Cashew-macadamia cream based corn chowder loaded with fresh corn kernels, russet potato chunks, and the perfect combination of vegetables and spices. All topped with a smoky pan-fried tempeh crumble, crisp green onions, and diced sweet bell pepper.
(vegan, soy free, and gluten free option)
Here's the key to really good soup: the stock.
It provides the backbone of the soup which with ultimately gives it depth of flavor and a richness that just plain water won't do. In a pinch, I'll use the packaged store-bought, in particular the mushroom. However, home-made fresh stock is a game changer, especially for corn chowder.
Often times people just throw away the corn cob which is a huge mistake. Why? Because the cob is full of delicious and milky flavor. After you try this recipe, you'll understand exactly why. I've included my topping of pan fried smoky tempeh in the recipe, so you can try it as a garnish. Honestly, the dish doesn't need it but it sure is a nice addition. The smoky, salty and chewy texture combined with the sweet and creamy chowder plays very nicely together. Ok, I'll stop rambling so you can get started and try some for yourself!
makes 14 - 15 servings or half in size for 7-8, gluten-free
16 cups water
1/4 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts
2 cups water (for soaking nuts / cream)
4 large bay leaves
10 cups fresh corn (about 10 ears. Do your best to source non-gmo and organic)
6 cups chopped vidalia or yellow onion (4 large onions)
1 and 1/2 cups of fresh garlic (about 20 to 25 cloves) or 1 cup minced
3/4 cup good olive oil
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup chopped celery (about 3 ribs)
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 and 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
1/2 cup all purpose flour (for gluten free folks, use chickpea flour or no flour at all. This will change the texture slightly.)
2 teaspoons salt (plus 1 teaspoon at the end, and to taste)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus some for garnishing)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups, covered in water)
Cayenne pepper (a pinch or 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup freshly chopped parsley
1 to 2 cups sliced spring onion
Tempeh Crumble (optional, see recipe and ingredients below)
Start by shaving your fresh corn kernels off the cobs. Shave 10 ears of corn with a serrated knife directly into a bowl so that the kernels don't go everywhere. Set the bowl of fresh corn aside. In a large stockpot, bring 16 cups of water with a dash of salt to boil. Then add 8 corn cobs and 4 large bay leaves to the water. Once this comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. This will give you time to prep the rest of the ingredients, which you will then add to this stock.
If you don't have a high speed blender, you will need to soak your nuts so that they become smooth and creamy. To do this, place your macadamia nuts and cashews in a bowl with 2 cups of water and let this soak in the fridge overnight or for at least 6 hours. (Or however long it takes to make them soft enough to blend until smooth, you know your blender better than I!) If you have a high speed blender, go ahead and combine the nuts and water in a bowl and set aside.
Peel and chop two large russet potatoes. Dice them into small squares and place them in a bowl. Cover them with water so they don't brown. Next, chop two large onions and mince 1 and 1/2 cups (about 20 cloves) of fresh garlic cloves. To make this easier, and to release all of the flavor, crush the cloves with the side of your knife before chopping. Mince the garlic into tiny pieces. Set aside. Next, dice your green and red bell peppers, as well as your celery into small squares. Set aside. Next, finely chop fresh thyme leaves until you have 1 and 1/2 tablespoons and, you guessed it, set aside. Lastly, collect all of the other ingredients needed so that you are ready to go: nutritional yeast, white flour, turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, and cayenne.
In a large cast iron skillet (or any large pan) on medium heat, sauté the minced garlic, chopped onion, and nutritional yeast with 3/4 cup of olive oil. Cook until everything is caramelized, about 7 minutes. Next, add your chopped bell peppers and celery. Cook for another 5. Next, add the fresh thyme. Cook for 3 minutes. Now, add your spices: turmeric, sea salt, and black pepper. Stir well and cook for 5 more minutes. Lastly, add your flour and cook for 4-5 more minutes. The mixture should be thick at this point. Once done, set aside until stock is ready.
