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Velvet corn soup with shiitake

1/4 pound dried shiitake mushrooms
6 cups corn
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 to 3 tablespoons dry sherry
Freshly ground black pepper
Minced flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, and scallion greens for garnish

Bring a kettle filled with at least 5 cups water to a boil.

Briefly rinse dried mushrooms under running water, then place them in a large bowl. Add 5 cups boiling water, cover bowl with a plate, and let stand at least 1 hour. Drain well, reserving both the mushrooms and the water, and squeezing all excess liquid from mushrooms. Transfer mushroom soaking water to a soup pot, and reserve mushrooms for the salad recipe that follows (or for another use, such as a stir-fry).

Add corn, salt, soy sauce, sesame oil and sherry to the soup pot containing mushroom soaking water. Heat just to boiling, then turn heat way down, partially cover, and simmer 10 minutes. Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender until fairly smooth. If you want an even smoother texture, strain puree through a medium-mesh strainer.

Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper; serve hot, topped with a light sprinkling of minced fresh herbs.

Makes 4 cups soup strained, 5 cups unstrained.