This is a variation on a corn, basil, and tomato salad that I made every week in August last year. The tomatoes are not quite worth their $4.50 a pound at the greenmarket, so my sweet corn and basil had to cosy up to some pimentòn de la vera instead. The barest hint of smoke and spice adds a bacon-esque richness to what is otherwise a very lean soup, and a squeeze of lime brightens the flavors. Making a stock from the cobs and basil stems gives the soup a little more depth. I made sure to keep boiling time to a minimum, since the entire point of summer cooking is to stay away from the stove whenever possible. We all know that time is better spent at the beach.
Corn and Basil Chowder
4 ears of sweet corn
4 c water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs butter
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I used agridulce, but hot or sweet would also work)
1c basil leaves, lightly packed (reserve the stems)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Using a sharp knife, slice the kernels of corn from the cob. Reserve corn, and place the cobs and basil stems in a large pot. Cover with the water, bring to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
Chiffonade the basil leaves, set aside. Mince the garlic.
In a small skillet, heat the butter on medium-high until it foams. Stir in the garlic and cook 2 minutes or until fragrant. Remove from heat. Stir in paprika and salt.
Turn off the simmering pot of cobs. Discard the basil stems. Lift the cobs out of the water with tongs and shake excess water into the pot. Transfer to a cutting board and hold with the tongs in one hand while you scrape the last bits of corn off with the back of your knife. Discard cobs, add corn scrapings to the pot.
Add garlic mixture, corn kernels, and basil to the pot of corn stock. Squeeze the lime half over the pot and add a few grinds of black pepper. Stir everything up and taste it. Add more salt or pepper if you like.
Serve warm, room-temperature, or cold. The flavors develop after a day or two in the refrigerator, and the soup keeps up to a week. Makes an excellent breakfast on days you don’t want to cook.