Raw Sweet Corn Chowder

I got impulsive about a month ago and bought a new high-powered blender – The Total Blender by Blendtec. Costco was featuring a live demo of these super machines in action and I was curious.

I’ve been aware of the Vita-Mix brand of commercial blenders, and remember the ads they ran a few years back featuring hot, naked celebrity chefs posing with nothing more than a Vita-Mix and their birthday suit. But since I couldn’t imagine investing in a pricey machine that I’d probably use for little more than the occasional smoothie, I never even considered I might need or want one.

Some DinnerStyle clients of mine own a Vita-Mix, and I’ve been having fun “borrowing” it whenever I’m cooking for them by whipping up smooth soups and sauces for their dinners. The first time I turned it on I was a little amazed not only at its power, but also by how loud it was.

But here’s the thing: that baby made flawlessly creamy soup in about 15 seconds, like a mini cyclone in a jar. Needless to say, I found myself considering replacing my clunky old KitchenAid, which could barely manage to chop ice for emergency frozen margaritas, with a super new Vita-Mix.

When I saw the Total Blender at Costco, I borrowed my friend B’s iPhone and did a little research right there in the store, and found the price was right and reviews were mostly good. It compares neck-in-neck with the Vita-Mix, with a motor that is just slightly more powerful and a comparable 7-year warranty; the jar blade and motor base drive for a lifetime.

Blendtec has been around for years making commercial machines for places like Starbucks, and started marketing to home consumers. (I’d never seen the crazy “ Will it Blend?” infomercials until now, but they are somewhat entertaining) The great thing about buying things like this from Costco is that if the blender turned out to be a dud when I got it home, I could always return it. I love that.

So, I took my new blender home and it’s changing my life. Seriously! ( And no, I’m not even getting paid to say that) Now that its high summer and peak produce time, I’ve been making myself and my kids fresh smoothies for breakfast using organic berries, peaches and mangoes. I throw in entire vanilla beans and almonds and make creamy, dairy-free drinks for T, who suffers from a bit of lactose intolerance. No Chuck Norris action figures yet, but I might be tempted.


The makings for gazpacho in my new blender

I’m also blending up some sweet local tomatoes for gazpacho and raw sauces for pasta.
When I came across this Ani Phyo recipe for soup using raw, fresh sweet corn in the June 2008 Food & Wine magazine, I put my new machine to work.

The soup is fantastic – sweet and creamy, with the cashews giving the soup plush texture, as if it were dairy cream. I like garnishing the smooth soup with whole, raw corn kernels. When you have the freshest corn of the season, there is no better way to eat it than raw!

You most certainly can use a regular blender to make this – just make sure to soak the cashews for a few hours before so they blend up nice and smooth.

Raw Sweet Corn Chowder with Cashews
(adapted from Ani Phyo in Food & Wine)

4 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked and kernels removed with a chef’s knife
2 cups water, approximately
1/2 cup cashews, soaked 1 – 2 hours; drained
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small, peeled garlic clove

2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or cilantro
1/4 cup choppped fresh tomato

In a blender, combine 2/3 of the corn with 1 1/2 cups water, cashews, olive oil, garlic and salt and puree until smooth, adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Taste for seasoning.

Pour the soup into bowls and spoon the remaining kernels into each one. Garnish with basil and tomato.

Makes 4 servings.

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Copyright (c) 2008 FamilyStyle Food

Quick Summer Side Dish: Spicy Corn with Mustard Seeds

Fresh corn sauteed with chiles and mustard seeds
When did weekends become all about running around and less about sitting around? A few months ago, almost ten years after our first baby arrived and we’d parted ways with leisurely weekend mornings, we resubscribed to the Sunday New York Times. I like seeing the blue plastic bundle waiting for me on the front stoop – it gives the impression that I am a person who has time to read the newspaper.

I can’t say I’ve ever managed to read the whole paper; a half hour spent with the Book Review and the Arts and Leisure section on Sunday mornings seems to be my limit before I’m off and on with the day.

This past Sunday, my promise to grill ribs for dinner had to be postponed at the last minute, as I found myself at Home Depot shopping for home improvement projects right around dinner time. Time for Plan B! I made a quick dash to the store to buy some chicken to throw on the grill and fresh corn for 25 cents an ear.

I was inspired by this recipe which appears in the July issue of Sunset magazine. It’s from a new cookbook by Ruta Kahate called 5 Spices, 50 Dishes: Simple Indian Recipes Using Five Common Spices.

It was delicious! I used just one chile pepper, and found it gently spicy. I also added some lime juice for a little extra flavor. This is a 5-minute recipe, especially if you use frozen corn.

Slicing the kernels off the cob can get a little messy, though. I managed to splatter corn juice all over T and his Times crossword puzzle.

Spicy Corn with Mustard Seeds
makes 4 servings
6 to 8 ears corn (or use 4 cups thawed frozen corn)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 or 2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Salt
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 -2 teaspoons fresh lime juice, to taste1. Slice kernels off corn, if using fresh.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or sauté pan over medium-high heat, add mustard seeds, and cover. When seeds stop popping, lower heat to medium and add chiles; stir 30 seconds.

3. Stir in turmeric. Add corn and salt to taste. Toss, turn heat to low, cover, and cook until corn is tender, about 5 minutes (cook frozen corn about 1 minute). Stir in cilantro and lime juice. Serve warm.

Ruta Kahate, Sunset, JULY 2007 5 Spices, 50 Dishees

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food