Personalize this recipe by trying different pepper combinations. A hot-sweet combo contrast is nice, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Have fun experimenting. Just remember, some of the peppers are hot enough to melt the iceberg.
- For the coulis
- 1 or 2 medium thick-walled bell peppers, such as Bullnose, Quadrato d' Asti Giallo, Marconi Gold or Red, Acongagua or Jupiter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, smashed
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For the soup
- 4 ears corn, shucked, preferably bicolor
- 1 medium sweet onion such as Walla-Walla, chopped (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large (8 ounces) red bliss or yukon gold potato, unpeeled and cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth (may substitute chicken broth)
- 4 medium jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded and minced, or to taste, plus a few thin crosswise slices for garnish
- 1 cup low-fat buttermilk or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Flesh of 1/2 ripe avocado, cut into 1/2-inch chunks, for garnish
- Leaves from 2 to 4 stems cilantro, minced, for garnish
- 6 teaspoons crème fraîche, for garnish
For the coulis: Char the bell pepper(s) over gas flame or under the oven broiler until it is blackened on all sides. Enclose in a paper bag; let stand for 10 minutes, then peel, seed and coarsely chop to yield about 1 cup loosely packed. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor; add the oil and garlic. Puree until smooth, to form a coulis. Transfer to a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the soup: Use the sharp edge of a chef's knife to cut the kernels off the cobs, letting them fall into a large bowl. Be careful not to cut off more than two-thirds of the kernel, otherwise you will cut into the tough part of the corn kernel. Then use the dull side of the knife to scrape the remaining milky part of the kernels, still on the cob, into the bowl (yield is 3 1/2 to 4 cups).
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 8 minutes, until the onion begins to brown. Add the corn, potatoes and jalapeno peppers; mix well, then add the broth. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the corn and potatoes are tender.
Use an immersion (stick) blender to puree the mixture in the saucepan to form a soup that is chunky or smooth; your choice. Reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the buttermilk, or more as needed to achieve a soupy consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide among individual bowls, then spoon 2 tablespoons of the coulis into the center of each serving. Use a knife to create a swirl effect on the surface of the soup. (Reserve any leftover coulis; refrigerate or freeze in plastic wrap.)
Top each serving with a couple chunks of avocado, cilantro, jalapeno slices and a teaspoon of craeme fraiche. Serve immediately.
From Cynthia A. Brown, assistant director at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria.
Tested by Cynthia A. Brown.
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