Friday, May 4, 2012

50 Women Game-Changers in Food - #46 - Gael Greene - Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon

“Do you sing, too?” I asked, tickling his tweed elbow.

I have a good friend who is fond of this phrase:  "She was born with the words, 'Please peel me a grape,' on her lips."   That could very well have been said about spicy bon vivant Gael Greene (1933-  ), this week's  number 46 on Gourmet Live's List of 50 Women Game-Changers in Food.  Greene, the 40-year New York Magazine restaurant critic and columnist, novelist, and philanthropist from Detroit, is best known for her erotic encounters with food, as well as with the likes of Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley.   Want details?  It's all (probably not) chronicled in Greene's memoir, the infamous Insatiable : Tales from a Life of Delicious Excess (Grand Central, 2007.)  And while I promise I'm not telling tales out of school, you can listen to her own description of Presley as appetizer here.

Lest we consider the ground-breaking critic light-weight or even shallow,  life-long achiever  Greene (still writing, appearing on "Top Chef," and tweeting as I blog)  has also spent a sizable portion of her adult life making sure New York's elderly poor had food come weekends and holidays: 
Marcia Stein: Citymeals began in 1981 when Gael Greene and Jim Beard, the founders, read that homebound elderly New Yorkers only got meals from the city Monday through Friday, and not on holidays. They were going very long periods of time without food. Especially over the holidays: at times when other people were over-eating, these people were alone and starving.

Gael and Jim called their friends in the industry; Gael called the city government and wrote about it. She was just as good at describing their situation as she is at describing food, and it made people aware. Checks started coming in, but you can’t just send a check to the government or the Department for the Aging. We had to create an organization that was a not-for-profit so we could receive the checks we were getting. So Citymeals started as a public/private partnership with the city’s meal delivery program.

We started feeding 6,000 homebound elderly, but the number has grown over time. Now we are feeding 18,000 every weekend and holiday.

We receive about 50,000 contributions a year to Citymeals. It’s a cause that New Yorkers have embraced. Six dollars a day can save a person’s life.
Read the entire interview with Marcia Stein, Executive Director of Citymeals-on-Wheels on

But after you get your fill reading and listening -- more by scrolling down-- do a little cooking with Gael and try her

Corn Soup with Sautéed Scallops and Bacon  serves 4

  • 6 ears corn
  • 4 cups water (reserve water after the corn has cooked)
  • 2 tsp olive oil for vegetables
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced                                        
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Clam broth, to taste
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 large sea scallops, quartered       
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper  
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro or basil

  • Cook corn in four cups of water. Remove corn, strain water of corn silk, and reserve cooking water.
    Cut kernels from cobs and reserve the corn. Return cobs to cooking water, simmer till water reduces   to half. Then remove cobs and reserve water.
    Scrape cobs with dull knife to extract all the corn milk and reserve this liquid.
    Sauté onions, garlic, and jalapeño in olive oil in nonstick skillet. Don't let them brown.
    Add reserved corn kernels and corn milk to vegetables, then toss and cook on low heat for 2 minutes. Puree half of this mix in a blender or food processor.
    Add puree and remaining corn-vegetable mix to reduced corn water. Then add lime juice and clam broth, to taste.
    Cook bacon until crisp, drain, and cut into ribbons.
    Sauté scallop quarters quickly in bacon fat till slightly browned. Don't overcook.
    Reheat soup. Add scallops and bacon to mixture in the corn water. Season with ground pepper and salt, to taste. Add more lime or clam juice if necessary.
    Serve in bowls with minced cilantro or basil sprinkled on top

    A little bacon garnish might not go amiss.  A nice grind of black pepper, too.
    While this soup is perfectly suited to late summer when the corn is as high as an elephant's eye, I managed to snare a few fresh? ears from our local grocer, who had Fed-exxed a little out of Florida.  If you can't find any corn,  I think you could use vegetable broth (along with the clam broth) and frozen (cooked) corn kernels.  You won't have the same soup, but I think it would be tasty.  Corn cooking tip here, though I just bring the water to boil, drop the corn in, let it come up to a boil again, and cover it for 10 minutes or so.  The other great way is to microwave it or grill it right in the husks.  Easy and maybe the tastiest version, but not possible for this recipe.

