Feeling not much the student, not much the cook, but ever much the desk jockey has not been good on my psyche. I never imagined that taking a job at what is arguably BU's most rewarding but misunderstood red-headed stepchild of a department has taken its toll on me. Consequently, I've decided to take a semester off from class. Hey, mad props to the grad students who pull it off with two kids, an hour commute to class, an aging parent, a needy spouse, our any combination therein, but frankly, I think life is too damn long to justify driving myself crazy. So, my thinking cap rests perkily and patiently in the corner until I'm ready to put 'er back on.
In the meantime, it's time raining. It's cold. It's winter – still (oh, haven't you heard?) But after a surprisingly early end to the work day, I was in good spirits. An icy, soggy walk back from the train had me prepped for my first afternoon nap in ages, a cup of hot chocolate, some quality time with Murakami (who gets funnier the more I get to know him), and then a look through my cookbooks, some of which I haven't had time to open since I got them. One of them was Barbara Lynch's Stir, which was apparently a big hit by the end of last year. Now that I've finally opened it, I see why. The writing is funny and sassy without being obnoxious (I imagine it's a way of pushing her nails-tough/whip-smart Southie wunderkid angle), and the recipes are simple, thoughtful, and often genius. Her Creamy Potato Leek Soup with Bay Scallops (p. 93) prompted me to close the book and take to the kitchen. I was called to a mission to make myself a similar creation, knowing full well that I had no cream, no milk, and definitely no seafood. Ah well. This is was I came up with. Starch creates a creamy base for soup, hence the potatoes and beans. Without the butter, this could be a decent vegan chowder. I don't normally advocate for a bright, summery ingredient like corn in the throws of winter, but it was in my freezer, and these are desperate times. It came out surprisingly delicious – maybe my thinking cap snuck its way onto my dome.
Wintertime Corn Chowder
1 large shallot, minced
12 oz cannellinni beans, rinsed
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons butter or oil (olive or canola)
½ cup frozen corn kernels
2 scallions, mined into rounds
plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper
fancy olive oil for drizzling
Heat the butter or oil in a stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook until tender but not browned. Increase the heat to medium dd the beans and stir for a minute or two. Add the potatoes and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about ten minutes. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until very smooth. You may need to add a bit of water and stir the pot around, especially to break up the beans. Stir in the corn and thaw in the hot soup for a couple minutes. Season with a big pinch of salt and, oh, a dozen grindings of black pepper. Serve in a bowl topped with lots of chopped scallions, a pinch of course sea salt or fleur de sel, and maybe a drizzle of buttery olive oil. Serves 3-4.