A chef friend of mine once said, “Anybody can make a dish taste good with butter and cream.” He’s right. So in developing this corn chowder recipe I gave myself the challenge: make it creamy and flavorful…. without cream. Pureed corn not only made it possible to eliminate dairy, it also meant I didn’t need a thickener either. So take advantage of end-of-the-season corn and try this hearty, yet light summer soup.

Creamless Grilled Corn Chowder with Peppers and Cilantro

Makes a generous 2 quarts

8 ears husked corn, 4 ears left whole, kernels cut from remaining 4 ears and cobs scraped to release corn juice
1 large onion, peeled and sliced very thick
1/2 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded
1 pound new potatoes potatoes halved
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 quart chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish

Brush 4 ears of the corn, the onion, bell pepper, and potatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Puree cut and scraped corn in a blender (you should have about 2 cups).

Meanwhile, heat gas grill igniting all burners on high for at least 10 minutes or build a hot charcoal fire. Clean grate with a wire brush and then lubricate with an oil-soaked rag. Place vegetables on hot grate making sure to place potatoes cut side down.  Cook until spotty brown, about 5 minutes for the potatoes (no need to turn) and about 10 minutes (turning once) for the corn, onions, and pepper. Remove vegetables from the grill; set aside until cool enough to handle.  Chop potatoes and onions, and cut corn from cob.

Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes. Add thyme and then corn puree; cook until it begins to bubble. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil; add vegetables, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until flavors blend, about five minutes, adding water if necessary to desired thickness. Stir in cilantro. Ladle into bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves.