Half way through winter I start itching for fresh produce. I’m grew up in Hawaii where so much fresh produce is available year round because of the mild weather. While we love our root vegetables and kale chips, I start craving the things I see in the store that I know just won’t taste as good out of season. That’s when I remembered that I had a bag of corn in the freezer that I cooked and froze the moment I got it home from the farm last fall. The soup I turned it into has now become one of our favorite soups of all time!I did give in to my summer urges and buy some bell peppers, a big bag of the baby ones for $3. We got ONE locally grown bell pepper last summer due to the rotten rain we had all season. I love bell peppers and can happily put them in just about anything. While I’ve moved a lot in the direction of eating locally and seasonally over the past few years, I decided to start buying some out of season produce. I’ve noticed that I’m gaining a little weight this winter, and I think it’s partly due to the lack of fruits and vegetables in our house.
Last winter I had cans and cans of fruit and pickled vegetables. I had lots of frozen fruit for smoothies and frozen vegetables to cook with. All the food I preserved lasted us until the next harvest. But this year I’m down to one bag of carrots (now that the corn is cooked).
While I’m really looking forward to warmer weather and more local produce, I’ve determined to get more creative with what winter vegetables I’ve got right now. (Except to see some fancy spinach salads soon!)
Meanwhile, this soup is a great example of the value of preserving food at the peak of freshness. The corn was SO sweet and fresh! I just started chowing down on the little frozen kernels like…well, popcorn. While you could definitely use store bought frozen corn in this recipe, the quality of the corn I froze myself blows the store bought stuff out of the water!
I’ve made corn and pepper soup with both vegetable stock and turkey stock. Either one tastes great, you could use chicken stock as well. I chose to go with vegetable stock for the recipe because I’ll be making this in an upcoming cooking class and I always try to have at least one vegan and one gluten free recipe in each class (this is both!).
The secret to the consistency of the soup is pureeing a portion of the soup. By using the pureed vegetables and stock to thicken the soup, I keep it low fat and low calorie because I don’t need to add cream. If you’re not worried about calories though, a little sour cream stirred in at the end tastes great and the soup goes really well with tortilla chips 😉
The soup recipe came out very affordable for a lot of reasons. The corn was from our CSA, so really just cost us a few pennies. The stock was homemade, mostly from vegetable scraps. The bell peppers were bought in bulk, and the thyme was from my garden. I have a few hardy herbs that have lasted through the winter. As I work on my new garden plan (I love that I have a garden plan!) I think I’ll be planting a lot more (especially thyme and rosemary) because they save me so much money.
Do you garden? Do you plan your garden or do is it a spontaneous thing?
Corn and Bell Pepper Vegan Soup Recipeserves 4
2 TBS olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cups finely chopped bell peppers
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups frozen corn
4 cups vegetable stock
4 sprigs thyme (additional to garnish)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper
Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium high. When it shimmers, add red onion, bell peppers and garlic. Stir to coat and cook 3-5 minutes until softened. Add frozen corn and stir again, let cook another 3 minutes.
Add vegetable stock and leaves from four thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes. Remove 2 cups of the soup and puree with an immersion blender. Add red pepper flakes, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to the puree.
Return puree to the soup pot and stir. Serve garnished with fresh thyme.
Approximate cost/serving: The whole pot of soup cost me just $1.80. If you’re buying everything in the store it will cost you a little more, but the biggest money saver will be if you grow your own fresh thyme. This came out to just 45 cents a serving.
Vegetarian/Gluten Free: Yes to both and vegan too.