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Another end of Summer conundrum is what to do with vegetables from the garden that may be threatened by the oncoming frost. One reliable recipe is succotash which is after all a vegetable stew. It carries the weight of a long history dating back before Colonial America. The name is derived from a Native American Narragansett tribal word, sahquttahhash, which roughly means boiled corn or broken corn kernels.

Succotash became a standard dish in the early Thirteen Colonies with common vegetables such as sweet corn and shell beans. The inclusion of salt pork in succotash was a standard addition to the stew. Usually associated with lima beans, there is some question as to the origin of this coupling. Back in the day most any shell bean and whatever available vegetables would be stewed together and called a succotash.

Primarily a succotash consists of sweet corn kernels, shell beans, peppers, onion and possibly tomatoes; the corn, peppers and tomatoes were native to the Americas. The addition of dairy paired with meats and/or grains has become commonplace. The grains, wheat berries or barley in the North and rice in the South, would be served alongside the succotash.

My mother always made succotash with lima beans and added some evaporated milk. Come to think of it, she used evaporated milk in a lot of things, a possible holdover from World War ll. A chef I once replaced at a restaurant introduced the idea of adding a touch of molasses to the stew. This added some complexity and a kiss of sweetness to the dish and would be an ingredient common to the early Colonials. He also added a few drops of vanilla extract. This succotash was served with butter poached lobster or shrimp in place of the more traditional addition of slab bacon.

My approach is to use local sweet corn, two kinds of beans and a little dairy to keep it from being too dry. I break with tradition by using edamame instead of lima beans which we prefer. It’s better to avoid using black beans as they will cause the resulting dish to look muddy. Tradition calls for a corn to bean ratio of two to one which just seems right. If you prefer a vegetarian option, just replace the dairy with a little vegetable stock or nut milk and replace the butter with coconut oil. Placed in a pie plate or casserole and topped with a simple pie crust or biscuits, it becomes a pot pie. A little chopped parsley showered over the top would do no harm

4 servings

Ingredients for the succotash:

  • 4 cups raw corn kernels

  • 1 cup shelled edamame

  • 1 cup cooked shell beans of choice; lima, navy, pinto, butter etc…

  • 1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion

  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional)

  • 2 teaspoons molasses

  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme

  • salt and pepper to taste

Method for the succotash:

  • in a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat

  • add the onion, pepper and the garlic, if using, and cook until translucent

  • add the corn, the edamame and the beans, and cook until the corn has softened

  • add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a few minutes until slightly thickened

  • remove from the heat and serve

I believe that you will find this recipe to be a terrific accompaniment to many an Autumn meal. It goes especially well with pork, poultry, shrimp or lobster. My personal favorite is with seared scallops. If vegetarian, some sautéed firm tofu is an option. In any case, it’s easy and delicious and takes little time. Enjoy!