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Eric Akis: Fresh summer vegetables make a hearty soup

If you want a soup stocked with a mix of at-their-freshest local vegetables, now is the best time of year to make a pot of it.
A hearty soup, stocked with a mix of summer vegetables, is served with fresh-baked cornbread. ERIC AKIS

A cool, rainy winter day seems like the ideal time to simmer up a comforting soup. But if you want it to be stocked with a mix of at-their-freshest local vegetables, now is the best time of year to make a pot of it.

On that note, after recently visiting some farm stands, I came home with corn, patty pan squash, peppers, garlic and tomatoes. These are the ingredients I used in the summer vegetable soup I made that also has some nutritious edamame — shelled green soybeans. I added them because I had some on hand in my freezer and thought they would make a nice addition to the soup. They did.

I baked a loaf of cornbread to serve with the soup and called it double cornbread because along with the cornmeal were fresh corn kernels. The cornbread also had some green onions, which I also bought at a farm stand, and aged cheddar cheese. The cornbread is dense and flavourful and when it is sliced, buttered and served with the soup, you have a pleasing, filling meal.

Any leftover soup you have, once cooled, could be frozen, to thaw, reheat and enjoy at another time.

Summer Vegetable Soup with Edamame

Here’s a hearty soup rich with summer vegetables and nutritious edamame — shelled green soybeans.

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Cooking time: 22 to 25 minutes

Makes: five servings

3 Tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (see Note 1)

1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 medium green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 large garlic clove, minced

2 small or medium yellow or green patty pan squash, or 1 small to medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 large ripe red tomato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 tsp dried basil (see Eric’s options)

• pinch each ground cayenne pepper and smoked or regular paprika

4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 cup water

1 1/3 cups frozen, shelled green soy beans (edamame), thawed (see Note 2)

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

3 Tbsp chopped parsley

Place butter in an eight-inch or so wide pot and set over medium heat. Add corn, onion, and bell pepper, and cook until softened, about four minutes. Mix in garlic, squash (or zucchini), tomato and basil, and cook and stir two minutes more.

Add the stock, water and edamame to the pot and bring soup to a gentle simmer. Simmer soup 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Season soup with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley, and serve.

Note 1: Two medium cobs of corn, after shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob, should yield the 1 1/2 cups needed here.

Note 2: Bags of frozen shelled green soybeans (edamame) are sold in the frozen foods section of most supermarkets.

Double Cornbread with Aged Cheddar and Green Onions

Moist and appealing cornbread dotted with fresh corn kernels, sliced green onion and tangy bits of cheddar cheese. Slice, butter and serve it with the summer vegetable soup.

Preparation: 20 minutes

Baking time: 45 minutes

Makes: one loaf

• soft butter or vegetable oil spray, for greasing

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup corn kernels (see Note 1)

1/2 cup grated aged cheddar cheese (see Eric’s options)

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion

• fresh and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

1 large egg

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Evenly grease an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch (1.5 L) non-stick loaf pan with soft butter or vegetable oil spray (see Note 2).

Place cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the corn, cheese, onion and black pepper and stir to combine.

Break the egg into a clean medium bowl and beat until the yolk and white are well blended. Mix in the buttermilk and 1/4 cup melted butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the loaf springs back when touched gently in the very centre. Cool the loaf in the pan on a baking rack 15 minutes, then turn it out onto a cutting board. Sliced and serve cornbread warm, or at room temperature.

Note 1: One medium cob of corn, after shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob, should yield the 3/4 cup needed here.

Note 2: If your loaf pan is old and prone to sticking even when greased, cut a piece of parchment paper the size of the bottom of the pan. Set the paper in the pan after you’ve greased it, spoon in the batter and bake as directed.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.