Shrimp and Corn Bisque

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.

 

Ingredients:

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

salt

 

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.

With Which We Measure

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.

 

 

Tomato Pie!

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

Although I could happily slice and eat the heirloom tomatoes I got in my share this week just as they are, I always love an excuse to make pie. If you ordered pie crusts from the Coop last month, this savory, summer pie is worth pulling one out of the freezer.

If you don’t have a crust on hand, don’t worry! You can very quickly and easily make a savory pie crust by simply combining 1 cup of flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and 1/4 cup of ice water and then pressing the mixture into an 9 inch pie plate. Stick it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes while gathering the rest of your ingredients, then score it and par bake for 10-15 minutes or until it begins to brown, but not crisp. I use this recipe for quiche and other savory pies when I have limited time and ingredients on hand and think the olive oil base (rather than butter) would be a great compliment to the tomatoes.

Remember the tomatoes?

This recipe is adapted from the Tomato-Parmesan Custard Pie recipe in Ron Silver and Jen Bervin’s Bubby’s Homamade Pies. The book, and all recipes therein, spring from the institution. If you can’t swing a trip to NYC to visit the Bubby’s, or if you simply prefer recreating these famous flavors in your own kitchen, I highly recommend the book.

 

But back to the pie. Besides the crust, you’ll need:

3/4 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup buttermilk

2 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

pinch ground nutmeg

2 pounds tomatoes

 

Preheat the oven to 350.

Wisk liquids and eggs and add your spices and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan.

Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and layer in your crust (which you baked and cooled earlier), setting aside a few choice slices of tomato for the top. Add the custard mixture and then gently top with saved tomato slices and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake for about 40 minutes until the filling sets. Cool to room temperature, slice, and serve.

Simple Green Bean Salad

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

When we get green beans in our share, I intentionally weigh them out and put them in my bag first. When I pick the bush beans from my garden, it’s the same thing. I cannot resist a fresh green bean. I try so hard to bring them all home, but most times, my mouth gets in the way.

If the green beans survive the two mile journey from the depot to my door, there is still a very good chance they will all be eaten raw. When I do cook fresh green beans, I barely cook them. This simple, cold green bean salad is perfect for maintaining the integrity of your green beans. The recipe is a loose one, as recipes learned in family’s kitchen tend to be.

 

All you’ll need is:

2 parts green beans to 1 part white onion (though if you are a big fan of raw onion, you may want to fiddle with this ratio)

a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil

one crank each of coarse ground sea salt and black pepper

 

Blanch your beans. Be very careful not to overcook them. They should keep their crunch. Have a bowl of ice water ready. After you’ve drained and rinsed the beans, dump them in the ice water to ensure that they stop cooking quickly and completely.

Slice your onion. Long slices are best. You’ll want the slices to be as thick as the green beans, if not slightly wider.

Toss your onion and green beans together with the oil, salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve cold.

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself making this salad every summer. It is the perfect snack or side on a hot day – the food equivalent to fresh squeezed lemonade.