Yield: 4 ample servings, or 8 small ones
- 3 ears very fresh sweet corn (yellow or white)
- 1 tablespoon butter or neutral flavored vegetable oil (we’ll use grape seed oil to make this vegan!)
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- salt and freshly ground pepper (note: white pepper is also good in this soup)
- optional: 1 - 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- basil oil, for garnish
Put 6 cups water in a pot. Husk corn. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the kernels from each ear; after the kernels are removed, scrape the remaining pulp from the ears with the back (dull side) of a knife. Set the corn aside, and put the cobs into the pot of water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and let cook at a gentle simmer for 10 minutes. Fish the cobs out and discard them, saving the liquid.
Heat butter or oil in a heavy saucepan and add onion. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until softened and translucent, but not browned.
Add corn and broth (strain it if there is any corn silk), bring back to the boil, turn down the flame, and simmer 5 minutes. Purée in a blender, or for a less smooth soup, use a hand-held immersion blender, stopping when you like the texture. Reheat, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and black or white pepper. Stir in cream (if using) and serve, topping with a few drops of basil oil, below.
Basil Scallion Oil
Yield: about 3/4 cup, enough to use in the soup and to garnish other dishes
- 1/2 cup firmly packed basil leaves, from one bunch basil
- 2 scallions, cut in one-inch pieces
- 1 cup pure olive oil or use 1/2 extra-virgin and 1/2 grapeseed oil
- generous pinch salt
Combine ingredients, and process well in the blender. Pour into a small pan, bring to a simmer; simmer 45 seconds by the clock. Strain without pushing on the contents, then strain again through a flat-bottomed coffee filter (note: if you are using it right away, you can skip the second straining; if you intend to keep it, you must strain all the particles out). The resulting bright green, flavorful oil will hold in the refrigerator for a week. Bring to room temperature before using. It’s fun to put some in a squeeze bottle, and use it to decorate plates of food with dots, swooshes, etc.
Note: there are many methods of making oils from fresh herbs. All of them require at least a quick 5 second blanching of the herbs to stop enzyme action; this method combines that with the infusion into the oil. Although it may be tempting to flavor your basil oil with garlic, don’t try it, due to botulism danger.