[Er, croutons not pictured.] Here’s the thing: If you told me you were serving succotash with or for dinner, I’d inwardly groan. People, I’ve had all sorts of succotash — a summery stew of corn and lima beans, often with tomatoes, yet still so bland that no added butter or cream saves it for me, and when adding butter and cream don’t save something for me, you know something is terribly wrong — and can’t think of one that I wanted to run home and make for myself. It might be because it’s usually in the off-season, when the above come frozen and no, it’s just not the same. It might also be because I once had a roommate that would open cans of succotash, not drain it, heat it in the microwave and eat it straight and guys, it’s been many, many years and still, my stomach turns. Don’t ever live with me. I’m a jerk.
But this is different. This was a midsummer dinner dream, the result of another bleachingly sunny, sauna of a day when I staggered around the market and realized if I put this stand’s corn and that stand’s shell beans and those purty tomatoes together, I might make a succotash that was worth writing home about. I wondered if you could pork it up. I wondered if I could pass it off as a main course. I came home with the haul of all hauls and discovered, as I often do, that Gourmet (moment of silence) had beaten me to it more than a decade ago. I love it when they do that.
I shucked and shucked*. Hey, did you know fresh limas are hard to shuck? I did not. Their pods were leathery and they kept me busy for a while, but it was completely worth it. Cranberry beans are not only the prettiest of the bean family, they just tumble out of their pods with almost no effort. A big knife took the corn right off the cob, I halved tomatoes, fried maple bacon, made garlic croutons, drizzled the whole lot with sherry vinegar and with one spoonful, made peace with succotash. Or succotash when it tastes like this, so busy with flavor — zingy, tangy and bold! crunchy and sweet! full of song! — that it’s a great big bowl of summer.
* I think I deserve an award for resisting a painful shucking all night long reference.
Summer Succotash with Bacon and Garlic Croutons
Adapted, barely, from Gourmet
I tossed this dish with garlic croutons (below). You could cut the pieces of bread thinner (into 6 1/3-inch slices), and spoon the succotash over it (Gourmet’s suggestion). Two other ideas: nixing the bread, and make this into a pasta or farro salad with some additional vinegar and oil for “dressing”.
Serves 6, 4 as a main
1 pound fresh shell beans in pod or 1 cup frozen baby lima beans (I used 1/2 pound fresh cranberry beans, 1/2 pound fresh lima beans)
1/4 pound bacon (about 4 slices)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3/4 pound cherry tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pints), halved
Fresh kernels from 4 ears corn
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
1/4 cup packed small fresh basil leaves (I used less)
1/4 cup packed small fresh arugula leaves (I used more)
Shell fresh beans if using. In a small saucepan of boiling salted water cook beans over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes for fresh or frozen lima beans, 20 to 25 for fresh cranberry beans. In a sieve drain beans and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking. Set aside.
In a skillet cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels and crumble. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from skillet. Add oil to bacon fat in skillet and cook onion over moderate heat, stirring, until just softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, corn, and vinegar and cook, stirring, until tomatoes just begin to lose their shape. Remove skillet from heat and gently stir in cooked beans and half of bacon. Cool succotash to room temperature and gently stir in basil and arugula, and salt, pepper and additional sherry vinegar to taste. Toss with croutons (below, if using) and sprinkle with remaining bacon before serving.
1 garlic clove, peeled and halved
1 round loaf crusty bread
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Cut three 1-inch-thick slices from middle of loaf and brush bread with oil. Lightly oil a well-seasoned ridged grill pan and heat over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Grill bread until golden brown on both sides. Alternately, you can run toasts under the broiler for a minute. Remove from heat and immediately rub bread both sides with cut side of garlic and sprinkle with salt. Cut into cubes and toss into succotash.