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 tomatoIn 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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Butternut Squash Soup: Rich, Silky (and Dairy-Free)

A comforting bowl for fall


Now is the perfect time of year to make soup – we can almost see breath clouds while walking to school in the morning (it takes a lot of huffing), pumpkins are stacked on front stoops and the maples are showing off their fall colors.

Plus, Thanksgiving is right around the corner – I just placed my order for a pasture-raised turkey. Now I need to get busy planning our menu. Since we don’t have a huge family gathering and the duty to provide everybody’s habitual favorite side dishes, I try different recipes from year to year, just to keep things interesting. I’m craving chiles this year, for some reason, and might roast this Southwestern-inspired turkey.

This soup will be great on our holiday table. Made with my all-time favorite fall ingredient, butternut squash, it’s so smooth and rich-tasting you might think it’s loaded with butter and cream, but no worries! It’s completely dairy-free. The secret to its plush, velvety texture is in the ratio of vegetables to broth, and the addition of a little bit of potato for body.

Butternut Squash Soup: Rich, Silky (and Dairy-Free)

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1 onion, finely chopped
  3. 1/3 cup chopped celery
  4. 1 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  5. 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  6. 1 small non-starchy potato (such as Yukon Gold or Red Bliss), peeled and chopped
  7. 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  8. 4 - 5 cups vegetable stock
  9. 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  10. 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  11. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  12. Fresh herbs and toasted nuts, to garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and ginger; cook 5 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally.
  2. Stir in the squash, potato, honey, stock and orange juice and zest; season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then adjust heat to medium-low. Cover the pot and cook until the squash is soft when pierced with a fork.
  3. Puree the soup in batches in a blender or with an immersion hand blender until very smooth.
  4. Garnish with fresh chopped herb leaves (such as chives, basil or parsley) and chopped toasted nuts, if you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2007/10/butternut-squash-soup-rich-silky-and-dairy-free/