I know this is going to turn some people off, so let me just get it out there first. This soup is vegan. Yes, as in no meat, no dairy, no eggs. I know some of you are thinking, It would be so much better with cream or chicken stock”, but take it from an unapologetic meat-eater; this soup works better without a meat stock or dairy.
How could this be? Well, let’s start with the base. Leeks are a great way to add a lot of flavor to any dish, and caramelizing them makes them sweeter and more mellow, while developing a ton of flavorful compounds through the Maillard reaction.
If you’ve ever marveled at how the savory sweet flavor of corn lingers in your mouth long after you’ve gnawed the last kernel off the cob, it’s because corn is a food with a relatively large amount of glutamic acids. This group of organic compounds is what’s responsible for setting off the umami taste receptors on your tongue. MSG is the synthesized version of these naturally occurring compounds. By making a stock with the cobs of the corn before adding the corn itself, you’re extracting the most flavor from the corn as possible.
The caramelized leeks, corn and water are enough to make a delicious soup, but I decided to up the ante and added some soymilk. The soymilk not only adds additional creaminess, it also contributes a subtle nuttiness that that’s a nice compliment to the corn. Soy is also high in glutamic acids, which means it brings even more umami to the party.
Tomatoes are also a food with a lot of umami compounds and roasting them only accentuates this through the aforementioned Maillard reaction. They’re also pretty to look at and provide a nice sweet and sour contrast to the “rich” soup.
I put “rich” in quotes not because I’m trying to be sarcastic, but because it’s not the cloying kind of richness imparted by adding fat (butter or cream). Instead, it’s a richness that comes from a complex mélange of flavors, all possible courtesy of some very tasty summer vegetables.
Vegan Corn Soup
Though corn soup is often served with a cream or chicken stock, you will prefer this vegan version. Marc Matsumoto explains why this vegan soup is better than a chicken or cream stock in a full post on the Fresh Tastes blog.
- 6 ears sweet corn
- 10 ounces cherry tomatoes
- 1 medium leek about 10 ounces
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-2 cups soy milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- Strip the corn off the cob with a sharp knife straight into a bowl to catch the juices along with the corn. Run the back of the knife along each stripped cob to extract as much pulp as you can.
- Cut each stripped cob in half, and add them to a pot with 6 cups of water. Boil the cobs for 1 hour to make a corn stock. Remove the cobs and measure out 4 cups of liquid, add water if you don't have enough.
- I the meantime, drizzle the tomatoes with a generous amount of olive oil, and then salt and pepper. Toss to coat and place them in a 350 degree oven until shriveled and caramelized (about 20-30 minutes)
- Add 3/4 of the corn to a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. Strain the purée through a fine mesh sieve back into the bowl with the rest of the corn and set aside.
- Clean the leek and slice it as thinly as possible. There's often grit trapped between the leaves, so I usually drop the sliced leeks into a colander and submerge it in a bowl of water to let the grit settle to the bottom. Drain and dry the leeks with a salad spinner or paper towels, then add them to a pot with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Sauté the leeks until they are a quarter of their original volume and they are starting to brown. Add the 4 cups of corn stock, boil for 10 minutes, and then add to a heatproof food processor or blender and puree. Be very careful when blending hot liquids as the sudden release of steam has a tendency to blow the lid off of blenders. Start it at a low speed with the lid covered with a towel, and then slowly increase the speed.
- Add the blended leek mixture back into the pot a long with the corn and corn juice. Add 1-2 cups (depending on how thick you want it) of soy milk and bring to a boil. Add the salt and white pepper and adjust after tasting.
- This soup is delicious hot or cold. To serve, just ladle the soup into bowls and use a spoon to carefully place a few roasted tomatoes on top of the soup. Drizzle a little of the olive oil from the roasted tomatoes onto the soup and serve.
Yield: 4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.