Not that kind of naked. Naked as in camera-only. No multiple lights, no radio controls, not even a tripod. It has been a very long month–the PanMass Challenge, loved ones off to parts known and unknown–and during our single day of work in a week of vacation the last thing I wanted to do was set up lights and softboxes in our little vacation kitchen to make it look and feel transformed. Sometimes all you can do is just let things be. We had
barely enough plenty of light coming though the windows and I thought why not dance on the edge a little? Back to basics: camera – light – food. This is a Chilled Corn and Peach Soup photographed au naturel.
Is there any unit of time shorter than the period when perfect corn, peaches and tomatoes sit next to one another? Corn and tomatoes have been a couple for eons. Does corn never yearn for a different kind of juiciness? Why not a chilled soup? Why not a corn and peach pie? How about a corn, peach and basil ice cream? Jody tells the story of how we envisioned them getting together – in a chilled sweet-tart soup actually worth eating. I’ll only add: Expect a roasted peach and corn tart to show up some day.
Oddly, for the rest of our time on the Cape I kept driving by the farm stand where we bought everything to get a picture and somehow never timed my visits with their erratic opening hours. After my third failure I half expected to discover it had vanished, leaving only a local legend about how vacationers unlucky enough to arrive at the Cape Cod village of Barnstable in the middle of a late night thunderstorm are often surprised to find a cute little farm stand open and braving the elements. What peaches! What corn! When they try to return the next morning the stand’s gone. “Hasn’t been a stand since that storm in August of 1923,” a local on the bench in front of the courthouse tells them.
If you have the choice of old school peaches (yellow, drippy, sweet-tart) use those over sweeter hybrid parvenues. The acid in the old-school varieties is a better match for the corn, much of which these days is already super sweet. If you really want to sex things up – dribble a little impromptu pesto (light on the cheese, please) for an extra splash of color and flavor. Too much of a transient delicacy is never enough: I ate cold corn and peach pie for breakfast the rest of the week, and was happy to do so. Enjoy. Ken
NOTE: THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Supporters of Team Rialto-TRADE donated $130,000 for this year’s PanMass Challenge ride, a stunning finish that carried us past the $500,000 mark for the team’s lifetime. Please know that every single dollar we collected goes to financing research at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
The hard-ass reality-tv look.
How everyone really feels.
Chilled Corn, Peach and Basil Soup
- 6 ears corn, husked
- 1 small onion, cut into ¼-inch thick slices
- 1 cup basil leaves, stems reserved + a handful of small basil leaves for garnish.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ripe peaches
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium leek, white part only, trimmed of roots and tough outer leaves, thinly sliced crosswise, and swirled vigorously in a bowl of cold water to remove any grit.
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 jalapeños, seeds removed and chopped
- 6 yellow, red or orange cherry tomatoes, cut into 6ths
- 2 tablespoons chopped toasted almonds
- Use a sharp knife to strip the corn kernels from the cobs. Set the kernels aside reserving a quarter-cup of kernels for the garnish. Whack each cob into 3 or 4 pieces.
- Put the cobs into a pot, along with the sliced onions and reserved basil stems. Add enough water to barely cover. (If you use too much water, the stock will taste thin.) Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes.
- When the broth is done, discard the cobs and stems. You should have about 3 cups of broth.
- While the broth is cooking, rinse the peaches and make a shallow cross through the skin on the bottom. Drop a peach into the broth, count to 10 and then remove the peach to a plate to cool. Repeat with the other two. Don’t leave them in more than 10 seconds or you will cook the flesh of the peach. As soon as you can pick it up, peel it. If the skin is stubborn don’t drop it back in the water – just use a vegetable peeler. Repeat with the remaining two peaches.
- Cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Cut two the halves into ¼-inch slices and then into narrow wedges and toss with 1 teaspoon lemon juice. This will be used for garnish. Chop the remaining two peaches into 2-inch pieces.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and shallot, cover, and cook until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the corn kernels (NOT the garnish), season with salt and pepper and cook until they just start to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, and the jalapeños to the pan. Cook 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, lemon zest and remaining olive oil.
- Put half the corn mixture into the blender with half the large peach pieces. Add half the broth. Puree until smooth. Repeat with the remaining corn and broth. Strain if you want it super smooth. (We didn’t bother – we like texture.)
- Chill for at least 3 hours. It will chill faster in a shallow dish. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding lemon juice and salt as needed.
- Serve sprinkled with corn kernels, basil leaves, peaches, tomatoes and almonds.
On the last stretch of 6A on our way for a week at the Offshoot, the little cottage my family rents every year in Barnstable, on Cape Cod, we passed a new organic farm stand and stopped to see what they had. Corn, peaches, basil, onions, jalapeños. Ken said, “Lets turn these into a cold soup,”–it was 85 degrees and dripping with humidity. It sounded like a good idea. As we were pulling up the driveway to the cottage 20 minutes later, he had a new idea, “Or we could do a roasted peach and corn tart with some kind of basil cream.”
That seemed less appealing considering the weather. But, always up for a challenge, and being a good sport, I tried both, using our Barnstable friends who came for dinner that night as guinea pigs. The enthusiasm for the soup trumped that for the pie, but we’re not killing the idea yet. You may see a version of the dessert in the next post.
The sweet-acidic balance in this soup is dependent on the sugar and acid of the corn and peaches. If the corn is super fresh and sweet, you may need to use more lemon juice than if you start with corn that is a little starchier. And if the peaches are tart, you may need less lemon juice. You’ll just have to taste everything and season accordingly.
The almonds are an add-0n–I was thinking of this soup as a New England gazpacho and in my mind peach pits and almonds are cousins. The flavors are similar. We don’t tend to use the pits of stone fruit, but many people do. Check out this article in the New York Times from 2000.