STRAIN AND INCORPORATE
Once the stock is done (at 45 minutes- when your timer goes off ;) strain out the cobs and bay leaves using tongs (or a large spoon), discarding them. Next, add your sautéed mixture into the stock and bring it to a boil. Next, add your potatoes and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Next add the corn to the pot and cook for 7 minutes, until the corn is cooked and tender. Now time for the heavy cream. And to make the chowder nice and smooth, you are going to blend some of the soup with your heavy cream before adding. Place your soaked nuts and water water mixture into your blender and add 2 cups of the hot soup into the blender as well (You want lots of chunks and pieces so that they the creamy mixture is nice and thick.) Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, until the nuts are completely smooth. Slowly pour this mixture into the pot and stir well.
Cook the soup for another 5-7 minutes to make sure the cream is thoroughly incorporated and happy. For the final seasonings, I recommend adding 1 more teaspoon of sea salt, stirring well to incorporate. (Tip: You can try the soup before doing so and choose to add it or not. You may also feel that you should add more salt than this final teaspoon, which is just fine! I just want you to know that I personally thinks it needs one more teaspoon of salt to be perfect. That's just me though.) For the last and final touch, I recommend adding a pinch to 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. This little addition will give the chowder a subtle kick without making it spicy. Now, for you spicy kids like me, I recommend adding 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. This makes the soup pleasantly spicy, which I just adore.
Add your garnishes and serve hot.
FOR YOUR GARNISHES
GREEN ONION: Slice two to three fresh green onions stalks, I like to use the middle sections, so chop off the very top and the majority of the white (you can save this for stocks, use for kimchee, or throw into stir fries). Sprinkle on top!
BELL PEPPER: Dice one bell pepper of your choice (ideally red or orange) into thin squares. Sprinkle on top!
FRESH BLACK PEPPER: I only use freshly ground black pepper for garnishes. You should do the same. :)
PARSLEY: I just love throwing some fresh chopped parsley on top for a pop of color and a touch of fresh flavor
SMOKEY TEMPEH CRUMBLE: (If you are soy free, you'll want to skip this step. Sorry kids!)
I know this recipe adds an extra step to the recipe which is the last thing you'll want to do at the end of cooking a chowder. And that's totally cool. But a handy tip I always follow with soups and stews is making them the day before. That way you can prep the garnishes nice and fresh while you're heating up the pot.
HERE'S HOW TO MAKE IT
1 (one) 8 oz block of original tempeh
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Start by whisking together the marinade. Mix the olive oil, tamari, nutritional yeast, and liquid smoke in a bowl and set aside. Next, chop your tempeh into thin strips to create the most surface area out of the block. This will allow the tempeh to crisp up nicely. Next, using a cast iron skillet, heat the pan on medium heat and grease the bottom with non-stick spray or oil. Next, throw in half of the tempeh as to not crowd the pan and drizzle half of the whisked marinade on top of the tempeh. Spread the pieces around and brown each side until crisp. Once you are done, chop the tempeh up for your soup. I cut the strips into really thin slices, trying to keep them long for visual presentation. But you can certainly chop it up any way you see fit. I will warn you, the tempeh can be pretty delicate to work with, but you are going for a crumble here, not perfectly shaped pieces. It's really no biggie if this doesn't look amazing.
You can serve this soup chilled as well. it's actually really quite good this way! I find that you can taste certain flavors better when served cold (and not piping hot). This chowder is a good example.
You should absolutely make this soup a day in advance. As mentioned before, it will allow the flavors to marry and become better the next day. You could also keep this soup covered in the fridge for a few days and it will still be delicious.
Pour this soup in to a thermos and take it wherever you may go. For a picnic for two, just bring two bowls, two spoons, and two napkins and you're set.
This soup would be delicious served with a scoop of rice or a pile of quinoa to make it more of an entrée. Add all of the fun toppings and you've got a complete and beautiful meal.