Category: Soup

What Did I Discover in My Refrigerator? It Wasn’t a Science Experiment!

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Every once in a while it is fun for me to rummage around in my refrigerator and pantry to see what I have on hand and what I could prepare without having to make a trip to the farm market or grocery. The search resulted in the following recipe, which uses some of the early summer ingredients to prepare an easily assembled, hearty, and satisfying sweet corn chowder.

I used shrimp in this dish, since I had them on hand, although I’ve made this chowder in the past using crabmeat. The base stock was prepared using both the stripped corncobs and the peeled shrimp shells, cooked separately, then strained and combined. The remainder of the dish was composed of ingredients I had on hand from my local farm market: sweet white corn, bulb onions, scallions, a fennel bulb, carrot, celery, mini Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped tomato with the juice, a bundle of fresh thyme from my garden, and salt and pepper.


Sweet Corn Chowder with Shrimp


6 ears of sweet white corn (although yellow could be substituted)

1½ pounds of medium shrimp, shells on

2 large bulb onions (although 1 large white or sweet onion could be substituted)

2 to 3 large scallions, trimmed

½ large fennel bulb

1 large carrot

3 to 4 stalks of celery

13 mini Yukon Gold potatoes

2 to 3 chopped medium ripe tomatoes or one 15-oz can of organic chunk tomatoes

Bundle of fresh thyme stems tied together like a bouquet garni

Salt and pepper



Shuck the 6 ears of corn, using a sharp knife slice the kernels off the ears and set aside. Place the trimmed cobs into a large stockpot with 6 cups of water and gently boil down until reduced by one-third. Discard the cobs and set the water aside in the stockpot.

Poaching cobs

While the corncobs are poaching, using another stockpot, boil 2 cups of water and drop the shrimp in to poach for 3 minutes. Strain the shrimp, keeping the water, and set them aside to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, peel and devein as needed, including removing the tails, and set the shrimp aside.

Shrimp shells

Including the water used to poach the shrimp, add a total of 6 more cups to the reserved corncob water along with the shrimp shells, and gently boil down until again reduced by one-third. Remove the shells and once cool enough to handle, strain all the poaching water into one stockpot that should yield approximately 8 cups total and will be used as the base stock for the chowder. Set aside.

Mince the onions, scallions, fennel, carrot, and celery, to confetti size and set aside. Cut the potatoes into quarters, rough chop the tomatoes, and tie the fresh thyme bundle. Set aside.

Mise en place

Trim the shrimp in half, then, through the center halve the wider head end while leaving the tail end whole. Set aside.

Take approximately 1½ cups of the corn kernels, spread them over a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, and place under the broiler to lightly toast and heighten their flavor, which will add a light smokiness to the chowder. Work quickly, keeping an eye on the kernels to prevent them from burning or becoming popcorn!

Toasted corn, corn kernels, sliced shrimp

Set them aside to cool as you are now ready to assemble the chowder.

In a large stockpot melt 3 tablespoons of butter in 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, add the prepared onions, scallions, fennel, carrots, and celery, stirring to mix together and thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring frequently until the vegetables begin to soften and lightly color.

Add the quartered potatoes, stirring to coat and incorporate into the sautéed vegetables. Continue to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the potatoes are just fork tender but still slightly firm.

Add the stock, tomatoes, thyme bundle, corn both raw and toasted, additional salt and pepper to taste, and raise the heat to a gentle boil. If the chowder looks to be too dense add more water, 2 cups at a time, until you arrive at the correct consistency–not too thick like porridge but not too thin.

Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir cook and stir until the potatoes can be easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Now add the shrimp, turning them over to disperse throughout the chowder. Check and adjust the seasoning and add more water if necessary. Cook another 5 to 6 minutes until the shrimps are cooked through, remove the pot from the heat and cover. The chowder can be served right from the stockpot, however like most soups and stews, they are better on the second day as the flavors have had a chance to develop and improve overnight. If serving the next day, gently reheat, mixing from the bottom of the pot since most of the ingredients have settled to the bottom while resting overnight. Garnish a bowl with finely minced fennel fronds or parsley and accompany with toasted crusty bread or biscuits.


A nice way to make use of the summer’s sweet corn and other garden vegetables you might have hiding in the back of your refrigerator. Enjoy!

Be well. Eat Well.


Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, rather than endure.

Note: A correction—in the Dessert segment of the last post, specifically the Crostada recipe, I failed to include a baking time. Use 40 to 45 minutes, checking at that time to make certain the crust is not too brown, and the fruit filling is gently bubbling.


What’s That Floating in My Soup?

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With the late-winter surge Mother Nature just served us, it seems as though we are going to have to tough it out another week or so before we really get to warmer spring temperatures. A steaming bowl of hot soup has always been comforting against the cold of winter, and this seemed like just the right time to heat some up.

It is not always practical to cook just for two people so it is not unusual to find extra containers of soup or stock in my freezer. Rummaging around this time, I found extra containers of roasted garlic soup. This soup has the consistency of velvety bisque and was inspired by a recipe I read about years ago and later found in my copy of chef Susan Spicer’s book Crescent City Cooking. Over the years I have prepared this soup many times, adjusting here and there, ending up with the recipe I posted on the blog back in December 2014 in a piece entitled Garlic Is Good for Everything, where I offered a few suggestions on ways to garnish the soup, creating different presentations and flavors. But this time I was looking to do something different and make a heartier meal around the soup. Additionally, I didn’t care to go out to the market again in the cold, so the challenge was to make the meal using what I had on hand.

