When it comes to summer produce, less is more. Look for recipes that highlight the vegetable, not the other ingredients!

“This cannot be right.”

I’m standing in a client’s kitchen making what — I hope — will become corn soup. But right now, I’m dubious.

I double-check the recipe (an oldie from Bon Appetit). Shallots, ginger, garlic, corn and liquid. My clients keep kosher, so instead of using chicken broth, I’ve poured in 3 cups of water. I’m wondering if the soup is going to have enough flavor.

I start doing the mental math that’s part of every personal chef’s day. If the soup doesn’t work, I’ll need a side dish to accompany tonight’s main course. Maybe I’ll make a salad. Or substitute the oranges and artichokes I roasted for tomorrow’s chicken. I could always run to the grocery store.

Or I could wait and see what happens with my soup.

I wait. The soup simmers enough for the corn to soften and the shallots, ginger and garlic to cook. I whir it in a blender, then taste.

Full-bodied and sunshine yellow, corn soup takes less than 30 minutes to make.

Wow. It’s like eating liquid popcorn — but with a kick, thanks to the aromatics. I stir in some buttermilk for tang, some cayenne pepper for heat, then pack it up with serving instructions for my clients.

What was I so worried about? When it comes to local produce, I need to keep it simple, Susan.

With August winding down, I’m cooking with as much end-of-summer bounty as I can. I’ve fallen hard for corn soup, but I’m also a huge fan of the curried carrot and coconut milk soup featured in 2004’s The Gourmet Cookbook. Both rely on the freshest produce and a few pantry staples. Both can be made a day or two ahead and are good served hot or cold. Both are fast. (And easy … cleaning the blender is the hardest part!)

Best of all, both use plenty of what’s overflowing in the garden, at the farmer’s market and in the CSA basket. I know I can make these soups in the winter: Frozen corn and bagged carrots will do in a pinch. But for a true taste of summer, I’m making them now.

I hope you do, too.

Corn & Buttermilk Soup (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Add 1 chopped shallot, 1 minced garlic clove and 1 tablespoon minced ginger. Saute until shallot is tender. Add salt, pepper, 3 to 3 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels and 3 cups chicken broth or water. Bring to a boil, then simmer 15 minutes, or until corn is tender.

Cool slightly. Puree in a blender until smooth. Return to pot (for a smoother soup, push through a sieve) and add 1/2 cup buttermilk. Taste for seasonings. Add a dash of cayenne pepper. Chill, if desired.


Curried Carrot & Coconut Milk Soup (The Gourmet Cookbook, 2004)

Melt 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped green onions, 2/3 cup chopped onion and 1 tablespoon grated ginger. Saute until onion is tender.

Stir in 1 tablespoon minced ginger, 1 large minced garlic clove and 1 tablespoon curry powder. Cook for 1 minute.

Add 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced carrots, 2 1/2 cups water or chicken broth, salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer until carrots are soft, about 20 minutes.

Cool slightly. Puree in a blender. Return to pot and stir in 1 cup well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk. Squeeze in the juice of a lime. Taste, adding more salt, pepper and lime juice as needed. Chill, if desired.