By February, I am continually taking stock of what is left in my freezer. The time has come to stop hoarding and start using. My freezer contents were the main inspiration behind this soup, but it was also a valentine for my sweetie. If you asked Don to name his favorite vegetable, he will say corn on the cob with no hesitation, despite the fact that corn is technically a grain and a fruit, as well as a vegetable. Bet you didn’t know that. Well, me neither until I found the information online. Lucky for Don, I had at least four large bags of corn kernels–whatever they are–ready to go for February 14.
My Creamed Corn and Black Bean Chowder used frozen corn kernels from last July, frozen red bell peppers from last August and frozen garlic scapes from last April. However, if your freezer doesn’t contain all these ingredients, no worries. Pick up some frozen organic corn from your grocer, splurge on two large fresh organic bell peppers—and green will also work here but will result in a slightly less sweet soup—and substitute regular garlic cloves for the scapes. And…not exaggerating a bit here….this was SO EASY to make and yields enough for a superb leftover—it only got better and spicier with age–sorta like my marriage.
- One-half tablespoon each whole cumin seed and whole coriander seed
- One teaspoon whole mustard seed
- Four tablespoons peanut oil
- One-half cup chopped garlic scapes, with tough ends and tips removed. (or two large cloves of garlic, large diced)
- One large red or yellow onion, thinly sliced (about two cups)
- Two large red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
- Five cups fresh-frozen corn kernels, divided three cups and two cups
- One teaspoon smoked chipotle powder
- One-half teaspoon Harissa or other hot sauce (optional if you are not a fan of heat)
- Two cups vegetable stock (homemade or commercial)
- One and one-half cups precooked black beans (That’s one cup dry beans, soaked overnight, cooked nearly done and drained. Can be made a day in advance and refrigerated.)
- One cup unsweetened plain almond milk
- Juice of one large lime or half a large lemon
- Two tablespoons fresh or frozen minced cilantro
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Begin by dry toasting your cumin, coriander and mustard seed in a cast iron skillet until fragrant. Cool and crush, using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Set aside.
- Heat the peanut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic scapes and and a pinch of sea salt. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Garlic scapes can be tough and need the extra cooking time up front to tenderize. If you are using garlic cloves, begin with the onion as directed and add the diced garlic cloves at the end of cooking the onions.
- Continue to build your sauté, adding the sliced onion and a good pinch of sea salt and sauté for 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
- Once the onions are becoming translucent and are sweating, add the bell pepper with a dash of salt and sauté 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add three cups of the corn kernels; the crushed, toasted spices; the chipotle powder; and the Harissa or hot sauce, stirring constantly to distribute the spices evenly. Once the sauté has heated back up and the spices are evenly distributed, add the two cups of vegetable stock, bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 40-45 minutes. Giving it an occasional stir.
- Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, if necessary. Turn off the heat and puree your soup in batches in a blender or use an emulsion wand. Once you have a smooth, creamy soup, stir in the reserved two cups of corn kernels, the pre-cooked black beans and the almond milk. Simmer gently for about a half hour, until the soup is heated through and the flavors have married.
- Just before serving, remove from heat and stir in the fresh lime or lemon juice and the cilantro.
- This soup can be served hot or chilled and goes great with homemade cornbread or blue corn tortilla chips.
Note that prep time does not include presoaking and precooking your beans. While I really avoid food in cans whenever possible, you could use canned black beans, as long as they are drained and rinsed well.
My Creamed Corn and Black Bean Chowder turned out to be a vegan dish, but that’s not a rule written in stone, especially if your valentine is a meat eater. Don, for instance, topped his chowder with crumbled bacon, while I garnished mine with chopped avocado. And there’s no reason not to substitute whole organic milk or even half and half for the almond milk—almond milk was for me, Don’s vegetarian valentine. Further, I’m thinking that if I made this soup for a bunch of carnivores, I’d be tempted to include bacon fat while precooking the black beans and adding a Manchego cheese crumble for additional topping. Just a thought.