Do you ever order your main course based on the side that comes with it?
I know that I do. And this time of year, if I see a corn, butterbean and tomato side dish, a.k.a. succotash, I almost always order it. Better yet, I make it myself at home.
In restaurants and editorial test kitchens, succotash can mean any mixture of vegetables, but for me growing up in North Carolina, it was strictly butterbeans or limas, corn and tomatoes. It was seasoned simply with salt and pepper and a little butter. Very basic. But in the summer, it relied on garden-fresh vegetables and didn’t need anything else.
Today, almost anything goes. It is not uncommon for people to add string beans, onions, garlic, zucchini and peppers as well as bacon, country ham, andouille sausage and many other ingredients to their succotash. A good friend of mine who lives in California applies the term succotash to any “vegetable hash” and serves it frequently with a beautifully pan-seared piece of fish on top.
And, I have created my own mash-up that I make this time of year when the corn is so fresh that you really don’t need to cook it, and the vine-ripe cherry tomatoes are both sweet and tart with acid. It is so simple that you hardly need a recipe if you can remember the ratios of 3-2-1—3 ears of corn, 2 pints of butterbeans or limas, and 1 pint of your favorite cherry tomatoes.
I cook the beans in simmering water until they are tender and creamy inside—plan on between 20-30 minutes for this. They take longer than you think to get nice and creamy.
While the beans cook, I make a red-wine vinaigrette with Dijon mustard and some welcome spice from a healthy glug of Tabasco in the bottom of a medium glass bowl. I cut the corn off the husk and slice the tomatoes in half and add those two ingredients to the bowl. I toss them in the Tabasco Vinaigrette and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Finally, when the beans are tender, I drain them and add the piping hot beans to the corn and tomatoes and stir. The residual heat mixed with the acid in the vinaigrette will wilt the corn and tomatoes just enough to coax the flavor out of them but they will maintain their crisp “raw” brilliance. The Tabasco and sharp Dijon mustard in the vinaigrette compliments the vegetables with a flavorful freshness that is different from butter or cream which steers the flavor in a comfort-food direction. This brighter nearly“raw” dish lends itself to any grilled protein, especially fish, chicken or pork. But my personal preference is to make a meal of it with a fresh slice of cornbread or sourdough.
I love eating the succotash warm or room temperature. It can even be re-heated in a microwave for a minute without losing any of the flavor or the crunch.
3-2-1 Farmers’ Market Succotash
This recipe is made for shopping Farmers’ markets in August as you need to buy the corn by the piece and the beans and cherry tomatoes by the pint. If you can remember 3-2-1, you can make this recipe. You can certainly make it with frozen corn and limas as well, but August is the time to take advantage of the fresh produce.
Makes about 5 cups, depending on size of vegetables
3 ears of fresh corn, cut off the husk
2 pints shelled butterbeans or lima beans
1 pint favorite cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½-1 cup Tabasco Vinaigrette below, depending on taste
Maldon salt, or Fleur de Sel
Freshly-ground Black Pepper
Rinse butterbeans and place in a 4-quart saucepan with enough water to cover beans by about an inch. Turn burner on high and bring water to a boil. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer and cook until tender and creamy on the inside.
Meanwhile, make vinaigrette in a large bowl and reserve half of it. Place corn and tomatoes in the bowl with the vinaigrette. [Note: If you make this with frozen corn, you will need to cook the corn according to the package instructions.] Toss to combine and let “marinate” in the vinaigrette.
When beans are done, drain and add to corn and tomatoes while piping hot, stirring to combine. Let sit for 15-20 or until everything is room temperature. Taste and add more vinaigrette if you think the mixture is too dry or needs more of the sharpness/heat from the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Will keep covered in the refrigerator for 5 days. Can be served cold, room temperature or reheated [1 minute] in the microwave or sauteed in a skillet.
Makes 1 cup
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Healthy “glug” of Tabasco sauce
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper and Tabasco. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, making sure each addition is completely blended before adding more oil. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Use immediately, or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days