Nearly Spring

Crocuses

Its early March and in Maine that means one thing: spring is not here yet.  I can say that the weather has been amazingly spring-like and that I have been soaking in the feeling of warm sun on my back.  I even walked barefoot across a stretch of grass the other afternoon.  But no, spring is not here. The birds have been chirping with greater enthusiasm and the sun is up earlier, casting a gentle golden light each morning.  I have seen crocuses and green shoots poking out of the ground.  But, I’ll say it again: spring is not here.  In a normal year, we would be shuffling past days of continued cold, sometimes gray, and often early March snow storms.  This winter was so mild, its hard to know what spring will bring… when it arrives, that is.

The past few days have felt like April, when we can hope that winter has blown away for the year, but even then we are not necessarily safe from another whirling of snow.  Again, I must remind myself that it is not yet spring.  Whatever this season is, I am enjoying long warm walks, cooking and baking next to an open kitchen window, and the light that arrives earlier and stays later every day.

Despite the warmer weather, I discovered a bag of frozen corn that I scraped off the cob in August and  that I needed to use up before we move away from our freezer and our apartment next week.  I decided to use it for a recipe that is sweet and warm like the first spring-like days but that is best made in August or September when all of the ingredients can be found fresh at the farmer’s market.  Its a Potato, Leek and Corn soup, or maybe chowder if chowder means it has potatoes and milk (my brief googling of chowder did not produce a solid definition).  It is by far the best when made with corn cut off the cob along with the milky scrapings of the corn cob.  If you don’t have sweet tender corn like this, you could leave out the corn and make it a potato leek soup.

Leek and Potato

This soup is so comforting and warm for a day that feels like spring, but is still part of winter.  I love the softness of the potatoes, the sweetness of the corn and the gentle flavor of the leeks.  This is not a thick, overly-creamy soup.  I add some milk to the broth to make a lightly creamy soup.  I like the contrast of the potato chunks and milky broth — you could puree some of the potatoes for something thicker, but I will keep mine simple.

Leeks

Potato, Leek, and Corn Soup
If you don’t have sweet tender corn available I recommend increasing the amount of potatoes and leeks (two more potatoes and another small leek).  I haven’t tried it with regular frozen corn, but if its still fairly tender and somewhat juicy it might just add the sweetness that is so delightful about this soup.  
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium sized leek
4 medium sized potatoes (ideally soft skinned, not a russet-type)
Water, or vegetable broth
2 cups of corn (ideally from corn that is freshly cut off the cob with its juices)
1 1/2 cups milk (whatever % you have, or cream for something a little thicker and richer)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place a large sauce pan, or pot (I used a 3 1/2 quart pot) over medium to low heat.  Add the butter and let it melt.  While the pan is heating and butter melting, slice the leek: cut off the root and and chop the stem into 1/4 inch thick rounds all the way up into the green part, stopping a few inch from the end of the stem or where the leaves branch out (I save whatever is left for making vegetable stock).  Once the butter is melted, add the sliced leek rounds to the pot and let them cook slowly until they are transparent and soft, about 5 minutes.  While the leeks are cooking, chop the potatoes.  I leave the skins on (after giving them a quick scrub), but if you prefer you can peel them.  Cut them into bite sized chunks, or slightly larger.  When the leeks are ready, add the potatoes and stir them around for a minute or two.  Add water (or vegetable broth) to just cover the potatoes.  Raise the heat to medium and let the potatoes cook until they are soft when pierced with a fork.  Add the corn and milk and the salt and pepper to taste.  Let the soup simmer very gently for 15  or 20 minutes.  Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve immediately or reheat later.

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