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Save Those Naked Cobs for Silky, Superior Spiced Corn Soup (in 4 Steps!)

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Like many obsessive cookbook collectors, I’ve been transfixed by Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, which has lived on my kitchen counter since its arrival but which travels with me, too—what if I get stuck somewhere?! I open it whenever I can, each peek invariably leading to a few more pages dog-eared, a recipe or technique I will try soon.

This may even be better than hot corn on the cob. Photos by Alexandra Stafford

I recently made Samin’s silky sweet corn soup, which I love for its simplicity and economy—it calls for stripping the kernels from 10 ears of corn, then making a quick stock with the naked cobs and water. When I wrote about it on my blog, a commenter pointed me to the curried coconut corn soup recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soups, which employs the same corn-cob stock technique.

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Make the most out of your food "waste."
Make the most out of your food "waste." Photo by Alexandra Stafford

With the local sweet corn abound at the market, I had to make it immediately. Despite a lengthier ingredient list than Samin’s, the soup came together incredibly quickly and tasted complex, deeply curried with subtle sweet and sour notes. Like Julia Turshen’s curried lentils with coconut milk, it seems to materialize from nothing or almost nothing: the sweetest, freshest corn you can find will make all the difference here.

Use the freshest corn for this.
Use the freshest corn for this. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Here’s the basic process:

1. Remove the kernels from four ears of corn, peel an onion, then make a stock with the trimmings (the cobs and onion skins) along with a few sprigs of cilantro sprigs.

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2. As the stock simmers, finely dice the onion and chop some cilantro.

3. Strain the stock, then sauté the onion and add the spices, salt, a can of coconut milk, the corn kernels, and your homemade corn stock.

4. After 10 minutes of simmering, squeeze in the juice from one lime and adjust seasonings to taste.

That’s it!

Hot, chilled, lukewarm—there's no way in which this soup won't satisfy.
Hot, chilled, lukewarm—there's no way in which this soup won't satisfy. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

While I’ve only ever eaten this soup piping hot with tons of black pepper, Deborah notes “it’s the kind of soup that’s good warm, tepid, and even chilled.” When served warm, she likes to serve it over basmati rice, and whether it’s chilled or hot, she suggests serving it with a swirl of yogurt and a sprig of cilantro. I’ve yet to add a single garnish, finding it deeply satisfying on its own: full of texture, spiced but not spicy, naturally sweet and tart thanks to the corn and lime, with a subtle richness and creaminess lent by the coconut milk. Warm up a hunk of bread and call dinner done.

A few notes

If you’re up for it, toast some of the spices. Deborah’s original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I find toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds before crushing them in a mortar and pestle adds considerable flavor for just a fraction more work. If you don’t feel like it, pre-ground cumin and coriander work just fine.

Toast your spices for that extra edge. Photos by Alexandra Stafford

If you want a creamy soup, purée it in a food processor or blender until smooth. Or purée just a portion of it, if you want, as Deborah says, “to thicken the background and leave the rest full of texture.”

While this soup is refreshingly mild, a bit of heat would be welcomed here. For a spicier soup, sauté a minced jalapeño along with the onion or add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with the spices or finish the soup with a splash of hot sauce.

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Curried Coconut Corn Soup

80c8d252 05ad 4f0a 8d87 5bbdefe65aa4  astafford Alexandra Stafford
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Serves 4
  • 4 ears corn, yellow or white varieties, shucked
  • 8 cilantro sprigs plus 2 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red or white onion, trimmings reserved
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds or ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot or mild paprika
  • Sea salt or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk (1 and 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste
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Tags: corn, sustainable, chilled soups