Corn, zucchini & tomato soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh corn tastes magical, barely cooked and cut from the cob it has an almost grassy sweet lightness that is otherwise totally lost and catapults it far, far away from possible associations with chicken feed. It only needs a minimum of dressing (butter & salt; lime & chilli; epazote) or other ingredients as company to shine like in this perfect summer salad or today’s soup. This simple dish has become an instant hit at supper time with even the most demanding of customers (small Michelin testers, only ‘slightly’ less well-mannered) and is my go-to summer soup this year.

What I originally only intended for the children is a real winner for all of us when the temperatures are high and even the thought of dinner feels like a lead weight in the stomach. Basil gives it a deserved kick and apart from salt & pepper there is no other seasoning necessary. Served lukewarm or even cold like a Gazpacho it transports well in a Thermos for a picnic or beach/pool day and can be spooned (in it’s thicker version) or sipped from cups.

Measurements or proportions are intentionally given in a lackadaisical way since the sizes of these veg can vary and I tend to use the stuff I’ve got in my veg box and anyway, who wants to fuss about a soup on a hot day?

 

More summer soups & salads: corn-tomato-basil salad; pea shooter, chickpea salad with cucumber, tomatoes & peppers, broad bean bruschette, lettuce cups with red pepper-lentil balls;

 

Corn zucchini tomato soup


Sweet corn-zucchini-tomato soup

 

2-3 ears of sweet corn
1 zucchino / courgette
3-6 tomatoes or 1/3 bottle tomato passata
chicken or vegetable stock
salt, pepper
basil

 

Cut the corn of the cob and chop all other ingredients. Place in a saucepan with a little chicken stock to taste and cook for the briefest of time, maybe 10 minutes. Season, add freshly torn basil, puree and pass through a sieve to get rid of all the corn kernel skins for a smoother soup. Serve a thicker puree/soup for small babies and a thinner version for more adult eaters at room temperature or even cooled.

 

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Gnocchi & three sauces

Gnocchi by the james kitchen
Gnocchi, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

Gnocchi & three sauces (sort of)

Just a quick one for lunch or supper: gnocchi with either a butter & sage or tomato & basil sauce or if we are eating this for supper, I will add steamed brokkoli florets, creamy blue cheese sauce and sometimes bacon if it has been a really rotten day. Oh, that does sound so Nigel Slater “naughty” (always a little guilty, why?) – I’d rather say, have your bacon and enjoy it for tomorrow you might eat no meat. Anyway, those flavours work together with or without bacon and why not. Clearly leave the bacon out if you want this to be vegetarian.

For a simple lunch, I prefer the sage, butter & parmigiano combination, for it is a delight if you have fresh & light fluffy gnocchi and these gnocchi are light and fluffy. I have made a few hard golfball ones in the past until I have reached epiphany: add as little flour as possible and do not overwork the dough. Not only true in baking, folks.

Gnocchi
at least for 6, though halving the quantities is easy

1kg (a little over 2lbs) floury potatoes, unpeeled
salt & white pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
plain flour (only as much as is needed to keep the dough together:  maybe 1 cup is enough, maximum 2 cups)
flour or semolina to prevent sticking

Sauce options:
butter & sage leaves
tomato & basil sauce
blue cheese sauce

Cook the unpeeled potatoes for about 20 minutes until done (test with a knife) and leave for to cool slightly. The moment you can bear to touch them, peel and put through a potato ricer – alternatively mash the potatoes. Add salt, pepper & nutmeg as well as both eggs and stir with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle over about 1 cup of flour and work it in swiftly. Add more flour if needed and work the dough with your hands as little and as short as possible until it is not really sticky anymore. Roll out walnut or hazelnut sized balls into a short oblong shape and sprinkle with flour or semolina to prevent sticking. If you want the gnocchi to be really pretty and have more sauce-catching ability (might this be a technical term?), lightly press with a fork to get some groves (that’s where more sauce collects) or use some lovely tool you might have bought years ago, too.

Boil a few litres of salted water and drop a few gnocchi in. They will only take an instant to be cooked and rise to the surface. Keep in a bowl, maybe add a little melted butter or oil to keep them apart and quickly cook the rest. Serve with the sauce of your choice.

Add the sauce of your choice: mine today will be melted butter with lightly fried sage leaves (before they are killed by the coming frost tomorrow) and some grated Parmigiano reggiano on top.

Or have a plate of gnocchi with tomato sauce, freshly torn basil leaves and grated Parmigiano reggiano. For a more substantial supper here is a quick blue cheese sauce which we knock together to use up some small pieces in the fridge to go with the gnocchi, brokkoli & bacon or not.

Blue cheese sauce
A softer blue cheese like Fourme d’Ambert, Bleu d’Auvergne, Gorgonzola
other soft cheese (camembert etc. if you need to use some up, some rests, please add them as long as they are not overpowering the blue)
a little knob of butter
½ garlic clove, finely minced
1-2 larger sage leaves, finely chopped
cream or milk
salt, white pepper, nutmeg

Melt a knob of butter in a saucepan, add the garlic and sage, stir a little and add the blue cheese and other cheese. Add a little milk or cream and let the cheeses melt. Add more liquid if the sauce gets too thick. Season with salt & white pepper and maybe a little nutmeg, too.

Use sparingly with the gnocchi and add some quickly blanched brokkoli to balance the richness. Also, great taste on its own. Some husbands or hungry people might be demanding bacon to be added to this supper. Mine definitely does and he is right, it tastes good.