Well it’s about time I broke out this cookbook for you, my friends. It is, after all, one of my very favorites. I feel guilty for neglecting it on my shelf for so long, hiding it away from you in pristine condition, when it is bursting with so many beautiful photographs, chock-full of juicy tidbits ready for you to devour.
I have to admit I bought, well, requested this book, mostly on the premise of the title (me too, I’m almost always hungry, too!…for good food, for travel, for new experiences!). I read a blurb online about the book and was under the impression that it was more of a food memoir. But I was still pleasantly surprised by what I unwrapped from sparkly Christmas paper one year: a wonderful cookbook of seasonal menus infused with Lora Zarubin’s snippets about finding the best ingredients, cooking in harmony with the seasons and traveling the world. Oh, and those photographs! It was better than I imagined. Perhaps my favorite part is her quirky menu titles like, “I Have Nothing To Declare: A Smuggler’s Feast,” or my personal favorite, “You Buy Prada, I Buy Truffles.” It is perfection.
Not only is Lora an incredibly talented chef, she must be something of a psychic, too–how sweet of her to craft a birthday menu (the one titled, “It’s my Birthday and I’ll Cook What I Want To”) specifically for me! With so many of my favorite things–real, from scratch, Caesar dressed salad, fresh cracked crab, lump crab cakes, sourdough bread and sweet butter, and Meyer Lemon coconut cake–she really has outdone herself. Then there is the decadent comfort food winter menu that despite the humidity hanging like velvet drapes in the air and several bitty bikinis hanging in my closet, I can’t quite stop thinking about: braised short ribs with chocolate and cinnamon, creamy grits with pureed celery root, steamed broccoli rabe and profiteroles with banana rum ice cream and bitter chocolate sauce. Sigh. But it is 90 degrees outside and there is plenty of bathing suit season left, so I’ll have to shelve that one for a blustery winter day when I’m prancing around in baggy sweats and make you some corn soup, instead.
Don’t be disappointed. I know corn soup sounds drab in comparison to cinnamon spiced short ribs and bitter chocolate sauce, but it can hold its own. It’s enriched with potatoes to thicken it and make it silky smooth, jazzed up with lime and cilantro and garnished with avocado to bring it all together. It is part of Lora’s “Dinner for Summer’s End” menu, for those nights in September when we can no longer deny the chill in the air and the scent of changing seasons. And although I’m happy to report that we are still a distance away from those impending nights, there are some summer days, rainy days like we’ve been having all week here in NYC, that require something warmer and more comforting than tomato salads or cold stacked sandwiches, and for those days, this yummy corn soup is just the thing. Make it with the plumpest, sweetest corn you can find and you will be so grateful that it’s still summertime.
Lora Zarubin’s Corn Soup with Lime, Cilantro and Avocado
6 ears of white corn, husks reserved
8 cups water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, diced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup 1/2 inch diced potato
2 tsp sea salt
finely grated zest of 1 lime
freshly squeezed juice of 1 limes*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 ripe avocado, pealed and diced in 1/4 inch cubes
*The original recipe calls for juice from 2 limes but the resulting soup was a bit too tangy for me. The avocado does help to mellow that flavor out, but next time I would only use 1. I suggest using 1 and only adding more according to your taste.
Using a small sharp knife, scrape the corn kernels from the cobs into a bowl. Scrape the milk from the cobs into the bowl of corn with the back of a knife.
In a large stockpot, bring the water to a boil and add the corn cobs. Cook over medium-high heat for 30 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, discard the cobs and reserve the corn stock. You should have 5 cups.
In a medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for several minutes. Add the corn kernel milk mixture, potatoes and corn stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook over medium-high heat for 20 minutes. Add the salt. Remove the soup from the heat and let cool. Puree in a blender.
Return the soup to the stockpot, bring to a high simmer and stir in the lime zest, lime juice and 1 tablespoon cilantro. Pour the soup into individual bowls, garnish with avocado and remaining cilantro leaves.