By Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely This recipe for corn chowder is deliberately loose, using more or less of summer vegetables you find at the farmers market or in your own garden. You can make a rich chowder with milk or, for a leaner version, with stock made from bare corn cobs simmered with an onion and rib of celery (see above) that has body and depth. Season as you wish. You can add an extra cup of milk or stock for more servings. The shellfish dresses it up for company or a fuller meal.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 medium onion, chopped 1 rib celery, chopped 1 sweet red bell pepper, cored, seeded, stemmed, and coarsely chopped 1 large or 2 small zucchini, chopped 2 tomatoes, chopped 1 large tomatillo, chopped 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers 2 cloves garlic 4 cooked ears corn, kernels removed and “milk” scraped off (3 cups kernels) 2-3 cups milk or corn cob stock (see above) 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste ¼ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, or to taste Salt and pepper to taste ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro ½ pound crabmeat or shrimp, for garnish, if desired

In a deep soup pot over low flame, heat the oil and add the onion and celery; cook until they soften, stirring occasionally. Do not let any of the vegetables brown during the course of this recipe. Add the bell pepper and zucchini and stir to soften, then the tomatoes, tomatillo, jalapeno, and garlic; cook for 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels and milk or corn stock, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Do not let the liquid boil. Stir in the chili powder and cilantro, if desired. Add salt and pepper and check balance of seasoning to suit your taste.

Cool the mixture and purée it with a hand-held immersion blender, food processor or food mill; whichever way, be sure to leave some texture.

To serve, gently reheat the soup, although on a sultry day room temperature is fine. Ladle the chowder into serving dishes and scatter chopped cilantro over. Top with the crabmeat or shrimp if you wish.