Succotash Polenta

If the word succotash makes you think of a limp and lifeless lump of cooked to death vegetables, this could not be farther from that notion. Think instead…. a big bowl of bright, fresh, sweet summer vegetables tumbled onto creamy, creamy polenta. Are you with me? I don’t always think of making polenta this time of year, but it turns out that it’s the perfect canvas for a basket of gorgeous summer vegetables. I think this is absolutely fantastic as is, but you can easily turn this into a more substantial meal for brunch, lunch or dinner by adding a poached egg, a piece of grilled chicken or fish or even a broiled sausage. The soft and creamy polenta is ideal for little teethers and older kids can help you pick out the vegetables, snap green beans and shell fresh peas if you’re using them.

For the succotash, use any combo of vegetables you like but definitely include shallots, corn, tomatoes and green beans. We like to add fresh english peas and fava beans when we can find them. Favas take a little extra work (shelling the beans, then blanching them in salted water for 30 seconds and removing their tough skins) but are definitely worth the extra trouble. You could certainly add sliced zucchini and finely chopped herbs (basil, parsley, thyme) would be lovely too.

For the polenta, I like to use Marcella Hazan’s no stir polenta method. Be sure to stir in a little butter and a whole lot of grated parmesan cheese. Your polenta will stay creamy as long as you keep it warm, but the leftovers are worth spending a few minutes on. Turn leftovers into a baking dish or cookie sheet. When it cools it will set and you can cut it into squares which you can grill or fry or simply reheat. The squares wont be creamy like just made polenta but are still delicious and great with any saucy Italian recipe. You can wrap the squares in parchment paper and freeze them to enjoy later.

Succotash Polenta

  • Cook your polenta using Marcella Hazan’s “no stir” method. It will take about 45 minutes in all, but only a minute of stirring every 10 minutes. When the polenta is cooked, stir in butter and grated parmesan cheese to taste and keep warm.
  • Prep all your vegetables: finely mince shallots, trim green beans (I like 1″ pieces sliced on the diagonal), halve cherry tomatoes, cut corn off the cob. I like to cut my corn on top of a cookie sheet to catch all the juices and stray kernels that try to get away. When all the corn has been cut off, run the back of your knife along the cob to release the “corn milk” which you can cook along with your kernels.
  • Sprinkle the shallots with a few pinches of salt and saute in oilve oil until softened. Add the green beans and cook until tender crisp, about 3-5 minutes. Add the corn kernels and their juices and cook 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another minute just to heat through. Add a tiny splash of red wine vinegar and stir. Taste and correct seasoning, adding a little more salt or vinegar if needed.
  • Spoon the succotash over polenta and sprinkle with fresh herbs of your choice.

You might also like these summery faves: summer corn and lobster ravioli in a light corn broth; Easy Summer Fruit Cobbler; Tomato Water Pasta; Summer Obsession: Roasted Sweet Peppers; Summer Ratatouille

Sunny Summer Corn

We look forward to the arrival of sweet, summer corn all year. Mostly we eat it on the cob, au naturale. Luca likes to use corn holders and pretend he’s riding a motorcycle. When we come across particularly appealing ears of corn at the market, I can’t resist buying them by the dozen and adding fresh corn to pizza, salads, soups, pretty much everything we’re eating.

Last summer I came across a genius recipe for “Corn and Lobster Ravioli in a Corn Broth” from the book Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home. The genius is in the broth which uses no stock, just kernels, cobs, a few herb sprigs and water. The resulting broth is so light and summery, yet very flavorful — the very essence of  sunny summer corn in a bowl. The simplicity of this dish makes it very kid-friendly too.

Summer Corn and Lobster Ravioli in A Corn Broth

(adapted from Charlie Trotter Cooks at Home)

Shopping List: 10 ears of corn, several shallots, fresh herbs, several ounces of cooked lobster (or substitute shrimp, ricotta or your favorite ravioli fillings), won ton wrappers, butter

Making the Broth:

  • Cut the kernels from 10 ears of corn, reserve half for the ravioli.
  • Add the cobs, the other half of the kernels, a few sprigs of fresh herbs (such as Bay Leaf or lemon thyme). Cover with water.
  • Simmer for 1 hour then strain. Return broth to the pot to reduce  by one third to on half to intensify the flavor. Season to taste.

Making the Ravioli

  • Saute a minced shallots with the corn kernels in butter until tender, then mash them up a bit (or puree about half the mixture).
  • Stir in chopped cooked lobster and taste for seasoning. (You could substitute shrimp, make it vegetarian using well-drained ricotta or any other filling you like. Just make sure the mixture is not too wet.)
  • Fill each won ton skin with about a one tablespoon of filling, push out any air pockets and seal the edges well using a little water.
  • Boil ravioli in well salted water for several, then drain.
  • Place a few ravioli into each bowl and ladle some of the hot corn broth over. Garnich with more fresh herbs.
  • Freeze extra ravioli in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. When they are frozen through, transfer them to an air tight container.

This would make a great first course for a special dinner, or something light and lovely on a day when you come across some gorgeous summer corn and have time to let something bubble away on the stove. It takes a little time, but none of the steps are much of a hassle.