Inspired by a short piece I read entitled “Gambas a la Plancha” (Shrimp on the Griddle) from a back issue of Saveur magazine, and another about Barbecue Shrimp found in the latest issue of The Local Palate magazine, I knew the bag of Alaskan spot prawns in my freezer were going to be put to good use.

Along with a powdered version of harissa, the spicy condiment enjoyed throughout northern Africa, I decided to garnish the soup with spice-rubbed, shell-on shrimp seared in a hot grill pan. To round out the shrimp preparation, I coated the shrimp with garlic jam before liberally dusting them with the harissa. To finish the dish, I referred to a very old recipe from my archives that I call a hybrid aioli prepared with olive oil-braised fennel, placing a dollop on the shrimp as they are floated in the soup.

To summarize what you would be working with here, the soup recipe as noted can be found in the blog archives, then the harissa, garlic jam, the shrimp, and the fennel aioli are featured in this post.

Harissa is a chili-based condiment used widely in Tunisian, Algerian, and Moroccan cooking to name a few. It can be used as a cooking spice but more generally it’s a finishing condiment at the table, adding a little heat to punctuate dishes such as soups, couscous, and stews. Commercially prepared harissa can be found in specialty food shops that feature oils, olives, preserved lemons, spices, and dried herbs, although it is just as easy to make your own. There are many different recipes to reference in cookbooks and online as there seems to be no one “master” recipe. The mix generally includes one or more types of toasted dried chilies, coriander, cumin, caraway, and salt, ground into a powder. Garlic and olive oil can be incorporated into the mix that results in a paste form of the condiment.

The garlic jam is just what it sounds like—a roasted spread—that I have on hand all the time. It is quite easy to make, and has many uses such as a coating for most anything to be seared, roasted, or grilled; as an ingredient to punctuate a salad dressing; as a sauce for grilled or roasted vegetables; or simply the base for toasted garlic bread.

Using one full head of garlic and a full head of elephant garlic, slice approximately ¼ inch off the top of the head of regular garlic and leave both garlics unpeeled. Place in an ovenproof baking dish, coat with olive oil, cover with foil, and roast in a preheated 325-degree oven for an hour or until very soft when pierced with the point of a knife.

When the garlic is cool enough to handle, peel and cut the root end off the elephant garlic, squeeze the soft garlic from the smaller cut cloves, adding all along with the roasting oil into the work bowl of a food processor. Along with the roasted garlic add a ¼ section of finely minced preserved lemon, finely minced parsley leaves with tender stems, and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste. Process, slowly adding olive oil through the feed tube, as necessary, until a smooth emulsion is formed. The jam can be stored in the refrigerator, in jars, topped by olive oil for many weeks as long as after each use the remainder is again topped off with olive oil. Or it can be frozen indefinitely.


Olive Oil-Braised Fennel Aioli

1 large fennel bulb and stalks, set fronds aside
3 large garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
1 tablespoon dry white wine or white vermouth
1 teaspoon toasted and finely ground fennel seeds
2 egg yolks

Chop the fennel and garlic cloves. Sauté over medium heat in the olive oil until lightly caramelized and very soft.

When cool, place the fennel and all the sauté oil in the work bowl of a food processor along with the lemon juice, wine or vermouth, fennel seeds, egg yolks; salt and pepper to taste.

Process slowly until mixed, then raise the speed and process until a smooth emulsion is formed. Scrape down the sides as necessary to make sure all the fennel gets pureed and then check the seasoning, correcting as needed. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Fennel aioli



In this recipe Alaskan spot prawns are used. These large crustaceans are taken from southeastern Alaskan waters, sustainably harvested, flash frozen and shipped.

A pound generally contains an average of 10 prawns or less and, if sourced with the heads intact and a roe sac attached to the females, makes for a more dramatic presentation and flavor. If these Alaskan prawns cannot be found, then colossal shrimp (U8) will work just as well.

8 to 10 Alaskan spot prawns or colossal shrimp
Garlic jam
Harissa powder mix


Once the prawns are thawed in the refrigerator overnight, cut the shell down the length of the back but do not remove the shell.

Run the prawns under cool water, using your thumb to remove any particles or veins under the cut shells. Use paper towels to dry the prawns and place them on a large platter. Coat the prawns with garlic jam and olive oil on both sides. Sprinkle the coated prawns with the harissa powder mix on both sides. Place the platter in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Seasoned prawns

To replicate the a la plancha cooking approach, heat a cast iron pan or a grill pan over high heat, adding 4 tablespoons of olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the prawns, shells and all (the shells keep the meat moist, and since they are slit it will be easier to remove them when eating). Shake the pan continuously cooking the prawns until the shells begin to char in places, about 3 to 4 minutes before turning the prawns over and searing for another 2 minutes on the second side.

Seared a la plancha

To serve, place 2 or 3 prawns in a large soup dish, ladle the garlic soup around, and top the prawns with a tablespoon of the fennel aioli and a few fennel fronds.


Any extra prawns can be used in a frittata paired with spinach or shredded into a risotto. They certainly won’t go to waste!

Along with the bowl of hot garlic soup, the harissa coating the prawns will raise the temperature of the room a degree or two more helping you ward off this last of the winter cold.

Eat well. Be well.
We can simply treat food as nothing more than fuel or instead enjoy and appreciate its every quality.