Mexican Succotash

I’m back!

And yes, I realize it’s been over a month since my last post… but what can I say? I’ve been frolicking. And traveling. And writing and reading and getting my hands dirty.

Unemployment, contrary to popular opinion, has been conducive to a whole lot of cavorting.

First I spent a few days on a farm where I befriended a few sheep, harvested my first (and second, and hundredth) beet, and did yoga outside next to a pen of squabbly turkeys. Then I went for a run along the Golden Gate Bridge and foraged for wild blackberries (and fennel, and Grecian strawberries, and Ponderosa lemons) in San Francisco. THEN I went to Nashville where I got to go honkey tonkin’, get harassed by a rather forward little Jersey cow, and eat my way through a bucket of crabs and a plate of fried green tomatoes (thankfully not all in one sitting). Finally I returned home to pillage a prolific plum tree on a quiet block of Park Slope, jump in the ocean… and spend hours reading about the nutritive value of organically- vs conventionally-grown tomatoes, sustainable farming methods, and farm-to-table/plate/school initiatives. Yep.

      

In between all of that, I also managed to make this salad:

Now *that’s* farm to table, baby.

By the time I came home and settled down enough to actually start cooking, it was the season for corn: sweet, starchy, delicious corn, which is lovely and wonderful and not to blame for all of the many ways our food industry manipulates and vilifies it. (Sorry; I got a little fired up there for a moment. I have a soft spot in my heart for corn. Two of them, actually.) So of course I went into farmer’s-market-splurge-mode and bought far too many ears of it. After eating it straight off the cob for a few days straight, I found I still had a lot of corn to cook. So I consulted my two favorite blogs and decided to do a riff on these charred corn tacos. And then I set out to do just that.

But best-laid plans are soon, um, laid something-or-other… something having to do with them being foiled. Or us being fools for making them. Something like that.

Anyway.

In typical Lauren-fashion, I took a turn. And then I took another one. Somewhere along the way, many rights and lefts and dirt roads later, I ended up here instead.

    

And boy am I glad I did. This salad is crunchy, sweet and just a hint spicy, with the smooth little kernels popping between your teeth and the poblano pieces adding little bursts of heat. The acidity from the lime and tomatoes and a pinch of salt rounds everything out. All in all, a ridiculously healthy, absolutely beautiful, oh-so-simple salad. Enjoy it with a hard boiled egg for a great light lunch, as a side dish to a summer meal of grilled fish, or bring it to your next picnic potluck.

If it weren’t for the green beans, it would also make an excellent taco topping.

The corn is the shining star here, so getting sweet fresh kernels is the most important thing. Of course you want your tomatoes to be fresh and flavorful as well — although this time you don’t actually want them to be super sweet, like sungolds. Let the corn provide the sweetness here. Green beans add a different texture and take this further in the direction of a true succotash. The best part is, there are so many awesome stand-out flavors going on here that you barely need any oil or fat here at all. Seriously.

(I had made a cilantro dressing to toss with some shredded chicken for my tacos, and set aside a quarter cup of it for the salad — but after mixing else together, tasting it, and realizing how flavorful it was already, I ended up only using a tablespoon or so. You could probably eliminate it entirely, actually, using just a teaspoon of oil and a squeeze of lime instead… but because I used it I’m including it here.)

Okay. I am going to stop gushing now, but please know that I highly recommend this succotash-ish salad.

I also highly recommend having the courage to follow your gut, your nose, and your dreams, even if it means deviating from your original course. You may not end up where you planned to be at the outset, but chances are you’ll find yourself somewhere delicious all the same.

Mexican Succotash

  • 3 ears of sweet yellow or bi-color corn, shucked
  • 1 big handful of green beans
  • 1 quart cherry or baby heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 poblano pepper
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 large bunch of cilantro
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil or more as needed
  • juice of 2 limes and 1/2 lemon
  • salt

COOK: Bring a pot of water to boil, and either briefly boil or steam the corn until just bright yellow — no more than a few minutes. Remove the corn and drop the green beans into the hot water. Cook until barely bright green — again, no more than two minutes — and strain immediately. Run cold water over the beans to stop them from cooking any further. Set both aside to cool.

DRESS: While the corn and beans are cooling off, make the cilantro dressing. Wash and roughly chop your cilantro, setting aside a handful of the leaves (roughly 2-3 tablespoons) to add to the salad later. Combine remaining cilantro leaves (and little stems if you’re lazy like me, but not thick stems or roots), garlic, olive oil, half your citrus juice and a large pinch of salt in the food processor or blender, and process until smooth, adding the rest of your citrus juice and/or more olive oil as needed. Taste and adjust to your liking.

CHOP: Now do your dicing. Mince (as finely as you can) half the poblano and half of the red onion. Be sure to remove the seeds from the poblano before chopping it up, and to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. Slice your little tomatoes into halves or quarters, and chop more finely the handful of cilantro leaves you set aside.

SLICE: By now your corn & beans should be cool. Slice green beans crosswise into 1/2 inch or bite-size segments. Then remove corn kernels by slicing down along the cob with a sharp knife.

ALL TOGETHER, NOW: Combine corn, poblano, red onion, and a 2 tablespoons of the cilantro dressing mixture, and stir well. Then add tomatoes, green beans, cilantro, and a pinch of salt, and toss gently — you don’t want to squash the tomatoes or maim the green beans. Add another tablespoon of cilantro dressing or plain olive oil or another squirt of lime juice until it feels adequately dressed to you.

ENJOY: You may do this immediately, or you can refrigerate up to three days. I dare you to make it last that long.

TAKE A TURN: For a variation, add 1/2 cup of black beans and/or 1/2 diced red bell pepper to add more protein and/or crunch, respectively. Or, y’know… do whatever you want. You know that little voice in your head that says “I can’t really do that… can I?” Do it. Add the rest of the poblano. Or some radishes.

Or forget all about making this salad and buy a plane ticket to Mexico.

Go.

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