For the third summer in a row, I've found myself coming back to this soup. It starts, as it always does, with the first little nubs of fresh broccoli in the garden. It gets me thinking. I begin to anticipate that evening in mid-July when I'll stir up a pot, braving the hot stove for a bowl of this concoction, the very best way to highlight fresh summer vegetables.
The ingredients are simple, the quantities are small. That's another reason I like it. As someone with a tiny garden, I'm ever on the lookout for recipes requiring, say, eight green beans, or two tablespoons minced broccoli. This recipe fits the bills: it's highly adaptable, and calls for snippets of just about everything we grow.
So. If you like vegetables, and you like chowders, and you're not afraid to make hot soup in July, this is for you. If you like your vegetables better when they're sauteed in butter, this is definitely for you. Here it comes.
2 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced
2 cups water or vegetable stock
Cook the potatoes in the water until soft and mushy, about 15 minutes. When it's done, add 1 cup of peas (fresh or frozen), and 1 1/2 cups of corn kernels (fresh or frozen) to the pot. Set it aside.
Meanwhile, do your chopping. Small, (relatively) uniform pieces of vegetables are important here:
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup chopped green beans
Begin heating 3 tbsp butter in a skillet. Start with the onion: add it to the pan and saute about 8 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Then add the other vegetables, one at a time in order of appearance, sauteeing 5-8 minutes in between additions. Aside from letting the vegetables burn, it is impossible to screw this up.
Take a minute to check on your potatoes. Once they're cooked, you can mash them or puree them, along with the cooking liquid, whichever you choose. If you're a wimp who doesn't like whole cooked peas (like me), you can puree those, too. When the vegetables are all properly sauteed, transfer them into the potato pot.
2 cups milk (soured is okay; buttermilk would also be good)
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
ample freshly ground black pepper
Gently re-warm the soup, taking care not to let it boil. When it's hot and tasty-looking, ladle it into bowl and garnish with some chopped fresh basil.
And did I mention this is really fantastic with pumpernickel or rye bread?
Every time I make this, I do things a little differently. Sometimes, like last night, I sneak a cup of grated zucchini into the potato pot, and puree it along with everything. Sometimes, there are no green beans. Sometimes, there are lots. The important thing is to have a wide variety of vegetables in small pieces, and for them to be delicious. The butter helps.