Although I have always been disdainful of vegan food, I made this soup for a vegan friend of mine several years ago and with surprisingly delightful results. The corn broth is somewhat based off a corn and crab soup in an old issue of Food and Wine, and I was inspired by the great combination of corn and mushrooms and the limitations of vegan fare. The mild corn broth acts as a great foil for the hearty, earthy mushrooms that really take center stage here. It's a great early fall recipe, especially if you can still find the end of summer corn at your farmer's market. —Lauren Shockey
6 as an appetizer
medium yellow onion, chopped
rib celery, chopped
leek, white part only, chopped
clove garlic, chopped
ears corn, shucked and kernels stripped from the cob
assorted fresh mushrooms (such as oyster, shiitake, cremini, trumpet, or portobello), trimmed and sliced about ½” thick
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat two tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the onion, carrot, leek, celery, and garlic and cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add the corn kernels, bay leaf, and saffron, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot and you begin to see ripples in the oil, add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring only occasionally (if you stir too frequently, the mushrooms will not caramelize). After about five minutes, add the thyme and shallot and season well with salt and pepper. When there is no more liquid left in the pan, about five more minutes, remove the mushrooms and set aside
Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or transfer the soup to a blender and puree). Then strain the soup through a fine-meshed sieve and discard the pulp (you may need to use the back of a spoon to help pass the soup through the sieve). Season with salt to taste, about 1/2 to 1 tablespoon. Serve the strained soup into bowls and top with the mushroom ragout.
Lauren Shockey is a New York City-based food writer and author of the cookbook Hangover Helper as well as the culinary memoir Four Kitchens. Previously the restaurant critic at the Village Voice, she has written for such publications as The New York Times, Travel + Leisure and the Wall Street Journal.