Sister Witches in the Kitchen:Melissa

My friend Melissa has excellent taste. When she calls to say “You have got to try this, it’s going to change your life” I pay attention. Over the years I have known her, her recommendations have included Poulet Yassa (an African lemon chicken dish), seriously addictive Curried Popcorn and a Mexican Chicken and Bean dish that stews tantalizingly in a slow cooker. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she has an appetite almost as big as mine. She loves wine and foods from places where she has lived and travelled: Bangladesh, Thailand, Africa, Vietnam. She doles out her love in recipes, home baked treats, and excellent advice. If you need to rant about the unfairness of life, she will patiently listen until you’re done. If you need a recipe for butter chicken, or the best vegan power bar on the planet, she has it.
Even Mike Holmes is jealous of her biceps!
Melissa and I met at college when we were 17 and 18. Our dormitory had two beds to a room and as we shyly (well, I was shy, she was not) introduced ourselves to each other, we both thought, what the hell is this going to be like, sharing a room with a total stranger? I eyed her Gone with the Wind poster and music collection and fancy computer and straight-from-India decorations with trepidation. Was this girl way cooler than me? It took a while, but we found some common ground while jumping on our beds dancing to Courtney Love’s screeching, and playing guitar (we even got up at open mic nights a few times) and sharing a birthday, almost (they are one day apart). One night after a few drinks, she spit in her hand and I spit in mine and we shook on everlasting friendship. It worked.
We lived together again in Halifax years later, and that’s when we started cooking together. We worked late nights at bars and wanted to eat well, so every couple of weeks we would go on a big shopping adventure, then get to work in the kitchen. We froze burritos, Pad Thai, Shepherd’s Pie, anything we thought would survive reheating in the microwave. We had big dinner parties and ate at fancy restaurants. We fought once and made up right away.
She’s one of those people you could hate because she’s funnier than you, more fit than you, and does everything she puts her mind to with irritating excellence. She gets away with all that because she truly is one of the kindest and most generous people I know. We’re closer than ever because our lives have paralleled each others’. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding, then got married herself three weeks later on the grounds of my house (I got to make the food). We had babies at the same time, my second and her first. We’ve started businesses and read the same books and run in races. We now live about 100 kilometers apart and see each other only a few times a year, but I know if I need anything, anything at all, that she’s there for me.
This Thai Corn Soup recipe is the latest of the must-tries. Although I’ve tinkered with it considerably (no lemongrass or coconut milk could be found in Berwick) I hope it tastes close to the original. Melissa suggests you invite your girlfriends over and make them this.
Thai Corn Chowder
1 C. Shredded Coconut (preferably unsweetened)
1 Lemon
1 Lime
6 Cobs of Corn
4 C. Diced Potatoes
2 t. Salt
2 T. Canola Oil
2 Onions, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 T. Grated Ginger
1 T. Toasted Coriander Seed, Ground
2 T. Cornstarch
1 C. Milk, Cream, or Water
2 T. Fish Sauce
Fresh Cilantro and Basil
Soak the coconut in boiling water to cover for ten minutes. Grind for 3 minutes in a blender and set aside. Zest the lemon and the lime, then squeeze the juice into a cup. Set both aside separately. Stand each corn cob on end on your cutting board, then cut the corn from the cob. Scrape the cob clean with the edge of the knife. Put all the bits of corn in a small bowl (save the cobs). Place the potatoes and corn cobs in a large pot and add 1 tablespoon salt and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are just tender.
Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and saute for five minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the ginger and garlic. Saute for another five minutes, then add the coriander and lemon and lime zests and turn off the heat. When the potatoes are ready, remove the corn cobs and dump the potatoes and their water in with the sauteed onion mixture. Add the corn and coconut-water blend and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium high heat. Whisk together the cornstarch and milk, water or cream. Stir this into the soup along with the fish sauce. Let the soup simmer until it bubbles a little. Taste for seasoning and serve with chopped cilantro and basil on top.