Succotash(es) & Manifest Destiny

August 21, 2009

Thsufferin Thuccotath! You didn’t have to overdo it!
~Sylvester the Cat (Sandy Claws, 1954)

Lima beans were named for the capital of Peru, where this legume has been grown for some 7,500 years. Cultivation spread northward through the migration of indigenous tribes— probably through Central America and Mexico into the American Southwest, then eastward. Spanish explorers likely introduced dried beans to Europe, and the Portuguese took them to Africa.

These little beans are nutritional darlings, packing protein, fiber, iron, manganese, folate, thiamin, potassium coupled with a modest calorie count, little fat and no cholesterol.

A basic dish of corn and lima beans, Succotash is a word derived from the Narragansett word msíckquatash, roughly meaning “stew with corn” or “boiled corn kernels.” The Narragansett are a centuries old Native American tribe of the Algonquian language group who controlled the area west of Narragansett Bay in present day Rhode Island, and also portions of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts.

In the Great Swamp Massacre (1675) during King Philip’s War, a band of marauding Puritans from Plymouth and Connecticut massacred a group of Narragansett (mostly women, children, and elderly men) living at an Indian winter camp. Following the massacre, many of the remaining Narragansett retreated deep into the forest and swamp lands in the area of what is now southern Rhode Island. Those who refused to be subjected to white colonial authority fled elsewhere or were hunted down and summarily executed. Some Narragansett were even auctioned into slavery to the Caribbean, while others escaped to upstate New York and Wisconsin.

Another proud native peoples absorbed, decimated, and nearly eradicated by white war, disease and expansion. Years later, these practices were termed Manifest Destiny. What a lofty notion— to the contrary, it was a rapacious marketing scheme of the darkest origins with euphemistic icing. Seems more synonymous with those ever divinely ordained concepts called genocide, ethnic cleansing or holy war.

SUCCOTASH WITH BACON AND TOMATOES

5 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
2 C fresh corn kernels
3 C fresh or frozen baby lima beans
3/4 C chicken broth
2 t fresh tarragon, chopped
2 C fresh cherry tomatoes, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For fresh beans: place limas in just enough salted water to prevent sticking and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until almost tender. Check occasionally and add more water as needed.

For frozen: simply thaw.

Cook bacon in large heavy skillet over medium heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 3 tablespoons fat from skillet. Return skillet to medium heat. Add shallots and sauté 3 minutes. Stir in corn, lima beans, stock and fresh tarragon. Cook uncovered until lima beans are tender and most of stock evaporates, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes for fresh and 12-14 minutes for frozen.

Add bacon and tomatoes. Cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

SUCCOTASH WITH POBLANO AND CREAM

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 C yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 C fresh or frozen (thawed) baby lima beans
2 T unsalted butter
Grating of nutmeg
1/4 C heavy whipping cream

2 C fresh corn kernels

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high and sauté the onion, garlic and pepper until tender, about 5 minutes. Add lima beans, butter, nutmeg and cream, reduce heat and simmer and stir occasionally until tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the corn kernels to the pan and cook another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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