I'm often surprised at where I find outstanding recipes for preparing fresh vegetables. On Saturday, for instance, I walked into the hair salon with nothing more on my mind than getting a trim. I chatted with Josh Brown behind the desk about his week-long vacation on Cape Cod, due to start that afternoon.
Then, as I was waiting, he brought me a cup and spoon. He'd gotten up at 3 that morning to cook some comfort food to take with them to fill the fridge of their vacation house.
"Succotash," he said. I smiled -- I love succotash, even at 10 a.m. But when I glanced down, it wasn't the succotash I was familiar with: no limas.
In my experience, people either love lima beans (I do) or they're part of the large group that can't stand them, which limits the popularity of succotash.
But Josh's succotash used shell beans with the corn. I tasted a spoonful and then another. Mmmm. It disappeared quickly. Before I left the salon, I asked for the recipe, which he'd gotten from his mom. Here it is:
3 pounds fresh shell beans
6 ears fresh corn
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon butter, or to taste
Shell the beans, place them in a pan, and barely cover with water. Partially cover the pan with a lid (you don't want all the water to evaporate) and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
While they're cooking, cut the kernels off the ears of corn, making sure you capture all the juice.
When the beans are done, add the corn and juice to the pan. (The water will look brown; that's normal. Do not drain!) Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally as needed, until mixture has thickened slightly. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
Add the milk (skim won't work, Josh says; it has to be whole milk) and butter. Make sure heat is on low; you don't want this to boil. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Let stand until the mixture is room temperature, and it will thicken. Then refrigerate if you aren't going to serve it right away. It'll taste better the second day when the flavors have had the opportunity to meld, Josh says.
Another corn recipe that I've enjoyed this summer is a bit more involved, but tastes just as good, Sweet Corn Sformato. It's part of a series of food-page articles that the Monitor's Kendra Nordin has been doing this summer, interviewing chefs and cookbook authors about the various aspect of eating locally.
As a Southerner, I'm a big fan of white corn. It's hard to find in New England, because it takes a long time to mature. Usually I can find some at one particular farmers' market by the third week in August. But not this year. (It's been much rainier than usual and not quite as warm.)
So I'm enjoying the traditional bicolor corn that's the standard here. It's pretty to look at but isn't as sweet as Silver Queen.
With corn so plentiful and inexpensive, I imagine I'll try them all and then go looking for more recipes. The season will be over long before I'm ready to stop eating fresh corn.