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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Soupe Au Pistou

June 13, 2009

So, how do you grant shrift to spellbinding Provence? Note to Will: brevity is not always the soul of wit (whit).

Simply identify it as Provençal: Provença in classical norm or Prouvènço in Mistralian norm, a region of southeastern France? In a droning museum voice name it as a host to Paleolithic sites dating to 900,000 B.C? Call it home to a permanent Greek settlement called Massalia, established at modern day Marseilles in about 600 B.C. by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, on the Aegean coast in modern Turkey)? Christen it the first Roman province outside of Italy? Baptize it as the “annex” of the formerly Italian Roman Catholic papacy which moved to Avignon in the 14th Century? Title it an abode to the souls of Cézanne, van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Chagall, and Picasso? Or just not so blandly classify it as a region that comprises the départements of Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône and parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes?

So many missteps, so much left out. Such is the construct of a blog. But, beyond cavil or retort, Provence and Italy are viscerally intermingled. Consider something as simple as pizzas or the subtle difference between pesto vs. pistou. Sans pine nuts, they are still divinely intertwined.

Soupe au pistou is a more than memorable Provençal soup that is brimming with summer garden bounty…gifts from friends at the market. Thanks, John, et al.

Footnote:
see I am Sam, Sam I am, infra for pesto.

SOUPE AU PISTOU

1/2 C dried lima or white beans
Bouquet garni I: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together
3 T extra virgin olive oil
3 plump, fresh garlics, peeled and minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Pistou:
6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Pinch of sea salt
3 C fresh basil leaves, washed
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
3 medium leeks, white part only, cut lengthwise, then into thin half rings
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
8 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced (almost shaven)

2 medium carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into half discs
1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
Bouquet garni II: bay leaves, fresh sprigs of parsley, thyme, and basil twined together

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and chopped
2 tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 C diminutive pasta such as ditalini, conchigliette or acini di pepe

1 C freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano
1 C freshly grated gruyère

Rinse beans and remove any imperfections. Place the beans in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Set aside for 1 hour. Drain the beans.

In a large, heavy saucepan, stir together the olive oil, garlic and bouquet garni. Cook over medium heat until garlic is soft, about 2 minutes. Add the beans and stir to coat with oil and garlic. Cook an additional minute, then add 1 quart of water. Stir, then cover, bring to a simmer and cook approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard bouquet garni I. Set beans aside.

Meanwhile, combine garlic, salt and basil in a food processor or blender or a mortar and process in bursts to a paste. Drizzle in olive oil in a thin, continuous stream while processing. Stir to blend well. Set the pistou aside.

In a large heavy stockpot or Dutch oven, combine the leeks, onions, and garlic over low heat and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Do not brown or burn. Add the carrots, fennel, potatoes, and bouquet garni II to the pot, and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Now, add the beans and their cooking liquid, the zucchini and tomatoes, along with 2 quarts of water to the pot. Simmer gently, uncovered, about 20 minutes.

Add the pasta and simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard bouquet garni II. Stir in half of the pistou and half of the cheese.

Serve soup, passing remaining pistou and cheeses at the table.

Israeli Couscous (x2)

June 6, 2009

In Hebrew פתיתים אפויים are “baked flakes.” These little curvaceous pearl gems that pop on each bite deserve more playing time.

COUSCOUS WITH PINE NUTS & MINT

4 T unsalted butter
2/3 C pine nuts
2/3 C shallots, finely chopped
3 C Israeli couscous
2 large cinnamon sticks
2 dried bay leaves
3 3/4 C chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 C fresh mint, minced

Preheat broiler.

Toast pine nuts in broiler until lightly browned. Set aside.

Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until light golden, about 5-8 minutes. Add couscous, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves and stir until couscous browns slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add broth and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and stir in mint and pine nuts. Season with salt and black pepper.

COUSCOUS SALAD WITH OLIVES, LIMA BEANS & HERBS

1/4 C sherry vinegar
1 C extra virgin olive oil
1 T Dijon mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 fresh plump garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 T extra virgin olive oil
2 C Israeli couscous
1 C chicken stock
1 C water

1 C fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1 C cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1/2 C kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 C lima beans, cooked
3 green onions, chopped
1 C arugula, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Whisk together the sherry vinegar and mustard, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuously whisking. Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy, medium sauce pan over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add the couscous to the pan and stir regularly until it starts to turn light golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly add chicken stock and water to the pan and then cover. Turn the heat to low and let gently simmer until flat and fluffy, about 8-10 minutes. Avoid the temptation to lift the lid and allow the precious steam to be released.

Allow the couscous to cool and then toss with the vinaigrette, then the basil, tomatoes, olives, lima beans, green onions, and arugula.