Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Late Summer Succotash

(What's that crab doing sitting among those vegetables? You'll see.)

            “Some days in late August at home are like this, the air thin and eager like this, with
                                 something in it sad and nostalgic, and familiar.”
                             - from The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner

Summer is winding down. The light at dusk changes, more yellow reflecting on the leaves. Autumn arrives in a few weeks.
If you are a farmer’s market shopper like me, you will find all you need to make a succotash, whether it’s exactly like this one or not. It’s open to personal interpretation and preferences.
Succotash is the familiar vegetable dish that comes to us from the Native Americans. Variations of it appear across the country. I grew up with it made with lima beans. No thank you. 
The basics are corn and beans, but it becomes more interesting with the addition of other seasonal offerings, such as squash, bell pepper, or sweet cherry tomatoes. I found fresh cranberry beans but any bean will work, even green beans or wax beans. It’s the spirit of the dish that’s important.
I made this one night as a base for soft shell crabs (for me) and salmon for my red haired food co-pilot. It pairs with anything.
A fresh shell bean, such as a cranberry bean, needs time to cook, about 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the beans you find inside the pod. If you use a shelling bean, they can cook while you put the succotash together, then when the beans are ready, drain them and add stir them into the succotash. A fresh green bean or wax bean just needs to be sliced and cooked with the other vegetables until tender. Add the corn last since it requires the least amount of cooking time.
It’s easy.

Late Summer Succotash
for two servings
¼ pound cranberry beans (1/2 cup beans when shelled)
2 ears corn
½ cup diced onion
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons fresh basil, torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, optional

1. If you are using a fresh shelling bean, remove them from their pods and set aside.  Fill a medium-sized saucepan with about 2 cups of water, place it onto the stove, and bring it to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the beans and cook until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Husk the corn. Cut the kernels from the cobs. The easiest way to do this is to stand the corn upright in a bowl  and slice down the length of the cob to cut the kernels from the cob. The falling corn will stay in the bowl. Set the corn aside.
3. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onions and bell pepper to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cherry tomatoes and season lightly with salt and ground black pepper. Cook for about 4 minutes to soften the tomatoes. Add additional olive oil as needed if the pan appears dry. (If you are using a fresh green or wax bean, add them now along with ½ cup of water to help cook the beans). If you are using a shelling bean and they’re still cooking, remove the pan of vegetables from the heat and wait until the beans are tender. When the beans are tender, drain them and add them to the pan. Add the corn and torn basil to the pan with about ¼ to 1/3 cup water. Let the succotash simmer gently for about 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Add the tablespoon of butter to the succotash, if using, and stir.
It’s ready.
                                             End of the Summer Soft shells over Succotash