    I did pepper and sugar - 1/2 tsp each- the corn-cooking water for this soup.  Oh, summer...hurry up!

    My best sous and lunchtime taste tester.
    At first taste, my excellent taster wondered what all the shouting was about.  By the second taste, he was hooked.  The subtle heat left a gentle warm buzz in the mouth and the corn and scallops provided good contrast in texture.   I had one small bowl leftover that I ran over to Paul, the owner of our two-doors down wine and beer shop,  The Wine Thief and Ale Jail.  Love living in the city do I.

    The Wine Thief and The Ale Jail
     I chose this recipe because I adored the idea of a mostly healthy  (ok, there's bacon) seafood soup that used only 6 scallops for four servings.  I calculated about five bucks per serving, which is a less-expensive way to splurge on a little scallop action.   The soup sounded like a luscious and light warm-weather meal that could easily be made outdoors utilizing a grill with a side burner.  It might also serve as a small first-course offering for a special dinner.  I liked a sip of a great big California Chardonnay with this soup.

    Here' s a review one cook left on epicurious fyi:

    I followed this recipe exactly. I was surprised that the color was not as bright as I had expected (sort of a dull yellow), and the texture was, well, corny. Pureeing the corn mixture did not make it creamy at all, as I could still feel the fibers of the corn kernels in my mouth. I decided to puree all of it, and then strain it, which yielded a something I would describe as a corn broth, great for poaching fish in or serving in shot glasses with some crispy shallots or scallops right on top. 
    by A Cook from Miami Beach, Fl on 07/10/06

    Fyi I pureed three-quarters of the corn.

    Read More

    Want more Gael Greene?
    • Read
    • Check out a NYT article about Gael here.
    • Visit Gael's personal website, Insatiable Critic, here.
    • Follow Gael on twitter for a daily hoot.
    If you liked this, you might also like my one-pan meal:

    I write with a tasty group of bloggers!  Please take some time and visit

    Cook with a - band - on,


    1. This is indeed the perfect "late summer" soup - although the Florida corn is now appearing. Love how you concentrated on Green's humanitarian work - it's so important to visit all sides of this multi-faceted woman.

    2. Naturally I had to have a little bite of the Florida corn just to see.
      I was surprised at how tasty it was and I had had to leave it in the frig an extra 2 days as I ran out of cooking time the day I intended to make it.

      Yes, she's a bona fide character!

    3. I loved the recipe you chose to highlight Gael's knowledge of food and cooking. I also loved the way you presented your background info on her. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

    4. I didn't realize that Florida was a corn growing state. The soup sounds wonderful You can'go wrong with corn and scallops. Great and informative post.

    5. Pureeing corn to get the right mouthfeel can be tricky, but this soup sounds like it has all of the right ingredients. I love corn chowders and seafood soups, so why not combine them?

    6. Mmmmm, this soup sounds luscious! I love the combo of corn and scallops...and knowing me, I'd probably double the bacon ;).

    7. Heather. I did double the bacon. How did you know?!!!

    8. Oh boy this looks and sounds incredible! What a great dish! Great post!

    9. This is a tasty sounding soup. We are still waiting on Spring so I don't want to push it and long for summer and corn season:D

    10. What an interesting combo, Alyce. Scallops in a corn chowder. But then, why not? Looks like a great recipe...lucky taster!

    11. I love corn and scallops and have bookmarked this recipe to try as soon as we have fresh corn readily available here. Delightful recipe and post!

    12. I think this soup sounds wonderful and I will definitely give it a whirl when the Colorado corn is plentiful in a couple of months. I fell in love with Gael; I just adore her "saucy" nature combined with her philanthropic work and her smarts.


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