What would you do given carrots, celery, corn and zucchini?
It was Produce Challenge week. The challenge? To create and plate a dish using only produce that we had on hand, in just one hour. What appeared initially to be an easy everything but the kitchen sink challenge was, in fact, the opposite. It required a selective curation of pantry ingredients and decisions on specific proportions based on an understanding of the flavor of each ingredient. To take a break from the composite recipes of late, I decided on Corn and Zucchini Chowder with Chickpea Cheese Croutons.
The word chowder comes from the French word “chaudiere,” referring to a large three legged iron cauldron in which the French fishermen used to make hearty seafood stews. French fishermen introduced this dish to Newfoundland, Quebec, when they settled in these areas in the 1600s. By mid 1700s, chaudiere had a stake in the kitchens of English-speaking Newfoundlanders and New Englanders. The main ingredient of a chowder is typically seafood-based, such as clams, and thickened with flour.
The truth is, I was never one to like corn until I tasted Hokkaido sweet corn. Hokkaido-grown corn is a phenomenally flavorful corn boasting caramel-like sweetness and clothed in a vibrant golden sheen, indicative of high concentrations of beneficial phytonutrients called caratenoids. According to one source, the environment it is grown in has a large difference in temperature during day and night. The cool nights mean the sugar created in the day does not turn into starch thus preserving the sweetness. High temperatures accelerate the conversion of sugar to starch and subsequent quality loss. Although it is slightly pricier than regular corn, it is worth the premium.
This version of raw corn chowder is thickened with cashew cream. I also used miso to add a depth of flavor which is otherwise difficult to create in raw soups. I strained half the mixture to achieve a semi-thick consistency. Overall the sweetness of the corn, carrot and zucchini was well balanced against the saltiness of the celery and miso.
The chickpea cheese croutons was an experiment. It was meant to to light and crispy, but unfortunately this did not materialize. It was dry and hard and could do with more nutritional yeast and lemon juice for the cheese flavor.
We were asked to grade ourselves based on the following criteria:
Creativity – 3
Flavor – 3.5
Plating – 3 (some of the garnish sank into the soup)
Portion Size – 5
Thought – 4
Preparation – 4
Effort – 4
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels shaved off the cob, plus 2 tablespoons for texture and garnish (see Notes)
- 1 cup zucchini, diced
- ¼ cup carrot, diced
- ¼ cup celery, diced
- 2 tablespoons soaked cashews
- ½ teaspoon white miso
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- ½ tablespoon nutritional yeast powder
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon dried parsley
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Place chowder ingredients except the extra corn in a high speed blender and blend until smooth. Remove half of the mixture and strain through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Return the strained liquid to the blender and blend again. Add in the corn and serve in soup bowls. Garnish with additional corn and celery leaves.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, spices). Create a well and add in the wet ingredients (water, oil, lemon juice). Form into a dough, then press out into ½-inch thickness. Place dough onto parchment paper and score. Dehydrate until crispy.