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Sweet potato corn chowder by Lucy Waverman.

Danielle Matar/The Globe and Mail

Who can resist super fresh ears of corn slathered in butter and salt? It's the quintessential taste of summer.

For the freshest corn, avoid ears with partially exposed tips because the corn deteriorates even faster when exposed to light. (Likewise, don't buy corn that is already stripped.) Look for bright green husks that tightly encircle the kernels and reject wilted yellowing ones.

The silk at the end of the husk should be bright, moist and soft. The drier the silk, the older the corn. Store husks in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate. Corn likes a cold, moist atmosphere.

Story continues below advertisement

To remove kernels from the ear, slice between the rows with a knife. Using the back of the knife, scrape the kernels with their milky liquid into a bowl.

It can be difficult to find corn that isn't genetically modified, especially since Canada does not require labeling of genetically modified foods. If you prefer organic, however, your best bet is the farmer's market, but you can also check with your local grocery store.

The sweet and spicy corn soup here has hints of smokiness and depth of flavour. It's an excellent starter for a barbecue and rich enough to hold its own in a soup-and-salad supper. The heat of the chipotle balances the sweetness of the corn and sweet potatoes. Buy chipotle peppers in adobo sauce in a can at the grocery storesor any Mexican or South American store. And don't forget to reserve the corn cobs. Tossed into the pot while the soup cooks, they add plenty of extra flavour.

Servings: 4

Ready time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 cups chopped sweet potato in ½-inch dice

4 cups chicken stock

1 bay leaf

3 cups corn kernels, from 3 to 4 ears, reserving the corn cobs

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1 teaspoon minced canned chipotle pepper

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 strips bacon or pancetta

1 cup shredded sweet potato

Method

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add sweet potatoes and sauté until beginning to soften (about 5 minutes). Add chicken stock, reserved corn cobs and bay leaf.

Simmer for 5 minutes then add corn kernels and fish sauce. Cook for 5 more minutes or until vegetables are tender. Remove and discard corn cobs and bay leaf.

Add cilantro and chipotle pepper to soup, then puree using an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in skillet and sauté bacon until crisp. Crumble.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same skillet until very hot. Add shredded sweet potato and cook until lightly browned, for 2 to 3 minutes. The sweet potatoes will stay crisp for a couple of hours.

Garnish soup with crisp sweet potatoes and crumbled bacon before serving.

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