Ciao'd with a Cape Codder and the Republican Convention.
Galavanting around the Cape, we pass all manner of farm stands. Some are simple; a lone gray wood stand at the bottom of a gravel driveway with an "honor jar" in which to place our coins and dollars. Others burst with local fruits and vegetables, and flowers, too. Black-Eyed Susans, Queen Anne's Lace, and the neon blue hydrangeas that the sandy Cape Cod soil nourish. Still others up the "eat local" ante with beach plum jam and honey produced by the bees that pollinate the local cranberry bogs.
Regardless of their pedigree, at this time of the summer, stands blossom with fresh, local corn. Silver Queen, Sugar and Butter, Honey and Cream and Sugar Bun. The varietal names lyricize the romance of a summer farm stand in New England. I wonder how the farmer conjured the name. Had he just had his breakfast and the images of sugar in his spoon and butter on his toast linger in his mind's eye? Did she remember the aroma of sugar buns in the oven and their soft goldenness kissed with creamy icing? The names are a whisper of the flavor within. Milky sweet, crisp with a hint of grass, at once rich and thin.
Take the "just pikt" ears home and stash them in a cool part of the porch. Just before dinner, coax a child or two to join in with the husking. And then make this fresh summer corn soup.
FRESH CORN SOUP
The smokiness of the ham in this refreshing soup plays well with the corn's sweetness. I like to add zucchini, too, which contributes a soft crunch and a green color pop. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand or whichever may lure you at the farmstand when you collect your corn. Like summer, anything goes!
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces speck or other smoked ham, cut into ½-inch dice
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
3 cups corn kernels (about 3 large ears)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
4 cups water or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the speck and cook until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the speck to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant,about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini, stir to coat with the oil and, cook until crisp-tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the corn, basil, speck, and water, bring to a simmer and cook just until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.