Food & Wine (August 2008)
Summer may be winding down, but it's prime time for the vegetables at our CSA.
One of our favorite ways to eat them has been to just sauté them all together. We guess you could call this a succotash -- fresh corn does always seem to be on the menu. But we're pretty liberal with the definition, and our dishes, like this one from Food & Wine, don't usually include beans.
Whether it's a textbook succotash or not, our vegetable sautés all tend to follow the same basic recipe:
-- Heat some bacon grease or butter (or, um, both...) in a saucepan over medium heat
-- Add an aromatic, like chopped onions or shallots. Sauté those until they're softened
-- Throw in the hardier chopped vegetables, like squash, beans or okra. Sauté until they're tender
-- Throw in the softer vegetables, like tomatoes, and the ones you want to still be fresh and crunchy, like peas and corn. Cook for a couple minutes more
If you're looking for a succotash recipe with a little more structure, this one from Food & Wine is a great place to start.
As much as we're fans of meat in general -- and bacon in particular-- we don't tend to include meat when we make a succotash. At the height of their season, when the vegetables are this fresh, we love to just let the veggies sing on their own.
But this dish includes bacon, and who are we to argue?
If we have a complaint about this recipe, it's only that it seems a little...overcomplicated. Too regimented. In our experience, a succotash is extremely forgiving -- just chop everything up and throw it in a pan. Measure not by cups, but by handfuls.
Also, there's one step in this recipe that seems entirely extraneous: cooking the peas separately. It's entirely unnecessary, in our experience. (Confession time: We almost never cook with fresh peas. We love 'em, but frozen peas are so much easier to deal with, and it's one of the few instances where we literally can't taste the difference between fresh and frozen. Save yourself the hassle and get a bag of frozen peas from Trader Joe's.)
And even with frozen peas, all we do is soak them in warm water while we chop the other vegetables, and then plunk the little green jewels in at almost the last minute. They're still plenty cooked, but they retain their satisfying pop and they're still bursting with fresh flavor.
In general, just be willing to improvise with a succotash. Keep it uncomplicated. Throw in the vegetables you love and skip the ones you don't like or don't have (we didn't use the okra called for in this recipe because we didn't have any on hand).
Just make it your own -- it's a beautiful way to enjoy the harvest of late summer!
TOTAL TIME: 45 MIN
4 SIDE-DISH SERVINGS
Birmingham, Alabama, chef Chris Hastings of Hot and Hot Fish Club uses fresh field peas, like black-eyed peas, in his succotash, but green peas are nicely sweet.
* 2 cups fresh green peas
* 1 tablespoon canola oil
* 1 thick slice of bacon, finely diced
* 1 small onion, finely chopped
* 1/2 pound okra, sliced 1/2 inch thick
* 3 medium tomatoes—peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
* 3 ears of corn, kernels cut off
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 1/4 cup slivered basil leaves
1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the peas until tender, 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the cooking liquid.
2. In a deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat, until browned. Add the onion and cook until just softened. Add the okra and cook for 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and corn and cook until the tomatoes break down. Add the peas with the cooking liquid and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the butter and basil; serve.