It’s so much fun to cook this time of year! The farm stand dictates supper, and it’s always good!
It’s not surprising that many traditional New England dishes use corn, beans, potatoes, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. These were all gifts of the New World, foods that the First Americans cultivated and enjoyed for thousands of years before the colonists arrived, and they shared their recipes, or at least their techniques.
Another lesson from the First Americans
Succotash comes from the native American word “m’sickquatash” which means either broken or boiled corn kernels depending on the source of the information. The native population taught the colonists this dish, which always had corn for a base with a shell bean added. Although succotash now almost exclusively uses lima beans, the original New England native Americans would have used other types of shelling beans that grow better in the short growing season of the northeast.
In my house growing up, little thought was given to this dish
When I was growing up, succotash consisted of lima beans and corn, usually cooked in a little bacon fat, and it was one of my father’s favorites. Mom didn’t vary the recipe, and I never really cared for it.
So, I figured this was a perfect dish to remake.
First, start with the best sweet corn around!
The corn is always present in succotash recipes, and it is beautiful right now – sweet, tender, and flavorful. There are always beans as well, and not just lima beans. Many cooks use whatever shell beans they have on hand at harvest time eating some fresh, while drying the rest. Beyond that, regional differences throughout the northeast included the addition of tomatoes, peppers, cream, sour cream, milk, even other vegetables.
Fresh lima beans are hard to find, but check the farmers markets as the month winds down and into September. Frozen baby lima beans are a good choice, and you can also experiment with edamame, or any other fresh shelling bean you come across. Some may need to cook for substantially longer than the frozen baby lima beans.
A versatile dish
Succotash is served as both a side dish and as a salad. It has also served as a base for a stew with other proteins such as meat, and tofu.
Make a big batch, eat it hot at dinner, and turn the rest into a salad the next day with the addition of a little vinaigrette. Go to the farm stand, and see what’s good tonight!
2 tbsp. butter
½ small purple onion, minced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup fresh or frozen lima beans
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 small jalapeño or Serrano pepper, finely minced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
3 to 4 scallions, finely sliced
Small handful of arugula or flat-leafed parsley, diced
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
In a large skillet, melt the butter over high and add the onion. Sauté for a minute or so and add the garlic and lima beans, and reduce the heat to medium/low.
Continue cooking for two or three minutes, or until the limas start to soften. Add the corn and peppers, and cook until the vegetables are at the stage of soft you prefer. I like the corn barely cooked, but others might like it cooked for five to eight minutes.
Add the rest of the ingredients, take the pan off the heat, and add salt and pepper. Taste and correct the seasoning if needed. You can add a bit more butter here if you like.
Plate and enjoy, offering a little thank-you to those guests at the table who came so many centuries before.
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