Everybody probably recognizes the phrase “sufferin’ succotash.” The phrase was uttered by the cartoon cat Sylvester and at times by Daffy Duck. That was in a gentler time when F-bombs were not strafing our cultural environment.
“Succotash” itself is an Indian word from the Northeast meaning “boiled corn kernels.” The dish was once very popular, and perhaps a necessity, in depression-era America. Perhaps that is why it fell out of favor. Times got better and anything that reminded families of those sad times was left behind.
Well, these times are not great, but the flavors of succotash are wonderful in good or bad times. It’s appropriate to bring back this dish, updated a bit with some parsley and cream and that dash of lime juice. And, then, to prepare it, it’s just downright symbolic to revert to the dish’s origin: grill the vegetables to gain all the flavors that direct flame creates on the charring veggie skins.
Vegetables cooked in water are blah. We have the French to thanks for the butter and garlic techniques that infuse flavor galore. But this direct-over-the-fire technique is my favorite. At summer camp, I did hot dogs and marshmallows. I wish I had done succotash.
This dish is bright with color and flavor. Of course, you can experiment a bit and perhaps add some roasted peppers. As a side dish, succotash is a powerful complement to all kinds of proteins: beef, pork, chicken, and, yes, even fish. It’s versatile and a superb alternative to the “standard” potatoes or beans.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6
- ½ pound green beans, trimmed
- 6 scallions, trimmed
- 4 medium ears corn, shucked
- 2 large firm-ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise
- ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Brush the green beans, scallion, corn, and tomatoes with the 1 tablespoon of oil and season with salt and pepper.
Heat a stove-top grill pan or charcoal grill over medium-high heat. Grill the vegetables, turning occasionally, until softened and lightly charred, 1 to 2 minutes for the scallions, 3 to 5 minutes for the beans, 4 to 6 minutes, and 8 to 10 minutes for the corn. Transfer to platter as they finish and set aside.
Seed and chop the tomatoes; transfer to a large bowl. Cut the kernels from the cobs and add to the bowl with the tomatoes. Working over the bowl, scrape the dull side of a table knife down the length of each cob to remove as much of the corn “milk” as possible; discard the cobs. Roughly chop the green bean and scallions and add to the bowl along with, parsley, lime juice, and cream. Toss well and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Source: Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine
The combination of Easter and Passover at the beginning of spring can create culinary overload. In ancient cultures, the “new year” began in the spring, when winter’s darkness was finally gone and the green sprouts announced that a new year had finally arrived.
The holidays provide the opportunity for celebrations embracing food. And they often trigger our imaginations: now is the time of year to dig out cookbooks, search for recipes and do something wonderfully new.
Or, you can do something wonderfully traditional. Joan Nathan is an accomplished food writer and culinary expert. She has explored her Jewish roots — and its accompany food and flavors — in books and on television. In her latest book — Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France — she continues her explorations and serves us with a bounty of wonderful information and grand flavors. She has explored the markets and kitchens throughout France: Paris, of course, plus Alsace and the Loire. Each recipe comes with its own “story” where we learn about the way French and North African influences have blended with Jewish tradition to generate a whole new multi-cultural cuisine.
There are 2000 years of history here, some wonderful and some sad. That range of experience has forged a wealth of recipes now served in Jewish homes and restaurants throughout France. There are recipes that you almost certainly have never been able to treasure:
- Moroccan Haroset Truffles with Almonds and Fruits: balls of almonds, dates, apples, and spices
- Green Pea Soup with Tarragon
- Artichoke and Orange Salad with Saffron and Mint
- Algerian Eggplant Gratin
- Terrine of Chicken Flavored with Pistachio, Curry and Hazelnuts
- Alsatian Pear Kugel with Prunes
Whatever your cultural background, this wonderful book is a resource for new ideas that you will embrace.
For Easter dinner, we sampled this simple French combination of green beans, onion and potato. Easy to prepare, this is dish is perfect for roast chicken, or, in our case, roast lamb.
Yes, this recipe can seem a bit strange: cook the bean for a 60+ minutes and the potatoes for only 30. It works, and, as Joan, notes the beans are thoroughly cooked. The picture above shows that to be very true. You can get more doneness with potatoes by cutting them smaller and adjusting the cooking time to suit your “brown and crunchy” needs.
Friday Night Green Beans with Onions and Potatoes
Yield: 4-6 Servings
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Heat the vegetable oil in an ovenproof frying pan. Add the onion, and sauté until soft and golden. Add the green beans to the frying pan, stir to coat with the oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the over for 30 minutes.
Toss in the potatoes, and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through and the beans are very tender.
Source: Quiches, Kugels and Couscous by Joan Nathan