Sorry this is SO late getting posted (Book club #3 will be this week!).
Here was our dinner menu for the August book club meeting:
• Soup - Midsummer Corn Chowder w/Basil, Tomato, and Fennel from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
• Salad - Tabouli (from my web site)
• Breads - Italian Whole Wheat w/dried basil and garlic powder plus Italian Whole Wheat w/fresh rosemary and freshly ground black pepper, basic recipe from my bread machine instruction book
• Iced teas - Chai flavored (recipe from my web site) and decaffeinated English Breakfast
The fresh corn on the cob and fennel were purchased at my local Farmers' Market in Ypsilanti, MI, from the New Age Farm in Clinton, MI. The potatoes were purchased at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market from Tantré Farm in Chelsea, MI.
This soup recipe actually started by making corn cob stock, the first time I have ever done that. It's simple and worth the extra step. Just cut off the corn kernels from the corn cobs while still uncooked (set aside). Put 6 corn cobs, break in half, into 8 cups of water. Add whatever additional vegetables or tops or herbs you have on hand for a fuller flavor. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 60-90 minutes. Allow to cool enough to strain, then store covered in the refrigerator until ready to make the soup. Many little pieces of corn came off the cobs, which I assume was the germ for each kernel. I scooped them up and popped them into my mouth, rather than sending them down the drain (horrors!) or even into the compost pile. Yum, yum, yum, yum!!
The soup recipe is easy to put together and just delicious, well worth waiting for great mid-summer locally grown corn to make this recipe. I will give you the basic recipe, which I doubled for my group.
• 6 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed (see above for removing corn kernels prior to making stock)
• 3 Tbsp. olive oil (I always use less)
• 3 cloves garlic (I always use more!) - finely diced
• 1 large onion, cut into fine dice (I used a yellow onion)
• 1 small bulb of fennel (~1/2 pound) - diced
• 1 stalk celery - diced (I didn't use this)
• 1 large carrot - diced
• 1 # white waxy potatoes, peeled and diced (I used organic Yukon golds)
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 2 quarts (8 cups) fresh corn stock, veggie broth, or water (as mentioned above, I took the time to make the corn cob broth)
• 1 # tomatoes, seeded and chopped small (I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes from our garden)
• 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
• Salt and freshly ground pepper (I didn't use any)
Preheat a large soup stock pan, add the olive oil, then sauté the garlic for only 30 seconds or so (do not burn). Then add the onion, Stir and sweat for 5 minutes (again, be careful not to burn). Add the carrots and celery, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the fennel, cover, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the potatoes, cook covered for ~3 minutes, then add the corn, stir, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
Add the stock, stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and allow the soup to simmer, covered with the lid tilted so a small amount of heat can escape, for 45 minutes. At that point, take out ~1-1/2 cups of soup, cool a bit, then pureé with an immersion blender or put into a counter top blender (be careful not to burn yourself with escaping steam or hot soup!).
Add back to the put, then add the tomatoes and basil, heat over medium heat just until heated through and soup is hot.
We just thawed a quart of this to eat the other night and my husband and I were surprised to find that we ate the entire quart between us for dinner - it is THAT good! If you can still get fresh corn on the cob in your area, get out your large soup pot and make some of this to enjoy now and also to freeze for later, enjoying the taste of fresh corn at a later time when it is not available any more.
Our group of dietitians have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan to get our book club started. These are both informative and unsettling books. Reading either of them cannot help but change how one thinks about our food and its sources. The owners of one of our local brew-pubs (Arbor Brewing Co.) consider reading The Omnivore's Dilemma to be a life-changing book and have dedicated themselves to undertaking the enormous task of redoing the entire menu with a goal of providing choices made from foods that are locally grown or produced, natural, and sustainably grown. (I have a friend who wishes she had a personal budget large enough to purchase a copy of this book to give to the owner and/or chef for each and every restaurant in Ann Arbor.)
I would like to end with a blessing sent by a colleague (Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD). It captures several of the major messages in these two books that we need to develop a values driven food system in which food produced is not only good, clean, and fair (as promoted at the recent Slow Food USA event) but accessible and affordable for all, too.
Bless this food we are about to receive.
Give bread to those who hunger.
And hunger for justice to us who have bread.
~~ Traditional American Grace
Diana Dyer, MS, RD