Combine the milk, cumin seeds, bay leaves and rosemary in a medium saucepan. Place over low heat and bring nearly to a simmer. (Do not boil.) Remove from the heat and let sit 20 minutes to infuse.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a large saucepan or stockpot over medium heat. Cook the onions with the salt until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic and ground cumin and cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes. Then stir in the corn kernels and diced chilies and continue cooking over low heat 5 more minutes.
Using your finest strainer, strain the infused herbal milk into the corn and chili mixture. Bring to a very slow simmer over low heat. Gently simmer 15 minutes.
Pour one third of the soup into a food processor or blender and puree. Stir back into the soup pot. Serve hot with the chives as garnish.
Fresh chilies and bell peppers can be roasted over a gas flame or on a tray under the broiler. Keep turning so the skin is evenly charred, without burning and drying out the flesh. Transfer the charred peppers to a plastic bag, tie the top closed and let steam until cool to the touch, about 15 minutes. (If you are rushed, you can place the bag in a bowl of iced water to speed things up.) The best way to peel is just to pull off the charred skin by hand and then dip the peppers briefly in water to remove any blackened bits. Do not peel the pepper under running water since that will wash away flavorful juices. Once peeled, cut away stems, seeds and veins.
c.1997, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger, all rights reserved