by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot
I know it’s not fall yet, but the evening has been coming on noticeably cooler. Summer is ending and I have found myself pining for the comforts of cold weather; sweaters, slippers, and soup.
Though I love it, I have been getting tired of corn on the cob. For some reason, I have a very hard time eating corn any other way in the summer. It is one of the few deliciously messy foods – much like mangoes and fried chicken – that we are encouraged to gnaw right off it’s respective cob, pit, or bone. But as the seasons have begun to shift, I have remembered ways to cook and eat that were forgotten in the heat of summer. Soup is one of those ways.
This particular soup, adapted from a recipe in 400 Best-Ever Soups, is the perfect blend of filling and fresh. Despite having a creamy base, it manages to be light, yet satisfying enough to serve on its own as a meal.
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups fish stock
1 cup milk
4 oz peeled, cooked shrimp*
1 1/2 cup corn
1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
hot pepper sauce, powder or diced fresh hot pepper to taste
1/2 cup light cream
In a large pan or soup pot, heat oil, add onion and cook until soft.
In a separate, smaller pan, melt your butter over low heat. Add flour to melted butter (I use a flour sifter to avoid clumping) and stir for 1-2 minutes. Add milk an fish stock slowly while continuing to stir. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat slightly, and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to avoid scorching your milk.
Chop your shrimp into a few pieces each. Add shrimp, corn and thyme to onions and cook for 2-3 minutes if shrimp is precooked, or, if using fresh shrimp, until it turns pink and begins to firm up. Remove from heat.
Add liquid base to shrimp and veggies. Stir.
Blend half to all of the soup, depending on how thick you like your bisque. Return to pan, and add salt and pepper to taste. (I like to use cayenne, but you could easily use one of the small hot peppers from the Coop. If using fresh diced pepper, add it in earlier to saute with the corn and shrimp.) Add cream and, stirring frequently, bring to almost a boil.
Serve hot and enjoy.
* Although the original recipe calls for cooked shrimp, I always use fresh or defrosted, uncooked shrimp.
by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot
A peck is equal to eight dry liters or two gallons. Four pecks makes a bushel. In the US, a peck measures dry goods such as apples, beans, or peppers.
At the Coop, we measure our produce in pounds, bunches, ears, and pints. But we don’t use pecks. I once belonged to a CSA out in the western part of the state that did use pecks and half pecks as standards by which to weigh our fruits and vegetables. A twenty-year-old kid from Jersey, I swooned, my knees nearly buckled, the first time I picked up my vegetables, still dusty with summer dirt, and offered up for the taking in units of measure that seemed quaintly, romantically anachronistic.
It is easy for those of us who grew up in cities and suburbs to romanticize places and processes by which we get our food. I would guess that some of this naivete is what keeps coops and CSAs in business. Farmers need us to value them, their work, the literal fruits of their labor. But they also need us to believe in farming, in small, family-owned and operated business, in the idea that local entrepreneurship that is better for our community and our environment.
I believe in all of this. But I also believe in charm.
I like aesthetics. I like the way kale looks in a fresh, wet bunch better than how it looks pre-chopped in a plastic bag. I like the idea of picking my produce out of bins, under a tent by the train tracks better than out of the refrigerated case, under florescent lights in the supermarket. It reads better.
Does that make me vain? Maybe. And maybe it’s OK to like being a part of a Coop both because it’s better for my local and global community and because it makes for a nice narrative. I am aware of both the politics and the poetics of food. They are equally important to me. If you haven’t let yourself delight in the self-awareness of carefully selecting and weighing your peppers and then dropping them, one at a time, into your bag in the late afternoon, end-of-summer light, try it. Indulge in the idea of it. You’ll still be supporting farmers and local food. I promise.