, gourds, apples, and pears. Although I knew it wouldn't have that familiar you-could-almost-eat-it-raw fresh taste of the first summer corn, I couldn't resist its peculiarity and grabbed a few ears. The last of the summer corn.

October tomatoes. Right now, they're few and far between.  "That's the last of them. I'm not coming back next week." Those were chilling words to hear from a passionate tomato farmer, so I bagged a few handfuls of  Clark County Green Zebra, Yellow Pear, Black Cherry, Yellow Plum, and Dona cherry tomatoes. The last of the summer tomatoes.

In an attempt to perk up my market melancholy, I took the last bits of summer and bridged the seasons with a simple roasted corn and tomato soup.

A very simple soup.

After slicing the kernels from the cobs, I used the back of my knife to scrape the corn milk from the tiny honeycombed sockets and tumbled them onto a foil-lined sheet pan. I halved the larger tomatoes, left the smaller ones whole, and tossed them with the corn. Because I had a few vegetable stragglers (you know, the ones that got away or were hidden under other stuff?), I tossed a few Bourbon County peppers, Blue Moon Farm baby patty pan and yellow squash into the mix before tossing everything with olive oil, kosher salt, and cracked black pepper.

I slid the corn, tomatoes, and vegetables into a preheated 350 oven to roast for 30-35 minutes. When the tomatoes collapsed into the caramelized corn, I
pulled them from the oven and scooped them into a blender.  After adding 2 cups of vegetable stock, I pureed the slightly charred vegetables until smooth, strained them through a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the gritty pulp, and added the pureed/strained soup back to the pot. Working over a low flame to keep the soup warm, I seasoned it liberally and added the juice of 1/2 lemon for a hint of acidity.

After a glass of wine or two, I ladled the soup into large pasta bowls before finishing with chives and deep fried basil leaves.

The complex layers of flavor belied the simplicity of the soup. While the slight whisper of lemon countered the deep roasted sweetness of the tomatoes and charred richness of the corn, the fresh chives added a slight grassy punch under the fragile crunch of the fried basil. Delicately smooth, the starchy late season corn gave the soup body, the tomatoes kept it light, and Michael's decadent buttery grilled cheese sandwiches (for sopping) gave it soul. Perfect.

The last bits of summer.

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