The most enchanting part of cooking is taking the flavors and traditions of one heritage and blending them with another.
Succotash is a dish with corn and lima beans, but it can have tomatoes and other vegetables. Sometimes it’s green beans and corn, depending upon the season and part of the country. And, to change it up a bit, I paired fresh corn with edamame, flavored with chile salt, sweet peppers, and an assortment of spring onions.
If you have ever watched Sylvester the Cat, you may be familiar with the term, “suffering succotash.”
The origin is believed to come from the Narrangansett Native American Tribe, deriving from the word msickquatash , meaning “boiled corn.”
In Pennsylvania, it’s a very common side dish of boiled corn and lima beans. It’s best when both are very fresh and has even appeared under a pie crust. It also would not be uncommon to find a corn pie in Pennsylvania.
This is a very loose recipe. I never measured a thing. Make this to your own taste. Substitute baby lima beans or black eyed peas for the edamame.
There is a history and science to the natural pairing of corn and beans that I only discovered with my friend, Mr. Google, in researching this post.
When corn was adapted as a staple part of the diet during in the 18-19th century among poor people that used corn as the main source of food with little to no protein, they suffered from malnutrition, a chronic disease called pellagra, mainly a deficiency in niacin. This was not experienced by the ancient cultures (South American and North American Indians) who knew how to treat the corn first, by soaking it in alkali to release the nutrients. I find it wondrous that these ancients cultures knew what to do and did it well, able to live off of the corn when other sources of food became scarce.
In reading the below comments, I realize I should have put more information about this phenomenon, because it’s so interesting.
Erina writes: Beautiful, vegan! I seem to remember succotash as being something unpleasant as a kid. My mom never made it, but other people’s families had it. But this version is gorgeous. The corn that is used to make masa for tamales is cooked in lime (the alkali, not the fruit). It then becomes “Nixtamal” (I’m sure that’s an aztec word). They actually call the process “nixtamalization”! People believe that process is the single most important discovery leading to the vast success of the meso american peoples. They were well nourished!
You might find it interesting to know that corn on the cob was also the first “street food” in America. What I most like about this is that it’s simple. Shuck, cook, eat. I still find foods kept in their most natural state taste and look the best.
If you can’t grill your corn for this recipe, you can easily cut it off the cob and stir fry it in a hot cast iron pan to get that charred look on some of the kernels.
A variation is substituting the edamame with some pink eyed peas, black eyed peas, purple hull peas or other bean. Then I call it Tennessee Caviar, which I will post as soon as I see some fresh pink eyes.
This is a loose recipe. You may find many ways to vary the dish, starting with grilled corn.
Modern Succotash: Corn, Edamame, Tomato, Avocado
- 4 cups grilled or microwaved corn 8 ears
- 2 sweet red peppers
- 2 cup edamame
- 2 cup diced tomatoes
- 2 avocados
- 3 spring onions or 1 tablespoon red onion
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lime
- dash cayenne pepper
- Cook corn, either by grilling or microwaving (see below).
- Grilled Corn: Mix butter with lime zest, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Spread lightly on corn (a little goes a long way) and grill directly on grill. You can wrap in tin foil if you want make in advance and reheat.
- Grill, cool and slice off cob.
- Dice onion.
- Zest lime.
- Squeeze juice of lime.
- Cook frozen pre-shelled edamame or use lima beans according to package.
- Mix corn, edamame, peppers, onion in bowl.
- Toss with olive oil, lime zest, dash cayenne, chile salt. (see note).
- Refrigerate overnight.
- Add cubed avocado right before serving.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Cover each corn with wet paper towel. Place in microwave 3 ears at a time.
- Cook for four minutes. The corn will fall right out of the husk.
- Once cooled shuck corn and cut corn into a bowl.
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