Smoky Corn Chowder: Chow with a Char

What You'll Need

  • good kitchen knife and cutting surface
  • medium skillet
  • large heavy bottom stock pot (at least 16 quart)
  • emersion blender or high speed blender
  • gas or charcoal bbq or gas stove for grilling veggies
  • kitchen tongs
for Soup Base
  • 2 cups veggie stock
  • 2-3 medium to large sized summer squash, any variety (to equal 8 cups rough chopped)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or lemon wedges, for serving
for Chowder
  • 4 cups soup base, omitting the Parmesan
  • 4 mildly spicy green peppers, such as Anaheim, New Mexico, or Poblano
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 10 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 ears corn
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 pint sour cream or creme fraiche (optional garnish)
  • hot sauce of your choice (optional garnish)

This recipe is really 2 soups in one; the creamy zucchini soup base is excellent all on its own, where the simple, hearty flavor of summer squash is highlighted and enhanced by just a few supporting ingredients. It’s a perfect use for the exuberant excesses of summer squash, at once creamy, fresh, and light.

The chowder is another matter, smoky with a hint of fire, like the coals that smolder beneath blackened logs, studded with kernels of charred sweet corn. Which do we prefer? Well, they both have their place. Make them both, and decide for yourself, or step beyond dichotomies, and refuse to pick favorites.

This recipe is adapted from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Cookbook, a most delightful tome for the accomplished vegetable gardener or avid farmer’s market patron.

zucchini soup base

Directions: Make the Soup Base

1) Prep and cook the onions and garlic

Rough chop the onion and garlic into chunks; no need to be too exact here, as the soup will be blended later.

chopped zucchini
In a large stockpot, saute the onions and garlic on medium heat, with a generous pour of olive oil, until soft.


2) Add additional ingredients and cook the soup

Add the chopped squash plus a little salt and pepper, and saute 5 minutes more.cooked zucchini

Add the broth, and simmer the soup on low for about 30 minutes, or until the zucchini is completely tender.
vegetable broth

3) Remove soup from heat to do final seasoning, blend smooth

Turn off the heat and add the chopped parsley.

Blend the soup in a blender, or with an immersion blender.

If you are eating this soup as is, add the grated parmesan at this time, and stir it into the soup. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

Stir or squeeze in the fresh lemon juice before serving, and serve with lemon wedges. That little bit of lemon really makes the flavors shine.

Directions: Make the Smoky Corn Chowder

1) Make the basic Cream of Zucchini soup base above

Omitting the Parmesan and lemon at the end. This is the creamy chowder soup base to which you will add the fire-roasted veggies.

2) Fire-roast the vegetables over an open flame

On a hot barbecue is best, but you can also use tongs to hold them over the gas burner of a stovetop if a grill is not available.
grilled corn

Shuck the corn, and allow it to blacken over the fire slightly, turning frequently. Remove the corn from the grill and reserve. Char the skins of the peppers over the fire evenly, until they are black all over. Set the corn aside and go to the next step for the peppers.

3) Sweat the peppers

Place the peppers in a stockpot with a close fitting lid, so that they continue to cook and sweat in the heat generated from charring. After 30 minutes or more in the enclosed pot, they should be cooled down enough to process.

Slit the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds, and rub the charred skin off with your hands. Slice the skinned peppers into thin strips.
skinning peppers


4) Fry the sage leaves

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the sage leaves on each side until they are crispy. Remove and let them cool. Crumble some to add to the soup, but reserve a few whole for garnish.
fried sage leaves

5) Saute corn

Cut the corn off the cob, and add it to the buttered skillet with a little salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the crushed garlic.
cutting corn off the cobSaute for a few minutes, until some of the water from the corn has evaporated, and the garlic has mellowed and softened.
saute corn


6) Combine ingredients into zucchini soup base

Stir the corn mixture and the peppers into 4 cups of the Cream of Zucchini Soup base.
corn chowderCrumble the sage leaves over the top of the soup for garnish.


7) Serve and enjoy!

Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream, and garnish with lemon wedges and reserved whole sage leaves. Liven it up with a dash of your favorite hot sauce, if desired.

 corn chowder with peppers

Over to You

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