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Last week I described the Picaya Volcano hike we took near Antigua, Guatemala. Most of the four days we had in this city was spent just wandering around doing a kind of self-guided tour. The brick streets were lined with very colorful stucco shops and many, many churches. Pictured is one of the old churches close to our hotel.
A huge local gathering place in Antigua was the fountain in Central Park, bordered by government buildings, restaurants, police and churches. Near the town square, abuzz with activity, we encountered a gentleman who convinced us to let him take us on a half day tour to sites around the city.
We visited a local chocolate “factory” in a nearby village – of course I bought a block of bittersweet cinnamon chocolate to mix with hot water or hot milk. The tour continued to several more churches – I learned the Spanish word for church (Iglesia) and the guide spoke Spanish – how exciting that I could understand most of what he said!
We continued on to a famous outdoor public “laundramat.” About 20 women and one man (highly unusual, according to our guide) were scrubbing their clothing in the public waters since many folks living in the nearby mountain villages do not have running water or electricity. Evidently they pack up the clean but wet laundry and walk home to hang their articles to air dry.
In one village we even encountered a funeral and the procession, accompanied by a small band. The women were dressed in their aprons (gavochas like the one I purchased) with lacy black head coverings. Our guide told us that, after the burial, the family of the deceased has visitors come to the home to pay respects.
Our evening ended with a fantastic fish dinner and memorable corn soup (sopa de maiz). My recipe is much more rustic but still very tasty in the cold winter months here in Seattle.
Corn Soup for All Seasons
- About 1 ¼ cups Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ large onion, diced ½ inch
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste) – I add more at the end
- ½ large orange bell pepper, diced ¼ inch (about ¾ cup)
- 1 medium stalk celery, diced ¼ inch (about ¼ cup)
- 16 ounces of frozen white corn kernels (or kernels of seven ears fresh corn cut off the cob if you are making this in summer-reserve the cobs for the stock)
- ¼ tsp ground white pepper to taste (I got lazy and used black pepper)
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup 2% milk, at room temperature (I am sure soy milk would be fine too)
Combine the peeled and diced potatoes and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Set aside.
Melt the butter or oil in a 3-quart dutch oven. Add the onion, thyme, salt, peppers and celery and cook over medium-low heat, stirring. After about five minutes continue cooking very low, covered.
Add the cooked potatoes with all the remaining water the frozen corn, and 1/8 tsp white pepper. Stir well, cover, and reduce heat, and continue to cook for five more minutes.
Using an immersion blender, pulse about 8-10 times until desired thickness and consistency.
Ten minutes before serving, stir in the milk and fresh basil. Gently let it heat in the soup.
Note: You can puree more or less of the vegetables depending on whether you like chunky or smooth soup. In our Guatemalan restaurant they totally pureed the whole pot of soup then passed it through a chinoise to make it silky smooth.
I like to serve this with some crispy baked tortilla strips and some additional corn and basil on top.
If reheating leftovers, do so on very low heat so the milk doesn’t burn.
In summer when I make this with fresh corn, I simply cut the kernels off the ears of corn and use the corn cobs in the soup too-removing them before pureeing at the end.
Finally, I think I’ll try some chicken stock in lieu of water for the potatoes. It would give the soup more depth.