Manhattan Corn Chowder

Not really, silly. The word “Manhattan” here, of course, simply stands in for “tomato-based,” and though there may be who-knows-how-many similar vegetable soups enjoyed on the island of Manhattan, mine has never graced its turf. Yet while I may be slightly offish about Manhattan, I am not adverse to clams; my boyfriend is. Like relationships, it’s funny how some recipes begin: I had a craving for something soupy this week. (Most people I know avoid hot soups like the plague in the summer, slurping instead on gazpacho and vicchyssoise and chilly concoctions crackling with cucumbers and swimming in raw juices. But I don’t mind them.) I had all these lovely vegetables and herbs and was sick of salads. And corn was up for a turn on the chopping block.

Since I was still coming out of the cheesy haze of last week’s chilaquiles, I put my foot down on at the notion of corn chowder in all its creamy and possibly bacony glory. Thus, this heinously simple and fresh soup was born. I know it lacks the punch of clam juice, but it favors instead the mild sweetness of fresh corn and bell pepper. A generous infusion of fresh thyme finishes it off with a woodsy, peppery aroma.

In another life, yes, this could have been a corn gazpacho.

Manhattan Corn Chowder
(makes about 4 servings)

kernels from 2 large ears of corn
1 small potato, diced (and peeled if desired)
1 stalk celery (and a good handful of celery leaves if available), finely chopped
1/2 medium onion or 1 small onion, chopped (if using fresh onions, as I did, also chop its scallion-like stem and add this to the soup at the same time)
1/2 medium-large yellow or orange pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 8oz can stewed tomatoes, with liquid
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock (preferably homemade or low-sodium)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their sprigs
2 tsp fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
coarse salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 Tb extra-virgin olive oil

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add potato, celery, onion, pepper, garlic and thyme and saute on medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until onion is just softened. Add tomatoes in their juice and stock and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and let simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the fresh corn and basil and cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove cover, taste for seasoning, and serve.

Cost Calculator
(for 4 servings)

2 large ears of corn (at 3/$1): $0.67
1 small red potato (at $1/lb): $0.30
1 stalk celery (at $2/bunch): $0.20
1/2 orange pepper (on sale at $2.99/lb): $0.45
1 8oz can stewed tomatoes: $1.49
3 cups homemade chicken stock: $1.00
1 tsp fresh thyme (at $1.99/generous bunch): $0.35
2 tsp fresh basil (from my plant): $0.20
salt, pepper, 1 bay leaf, 1 clove garlic: $0.15

Total: $4.81

Health Factor

Two brownie points: Recipes like these are the reason I have the awesomely unscientific “health factor” in my blog. It’s a way of saying, I can make a big bowl of soup four nights in a row on one tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. And that’s not something you’ll see every day. (Granted, the homemade chicken stock I pulled from the freezer for this may have had a slight sheen of fatty traces. I also don’t measure first when I pour olive oil in the bottom of the pan, as you might imagine, so that statement may be inaccurate from the get-go.) However, the point is, I wouldn’t trust any respecting restaurant with my right arm to ease up a little on olive oil — or butter, or some other oil — even in their “healthier” soups. But it’ll do just fine for me sometimes, here at home. Besides, I always hated the thick film of sticky, red grease that clings to a plastic spoon when you get soup to go in the first place. This happens especially with Manhattan clam chowder.

7 Responses

  1. Aoife

    Ooh, that looks good. I admit that as a New Englander, my bias is always against the Manhattan chowder, but it may be acceptable in corn form.

  2. Yvo

    I agree that the filmy sheen on plastic spoons when you have tomato based soups from to go places is disgusting… This looks yummy! I also occasionally indulge in hot soup on a hot night even though I don’t currently have AC… haha. Hey, sweating is nature’s AC, !!! Um, maybe not, but explain to me why Vietnamese food includes pho, then… when it’s notoriously hot and humid in Vietnam =P Hehe.

    PS Love the picture.

  3. Michelle

    This looks delicious! I like how versatile this soup is… you can throw in whatever vegetables are around. Currently, my fridge runneth over with all kinds of summer squash. This is a great way to whittle down the supply.

  4. Trish

    This looks very very yummy! I’ve copied the recipe and will be trying soon – I’ve got corn and tomatoes all over the place!

  5. Bipolarlawyercook

    Thanks for the inspiration– I made sort of a southwestern-ish twist on your idea, posted over at my blog.

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