by Paula Marcoux
This completely modern personal recipe is the sort that, while always delectable, is never the same twice. Mess with the proportions, include as many or as few of the optional ingredients as appeal, and introduce your new ideas to craft your own succotash tradition.
• 2–4 tablespoons bacon fat, butter, or neutral oil
• 1 very large onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
• 3–4 flavorful red or green garden peppers, some hot if you like, chopped
• 1 teaspoon cumin seed (optional)
• ½ teaspoon cayenne or other powdered red pepper
• 1 pound shell beans, shelled
• 1 cup boiling water, approximately
• a fat pinch of kosher or sea salt
• 1 medium zucchini or summer squash, cut in chunks (optional)
• corn cut from 6–8 ears (may be raw or previously steamed or roasted)
• 1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
• 4–5 scallions, roughly chopped (optional)
• 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
• ½ cup shredded basil (optional)
• freshly ground black pepper
Melt the fat in a good-sized heavy-bottomed pot or huge frying pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Toss in the optional garlic, the peppers, and the optional cumin. Continue cooking for a minute or two. Add the cayenne and beans, stir for a minute, and then barely cover the beans with water. Add the salt, turn the heat to low, and cover the pan.
Cook until beans are tender to bite, but not mushy, which can be anywhere from 15 to 35 minutes, depending on the beans’ maturity and dryness. If you are using the optional squash and tomatoes, toss them in and turn the heat back to medium. Cook and stir for a few minutes. When the squash is beginning to be tender, and the tomatoes have collapsed, add the corn. Toss to coat, turn down the heat, and cover. Cook until the corn is as done as you like it. Turn off the heat and let it meld awhile if you have time. Adjust seasonings.
If you want to use cream and/or scallions, stir in and simmer for a second late in the cooking. If you’re into the basil option, add it seconds before the succotash hits the table.
Serve hot or warm to 3 or 4 of your favorite people crazed with the joy of the harvest season.