Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sufferin' Succotash

Summer vegetable soup with the flavors of succotash. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

 Or maybe I should say “Thufferin’ thuccotash!” in honor of Thylvethter, one of my favorite Thaturday morning cartoon characters? (Thorry.)

In these days of 24/7 cartoon networks and kids’ programming, the ritual of Saturday morning cartoons is lost. My kids can’t believe that I grew up with less than a dozen t.v. channels and that cartoons only came on Saturday mornings, ending with “Kukla, Fran and Ollie” at noon, then it was time for lunch and being rushed out of the house by my mom. “Go ride your bikes!” “Go see your friends!” we were admonished. (and we obeyed.)

This summer, we took the girls to Saturday morning cartoons at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, a Looney Tunes festival, and my girls were introduced to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, Yosemite Sam, the Martian and all the gang. Sitting on the balcony, watching the Merrie Melodies reels, I wish I had worn my p.j.’s and brought my favorite blankie. 

And now in September, summer is persisting and so has the harvest. Before the markets are overtaken with cool-weather greens and winter squashes, I’m putting everything together in a soup. This summer vegetable soup is based on a recipe given to me by my friend Julie. Her mother makes it every summer with homegrown tomatoes, corn, okra and butter beans. I started off the same, but switched out the okra for green beans. The combination of tomatoes, corn and lima beans made me think of succotash. Cheers, Sylvester!

Summer vegetable soup with pimento cheese sandwiches. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Succotash Soup (Summer Vegetable Soup)

Peeling and seeding tomatoes is a pain in the patootie, but it really improves the final soup. After all, you’ll probably only make this soup once a year, when the last of the summer tomatoes are filling up your kitchen counter. It may seem odd to add the cobs to the soup pot, but my feeling is the cobs will give up the last of their corniness to the soup. Just skip the step if you think it’s weird.

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped into ¼ inch dice
8 ripe tomatoes
2 ears of corn
½ pound green beans, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
½ pound butter beans, shelled (I used frozen)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.       In a soup pot over medium heat, melt butter and add onion. Add a pinch of salt and stir until onions are softened.
2.       Meanwhile, put a pot of water on to boil and have ready a bowl of ice water in order to peel and seed the tomatoes. Have a third bowl ready with a mesh strainer placed over it. Cut an X into the bottom of each tomato and place in the boiling water, being careful not to crowd the pot. After a minute or two, place the tomatoes in the ice water. Repeat until all tomatoes have been blanched. Using a sharp paring knife, peel the tomatoes, then slice in half ,and over the bowl with the mesh strainer, squeeze out the seeds. Use your knife and fingers to finesse the remaining seeds out of the tomato flesh. Chop the remaining tomato flesh into ½ inch dice and place in soup pot with onion. Add the strained tomato juice to the soup pot and discard the seeds.
3.       For the corn, when shucking the corn, be sure to remove all visible silks. Place the cob horizontally on the cutting board and working on each side, shave the kernels off the cob. Rotate cob to get all the kernels off the cob. Stand the cob upright and use the back of the knife to scrape the remaining corn juice off the cob. Place corn in soup pot. Use your hands to snap the cobs into 2 pieces and add to soup pot.
4.       Add green beans and butter beans to soup pot, followed by enough water to cover, usually about 1 cup or more. Cook for 30 minutes. Remove the corn cobs from the soup. Taste the soup for seasoning and adjust. Butter may be added to each serving for additional richness. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Text and images copyright 2012, Lucy Mercer.

 For more ways to use up the last of the summer tomatoes, see:

Incredible roasted vegetables (Briami)
Tomato Gravy & Biscuits

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