Curried Coconut Corn Chowder

Traditional corn chowder gets an Indian spin with creamy coconut milk, turmeric, curry, and sweet potato. Garnished with green onions, cilantro and chilies for spice and a fresh, herbaceous bite. 

You know the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance? I go through a similar reaction each year as summer fades to fall. I love colorful leaves, cooler temperatures and pumpkin as much as the next person, but I know fall means winter is rapidly approaching. In a few short months, I'll be miserably cold, the pretty leaves will all be gone and I will be more than happy to not see another poorly conceived pumpkin spice product for the next 365 days.

After going to Clemson for our football game this Saturday and seeing the sheer number of boots and Oktoberfest beers, I think I've finally reached the stage of acceptance. Although I've accepted it, that doesn't mean I'm happy about it. Come January, I know I'll be dreaming of beaches and sundresses and ripe tomatoes and corn.

Each year, in anticipation of my summer vegetable cravings, I use the last of the summer produce to make big batches of soup and stews to freeze for the winter months. There's nothing better than a piping hot bowl of soup packed with the bright, fresh flavors of summer on a chilly winter day. Usually, it's a bit more of a chore, because every other year it's still 90 degrees around this time, and who wants to make soup in 90 degree weather? But with the drop in temperatures this year, I made this soup while wearing fleece-lined sweatpants!

Corn chowder is one of my favorites to freeze for winter. It's rich and creamy, a stick to your ribs type of meal, yet still tastes of summer. Plus, winter corn is pretty sad compared to summer corn, so it's definitely one you'll want to make with those last few ears from the market.

Normally, corn chowder is made with a ton of cream. To substitute a healthier fat, I used coconut milk. Although it's still a saturated fat, traditionally considered the bad guy, coconut contains a different type of fatty acid from those found in animal foods. I love the extra creaminess of full fat coconut milk, but if you're watching your weight, feel free to substitute light coconut milk. The pureed corn adds enough creaminess so you won't notice a big difference.

When I started to consider what flavors to use with the coconut milk, curry immediately came to mind. Although curry powder already contains tumeric, I added a little more for flavor and to enrich the beautiful color. Speaking of tumeric, have you heard of the most recent study on it? A compound in tumeric was found to improve regeneration of brain stem cells, making it a topic of future drug research for neurological diseases like Alzheimer's. Interesting stuff, because India, where tumeric is consumed almost daily, has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease.

Do you have any plans for this weekend? If not, I have a suggestion. Head on down to your local farmer's market, buy up every last eggplant and zucchini and ear of corn and make soup! Here are a few of my favorite recipes for more inspiration...

Yellow Summer Squash and Corn Soup

Roasted Tomato Tortilla Soup

Grilled Vegetable Chili

Vegan Tomato Soup

Curried Coconut Corn Chowder

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups diced sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (or coconut oil)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups corn kernels, freshly cut from about 4 ears of corn
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • Minced red chili, for garnish
  • Sliced green onion, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Boil or steam sweet potatoes until tender. Set aside until ready to use.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent, but not browned, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, corn, curry and tumeric and saute about 10 minutes. Add coconut milk, vegetable broth, and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend soup in the pot until it's pureed. I like mine with a little texture, but if you prefer a smoother soup, you might want to use a vitamix or other high powered blender. If you like chunks of corn, remove about half of the soup from the pot before blending, then stir in back in. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro, chili and green onion as desired.