sumac corn chowder

sumac corn chowder

If you ask me, early fall is the best time for corn chowder. It’s just starting to cool down enough that a warm bowl of soup doesn’t sound like absolute torture, and summer veggies are still super fresh and in season. While you can absolutely make this soup in the cooler months ahead with frozen corn, it’s a little extra delicious this time of year because fresh ears make a huge difference if you know how to get every bit of flavor out of them.

One of the greatest (but also weirdest-sounding) tricks for getting the most out of an ear of corn is “milking the cob.” After you slice all of the kernels off, you use the side of your knife to scrape every last bit into the pot. At the end of the day, there’s nothing special about this stuff—it’s just a little extra corn. But it blends right in with the broth to give the soup a deeper corn flavor. You could always purée a quarter cup or so for a similar effect if you’re using frozen kernels instead (not that I’d ever ask you to go to the trouble—that sounds like a pain). But there’s something extra nice about eking out every last bit of an ingredient.

Oh and while we’re on the subject of cutting corn off the cob, don’t miss the video by the recipe below, which demonstrates the absolute easiest way to cut corn off the cob without making a big mess (no bunt pan or any special equipment required).

This particular corn chowder is special for a couple reasons: first, it’s drizzled with a little bit of sumac oil. Sumac goes perfectly with corn (try my corn and sumac salad if you have any doubt), and gives it that extra little bit of brightness. Also, I love to substitute sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes in just about any corn chowder I make, including this one. I used to make another variation on this recipe all the time when I was in grad school: just drizzle on some sriracha instead of sumac oil, and sprinkle a little shredded sharp cheddar on top before serving. Either way, so good!

sumac corn chowder
sumac corn chowder

sumac corn chowder

serves 6
active time: 15 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
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  • 5 ears corn (can substitute 700g/1.5 lb frozen corn)

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (25g)

  • 2 cups chopped green onions (115g)

  • Salt to taste

  • 3 tablespoons flour (25g)

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (2g)

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (2g)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock (1800g), or 6 cups if you want it to be more of a stew

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press (10g)

  • 2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and 1/2-inch diced (415g)

  • 1 cup half-and-half (240g)

  • Toppings: sumac oil (below) and cilantro

  1. Slice the corn off the cobs (see above video), and use the side of your knife to scrape the stripped cobs over the bowl of corn (safely scrape away from yourself). If you’re using frozen, don’t worry about this step.

  2. Heat a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the olive oil, followed immediately by the green onions, and a little salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon). Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, just until the whites soften a bit.

  3. Add the flour, black pepper, and turmeric, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the stock and garlic, and stir together. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then add the sweet potatoes and corn. Give it a couple minutes to come back up to a simmer, and then drop the heat down to about medium low, just to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender. Taste as it simmers, and season if necessary (this will vary, depending on how salty your stock is).

  4. Add the half-and-half, give it a stir, taste it, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

  5. Top with some cilantro and sumac oil. If the sumac oil settles, give it a gentle stir to let some of it float back up to the surface (a good trick is to pour it over the back of a spoon close to the surface of the bowl, to keep it from sinking).

Sumac oil

  • 3 tablespoons sumac / 25g

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil / 35g

Combine these two ingredients, and give them a stir immediately before drizzling.

Making it ahead: The soup keeps really well in the refrigerator for a few days, and stores beautifully in the freezer for 3 months (the sweet potatoes will soften and dissolve a bit, but they add good body and flavor to the broth). Make the sumac oil just before serving.

sumac corn chowder
sumac corn chowder

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herby corn salad

herby corn salad

My corn and sumac salad is one of my favorite things to cook and eat this time of year. It’s perfect for summer BBQs, picnics, potlucks, and even just simple weeknight dinners. My friend Majed, AKA the Cinnaman, recently tried my recipe, and he made a few fun changes, which inspired me to come up with this herby cousin of the zesty original. I’ve been really into this cilantro + mint version, but you can totally feel free to use whatever herbs you have around—basil, parsley, chives… basically any leafy herbs that you can eat by the bunch (just stay away from perfumey woody herbs, like sage, thyme, and rosemary).

herby corn salad
herby corn salad
herby corn salad
herby corn salad
herby corn salad

herby corn salad

yield: 8 to 10 servings
total time: 30 minutes
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PDF to print

  • 2 lb corn kernels, fresh or frozen (900g)

  • Extra virgin olive oil

  • Salt to taste

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (35g)

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 1 cup, tightly packed, cilantro leaves (20g) *

  • 1/4 cup mint leaves (4g)

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (45g)

  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta (100g)

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion (30g)

  • 1 dry pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (250g)

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C) convection (no worries if you don’t have convection—it might just take a couple minutes longer to roast). **

  2. Coat the corn with about 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt to taste (about ¼ teaspoon). Spread out on a sheet pan in 1 even layer, and roast for 20 minutes for frozen, or just 10 to 15 minutes for fresh. In the last 7 minutes of roasting, sprinkle the pine nuts on top of the corn so they have a chance to get a little light brown.

  3. While the corn is roasting, add the garlic to a food processor, and pulse a couple times until minced. Add the cilantro, mint, 1/4 cup olive oil (55g) to the food processor, and blend until finely minced. Add the lemon juice, and salt to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon), and blend for about a minute, until everything comes together into a dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

  4. Remove the roasted corn and pine nuts to a mixing bowl, add the feta, green onion, cherry tomatoes, and dressing, and toss everything together.

To make ahead: This salad keeps super well, even after tossing together. If you’re making it for company, you can easily toss everything together a couple hours before guests arrive, and leave it in the fridge. Leftovers will keep for at least 2 or 3 days.

* You can substitute parsley or basil instead.
** If it’s the middle of summer and so 1) you don’t feel like turning on your oven and 2) you have plenty of fresh corn on the cob, you can do this instead: Preheat your grill to high. Coat the corn in some olive oil. Place the ears directly on the grates. Rotate the ears when one side develops a nice golden color and a few dark brown spots, being careful not to let the whole side burn. Once they're evenly grilled, remove and cool on a cutting board. Once you can handle them, cut the corn off the ears.

herby corn salad

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