We’re in Tofino at the moment, eating as many summery things as possible – including but not limited to: Dungeness crab we caught ourselves (to great excitement from the cousins) using the scraps left over from our roasted salmon and trout, fresh halibut, lingcod and fish tacos, strawberries from Port Alberni, locally cured bacon and sausage, jelly doughnuts named after the mayor, kale and tiny yellow tomatoes from Catface mountain, peaches, Damson plums and blueberries from the Okanagan, Bamfield Seaweed Salad, eggs from Nanoose bay, Humboldt shrimp, goat cheese and fresh garlic from Salt Spring Island, bunches of fresh basil and as many blackberries as we can pick and carry home.
And the restaurants. There are so many good things to eat here – one of our favourites has always been Shelter, a comfortable space with beautiful woodwork and a fireplace and consistently good food. Yesterday we went after the beach – they do a late lunch – and ordered the daily soup, made with roasted corn and fresh basil. It was so fantastic that I went and introduced myself to the chef and grilled him (nicely) about how he made it. He kindly obliged and walked me through his process.
It wouldn’t have been difficult to go home and attempt a roasted corn chowder with wads of basil, but it was interesting to hear how he did it – a method I wouldn’t have used. He roasted the corn whole, by the cob, still in its husk, then scraped the kernels off while they were still warm and simmered the scraped cobs in vegetable stock while preparing the rest of the soup. He sweated the onions and celery, then added gobs of fresh basil, the stock, and a splash of cream, pureed and strained it to get rid of any bits. I strained the first half, then decided I rather liked the rough puree and added the rest as-is. It was delicious even without the cream, but with a litre in the fridge (for berry crisp emergencies) we had to add a splash. It’s all about ingesting as much of summer as we possibly can.
Roasted Corn + Basil Soup
4-6 ears corn on the cob
2 L vegetable or chicken stock
canola or olive oil, for cooking
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
a big handful of fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
a splash of cream
Preheat the oven to 375F. Place the cobs of corn, in their husks, on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, then remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Cut the kernels of corn off the cob into a bowl, and put the cleaned cobs into a pot with the stock; bring to a simmer. (Toss the husks and silk.)
Meanwhile, in a large saucepan or medium Dutch oven, heat a drizzle of oil over medium heat and saute the onion and celery for 8-10 minutes, until soft and very limp, without browning them. Add the garlic and cook for another few minutes. Shake the flour over the sauteed veggies and stir to coat.
After about 20 minutes, pour the stock off the cobs onto the sauteed veggies. Add the corn kernels (keeping about 1/4 back to add to the pureed soup) and basil and bring to a simmer; cook for a few minutes, season with salt and pepper, and puree right in the pot with a hand-held immersion blender or carefully transfer to a regular blender in batches to puree.
If you like, strain through a coarse sieve to get rid of most of the solids – I did this with half, but liked the texture of the pureed soup so left the rest unstrained. Return to the pot, add a splash of cream and heat through. Serve topped with the reserved whole kernels of corn.