I love corn chowder. It's sort of the Midwest's answer to the coastal clam chowders (which I also love, but will probably not be able to make vegan no matter how hard I try). My mom asks me to make it for her all the time, and my family loves it too. However, my original recipe had all sorts of dairy and flour and chicken (both the meat and the broth) in it, and that wasn't going to work anymore. But I knew when my parents gifted me with two dozen ears of beautiful locally grown white corn that chowder was going to be on the menu, and it was going to be a great opportunity for me to experiment with some of my new vegan-fu in the kitchen.
There are lots of great alternatives to thickening things and making them creamy without having to add any dairy (or even alternative dairy, which to me is only borderline acceptable... I can stretch a half-gallon of almond or flax milk for nearly a month, that's how little I use the stuff). However, WHOLE nuts are a whole other issue. Cashews, in particular. They blend into a smooth and creamy consistency that is perfect for a lot of applications. If you're allergic to nuts, tahini (sesame seed paste sold in a lot of international markets and some grocery stores) might be a good substitute. If you don't want to add ANY nuts or seeds to this recipe, that's okay too. I think with the puree of the corn and the potatoes and cauliflower, you'll still get a great consistency. And since I didn't have to use any flour as a thickener, I believe this is also a win for the gluten-free crowd. So hooray for that!
Bottom line, even if you're not a vegan and are a sworn up and down carnivore and dairy fiend, you will love this soup.
This recipe makes a LOT of soup (it nearly fills my 8.5 qt pot). If you need less soup or aren't into freezing it, cut this recipe in half.
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4-6 small carrots, diced
4-6 stalks of celery (greens included, if possible), diced
2 bay leaves
2 tsp fresh thyme
4lb bag of russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 head cauliflower, cut small
8 cups of fresh or frozen sweet corn, divided
2 quarts vegetable stock
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (when combined with the cashews, it adds a great nutty/cheesy flavor, but you if you don't have it, you don't have to add it)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in heavy bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves, and thyme and cook until softened, about 5-8 minutes. Add the potatoes, cauliflower, 6 cups of the corn, and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes and other veggies are soft, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, add the remaining two cups of corn, the cashews, and the nutritional yeast to a blender. Ladle in as much of the cooked soup and broth as your blender can comfortably hold. Be very careful when blending hot liquids. I will usually hold a towel over the opening when doing so. Blend until smooth and creamy and add back to the pot. Adjust seasoning and serve with your favorite crusty bread.