Corn Gazpacho with Garlic Croutons

Simple and delicious straight out of the garden, abundant corn on the cob is one of the great things about being alive every summer.  You boil it up, spread on a little butter, dig in, and thank your lucky stars.  But even perfection gets boring after awhile.  This cold refreshing soup is a way to have your corn and spoon it, too.

 I was inspired by the classic Spanish gazpacho, but swapped out the tomato broth for corn liquid.  Of course, any puréed vegetable will thicken a soup, but corn happens to contain starch, which adds a seductive creaminess.  (It’s cornstarch in a box that’s used to thicken Chinese dishes.)

The supporting ingredients are the usual gazpacho players —  tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and garlic – supplemented by a line-up of some Mexican cousins:  chile, lime juice, and garlic croutons flavored with chile powder.  You can deepen the recipe’s Mexican connection by topping it off with diced avocado and chopped cilantro.  (I used basil instead of cilantro because I can’t resist the combo of basil and corn.)

A bowl of this cold corn soup is the perfect starter for a Fourth of July party, but simply adding some protein – boiled shrimp, say, or shredded rotisserie chicken – will turn it into the persuasive main course of any summer meal

This dish is pretty quick to make, but you can make it even quicker by losing the garlic croutons in favor of some crushed tortilla chips.  And, happily, it improves in flavor if you prepare it a few hours – or a few days – ahead of time.  Doing so in anticipation of the Fourth would allow you to check it off your list well before the fireworks begin.

Start to finish: 2 hours 55 minutes (55 active)
Servings: 4

For the soup:
4 cups fresh corn kernels
1 ½ cups coarsely chopped peeled English cucumber plus 1 cup diced peeled English cucumber
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
¼ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably grapeseed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup halved or quartered cherry tomatoes
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced serrano chile with the seeds
shredded fresh basil for garnish

For the croutons:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably grapeseed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon chile powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces (about 3 slices) firm white bread, crusts removed and cut into ½ -inch dice (you should have about 2 cups)

Make the soup:

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add the corn and boil for 1 minute. Drain the corn into a colander and run cold water over it to cool it down. Set aside one cup of the kernels and in a blender combine the remaining corn kernels, the coarsely chopped cucumber, garlic, lime juice, oil and salt and puree until very smooth.

Transfer the puree to a bowl and stir in the remaining corn kernels, diced cucumber,  tomatoes, red bell pepper and chile. Taste and adjust seasoning and chill for at least 2 hours and up to two days ahead before serving.

Make the croutons:

Preheat the oven to 300°F.  In a bowl combine the oil, garlic, chile powder and salt, add the bread cubes and toss well. Spread the croutons out on a parchment lined rimmed sheet pan and bake them on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the bread squares are crisp and beginning to brown. Let cool.

To serve: divide the soup among 4 bowls and top each portion with the croutons, and some shredded basil.


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