When I say soup do you think of steaming bowls clasped tightly in frozen hands? Put that out of your mind, because all I want you to consider today is how delicious a light, brothy drink will be out on your back bridge, served to any and all comers — a quick and easy meal right out of the pot so you can stay where you are by the fire pit enjoying the conversation late into the summer evening.
Roasted summer corn, peppers and tomato chowder
This soup sings with the flavours of summer corn and tomatoes right off your grill. For even more roasted flavour, rub a whole head of garlic with oil and throw it on the coolest part of the barbecue. Roast it for 30 minutes, turning a couple of times. If you decide to do that, then up the garlic to 4 or 5 cloves. If you prefer, roast vegetables in a hot oven until the edges start to char. A handful of crispy croutons floated on top would be scrumptious. This makes plenty of medium-sized deck servings or about 8 large dinner portions.
4 fresh ears of corn
2 tbsp. soft butter or margarine
2 red bell peppers
4 large jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste)
1 large red onion
12 cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. coarse salt (or 1/4 tsp. table salt)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Soak the corn cobs in their husks in cold water for about half an hour. Pull the husks down to the bottom of each ear but don’t remove them. Remove all the silk and rub the butter over exposed kernels. Replace the husks and twist them at the top to seal. Grill over medium heat, turning a couple of times, for 20 to 30 minutes, until the outsides are dark brown. Pull off the husks and put the cobs back on the grill to get some nice brown marks; set aside. Halve the red bell peppers and jalapenos and remove the seeds and stems. Place in a large bowl. Remove skin from onion and quarter, keeping the root end intact so the onion doesn’t fall apart. Add tomatoes to the bowl, along with olive oil and salt. Toss to coat and tumble out onto the grill. Cook until everything has good grill marks.
Here’s where you have to make a decision. If you want a smooth broth with just the corn kernels left whole, then throw the vegetables into a blender or food processor — you may need more than one batch. Add garlic and puree — some of the broth makes it easier. Strain through a sieve and place in a heavy-
bottomed soup pot. Remove the corn kernels from the ears and add to pot along with chicken broth and honey. Simmer together 2 minutes, stir in cilantro and pepper, adjust the salt as necessary and serve.
My preference is a brothier, chunkier soup. If you agree, chop the grilled vegetables as finely as you wish — you may want to mince the jalapenos, although they lose a lot of their heat on the grill. Combine with garlic, broth, honey and corn kernels and bring to a boil. Simmer 2 minutes, stir in cilantro and pepper, adjust the salt, and serve.
Jamaican jerk soup
If you enjoy the spicy island heat of jerk chicken, then you will adore this soup while sitting around on the front lawn some nice evening this summer. This is enough for 6 generous servings.
2 tsp. smoked (or regular) paprika
2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. each ground allspice, hot curry powder, dried thyme, and coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cubed
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine (or use all chicken broth)
2 cups canned diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
Combine paprika, brown sugar, allspice, curry powder, thyme, black pepper, salt and cayenne pepper. Rub briskly into chicken and refrigerate 30 minutes. Combine with onion and brown in oil in a Dutch oven. When nearly cooked through, add garlic and cook just until fragrant. Add wine and simmer 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes and chicken broth and simmer 15 minutes longer. Taste for salt and add a pinch if needed. Prepare rice according to package instructions. To serve, put a generous spoonful of cooked rice into each serving bowl and top with soup. Pass wedges of lime and chopped fresh cilantro if you’re so inclined.
Rhubarb strawberry cocktail soup
A friend brought me two big bags of fresh rhubarb from his garden so I’ve been trying different recipes. I’ll share some of the others with you later, but this idea perfectly fits today’s theme.
This is the ultimate grown-up smoothie. If you are serving children, omit the vodka, of course. This amount makes about 8 servings.
3 cups chopped fresh or frozen and thawed rhubarb
1 cup hulled and coarsely chopped strawberries (frozen work fine)
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1 orange, grated rind and juice
1 cup vodka or gin
2 cups vanilla ice cream
Bring rhubarb, strawberries, water, sugar and orange rind to a boil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes, until rhubarb collapses and strawberries are soft. Puree and strain — you can leave it chunky if you prefer. Stir in orange juice and vodka and refrigerate a couple of hours at least. Float a small scoop of ice cream in each glass and serve with both straws and spoons — you won’t want to leave any behind.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.