HEY, August. It’s us. We’re back.
We’ve been running around with summer foods and summer places and summer friends because it’s been a strange and hard summer (year), and the best way we know how to take care of ourselves and others with some daily show of kindness is usually by cooking together. See also: Julia Turshen’s upcoming book Feed the Resistance: Recipes + Ideas for Getting Involved.
Which brings us to now. Late August. Just in time to tell you about some of the good things, the things that have been getting us through, getting us up, getting us out: the things we’ve been eating all summer long before the season rolls out of here. There have been taco feasts and every kind of fruit crumble and hot weather drinks by the pitcher on porches. Stacks of watermelon slices taken for road trip snacks—and subsequently, stacks of rinds held in seat-belted laps because who remembers a trash bag when you’re just so excited you remembered to bring the watermelon in the car in the first place? There have been multiple cone ice cream afternoons. Popsicle breakfasts. Tomato lunches/dinners/snacks. No shortage of every kind of salad and seafood.
Which just about catches us up to August: the most insane month for produce. Have you been to a farm or a farm stand or just any old supermarket for that matter lately? It’s nuts. It’s overwhelming. The colors, the smells, the number of peaches, plums, apricots, plum-apricot hybrids (heeeyyyy, pluots), plum-apricot-CHERRY hybrids, corn, tomatoes, berries, herbs, greens: it’s all happening. It’s almost ridiculous.
The joy and the problem of ingredients this time of year are one and the same: they’re all incredible. How can you possibly get to everything good while everything good is at its peak?
Not an easy task, but you know, we’re here to do our best.
Give us everything you’ve got while you can.
So let’s get to it with two of the most important guys on the August all-star team: Tomatoes. And corn.
Pick up the juiciest, brightest, ripest version of each and eat them in everything this month—including the reason we’re writing today: a cold summer soup that requires—hey!—no cooking. Which means even on the hottest, most humid of days (ok, some would say grossest, but we’re going to SOAK. IT. IN.—you’re going to miss August sweatiness the second you have to trade it in for a sweater), you’ve got dinner done without adding to the heat. AND because you’re making a cold soup, you can have lunch/dinner done for several days after, too—the leftovers are just as good, if not better.
And in case you’re looking for some seasonal science reading: here’s an article on why heirloom tomatoes really do taste so good.
And now, get off your computer, make this soup, eat it outside, and stay out as long as you can.
* * * *
Cold Summer Tomato Soup with Fennel + Corn
Serves about 4
-A food mill (if you don’t have a food mill, you can just stick with a blender all the way through)
- Kernels from 3 ears of corn
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 3 tbs olive oil
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 strips of lemon zest
- 1 leek, white & light green parts chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced + some fennel fronds reserved for toppings (see below)
- About 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, heirlooms if you can get them (or whatever the best looking tomatoes you can find are), roughly chopped
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 tsp kosher or sea salt + more to taste
- Handful of cilantro, chopped
- 1 small jalapeño, seeded, ribs removed & chopped
- 1/2 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
- Fennel fronds, chopped
- Drizzle of cream/half & half or dollop of yogurt
* Warm 1 of the tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the red paper flakes, fennel seeds, and garlic.
* When spices and garlic are fragrant (but not yet browned), add the leek, sliced fennel, lemon strips, and a sprinkle of salt. Stir, then cover to sweat the vegetables until tender. This will take about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
* Add your tomatoes to a blender to purée. While the blender is running, add 1 tsp of salt, a pinch of sugar, and the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
* Place your food mill, with the medium disk in place, over a bowl. Pass the leek fennel mixture through the food mill, then repeat with your tomato purée. This will catch any skins/seeds/fibrous bits of the vegetables. Add the vegetable broth and mix everything together. If you are using a blender instead, work in batches to combine the fennel and leek mixture with the tomatoes and broth. Process until smooth.
* Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or even overnight, until very cold. This will bring the soup to the right temperature to eat, but will also give the flavors time to round out.
* When ready to serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Divide the corn among each bowls and top with the cilantro, fennel slices & fronds, and a drizzle of cream or yogurt.
© 2017 Lee and Lou Cook. All rights reserved.