Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Succotash

Sufferin' succotash, I can't believe it's already August! With corn in abundance, it's the perfect time to make succotash. It's an ideal dish to make when you find yourself wondering around the farmer's market overwhelmed by the amount of colorful produce, and can't decide what to make for dinner. Though non-traditional, just about any summer vegetables can be incorporated into succotash. 

Succotash originates from the Narragansett Native American tribe in Rhode Island and traditionally consists of fresh corn and lima beans. Succotash became particularly popular during the Depression and World War II, as it was healthful and the ingredients were cheap and easy to come by. It remains popular in America today from New England all the way down to the South. In most parts of the country, succotash has been adapted over the years to include all kinds of delicious veg.

I think succotash takes well to a little acid. I squeezed some fresh lime juice over the finished dish, which I think brightens it up nicely. Alternatively, you could drizzle some vinegar over the succotash, with the same results.  Try adding tomatoes, potatoes, or summer squash too; let the market inspire you. This is a dish that really celebrates summer's bounty, so feel free to have fun with it!

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl

1/2 pound fresh or frozen lima beans, shelled (or any fresh shell beans will do)
1 tablespoon vegetable or corn oil
2 slices (3 ounces) thick-cut bacon
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
Half a red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, washed, stemmed and seeded, and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears of corn)
1 scallion, white and light green parts only, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A squeeze of fresh lime juice 

Fill a small saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil. Add the fresh or frozen lima beans and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring occasionally (if using another type of fresh shell bean, such as cranberry beans, cook for 20 to 25 minutes). Drain the beans in a colander and run under cold water to stop them from cooking. When cool, set aside.

Heat the vegetable or corn oil in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan over medium heat. Add the bacon strips and cook until crisp. Remove the bacon from the pan and transfer it to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Set aside. 

Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat in the pan. Return the pan to the stovetop, add 1 tablespoon of butter, and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and saute for about 5 minutes more. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the corn and cook until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the beans to the pan and cook until just heated through. Add the remaining butter and stir until it has melted. Remove the pan from the heat. 

Crumble the bacon over the  succotash, add the scallions, and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice (or a drizzle of vinegar) over the succotash and stir to combine. I like to serve succotash directly out of the skillet at the table for a more rustic approach. 

Serves 6

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