Sunday, January 31, 2010

Double Corn Confetti Soup

This recipe is a result of combining tradition and my prediliction for never letting go of pantry staples.

What feels like eons ago I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a wonderful city with a population a little less than half a million people but with such a small town feel. One of the unexpected pleasures of living there was its ethnic diversity, ranging from the predominant Scandinavians to a sizable African American population along with substantial numbers of Mexican Americans and recent political refuges, namely Somalis and Hmong. But what really struck me was the fact that Native Americans are a major presence, not so much for their numbers but their political and historical influence in the state and Minneapolis' twin city, the capital of St. Paul.

I always knew that "Native American" was a term that encompassed hundreds of different American Indian tribes but living in Minnesota was a daily education. I learned from the different schools and services in the city that the Ojibwa (also known as the Chippewa or Anishinaabe) originally lived in the eastern part of Minnesota and the Lakota (part of the Dakota Sioux) were in the West. But what all of the tribes in Minnesota had in common was using corn as a basic stable in their diet.

While corn is most associated with summer eating, one of my Indian friends told me that he always dried some of this corn in order to have it in a winter soup that his grandmother used to make for him when he visited her on the reservation. I was delighted with the idea of this form of food preservation and dried some of my own corn in order to have that taste of summer in a winter soup. Although it took me several years to finally create a soup with that dried corn it was such a treat! The soup was sweet and savory and eating it with the memories of my friend made it that much better!

Double Corn Confetti Soup

1/2 onion, minced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 cup fennel, chopped
1 large (or 2 small) purple potatoes, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup dried corn
1 1/2 cup frozen corn
4 quarts of water

Saute onion in olive oil until soften. Add carrots, celery and fennel and cook another 3-5 minutes until softened. Add thyme and cook another minute. Add water and dried corn and bring to boil. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes until corn rehydrates. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender. Add frozen corn and cook another 2-3 minutes until soup returns to boil. Season with salt and pepper and serve.


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