This week’s recipe puts a Brazilian twist on an American staple, succotash. It should be just the ticket in August, when millions of us watch the Olympics being played in Rio de Janeiro.
The classic version of succotash is a combination of fresh corn and lima beans (or some other shell bean), sometimes embellished with tomatoes or peppers.
At least as old as the arrival of the Europeans in America, the dish takes its name from a Narragansett term meaning “broken corn kernels.” (The Narragansett people are a Native American tribe centred in Rhode Island.) To this day succotash often appears on menus throughout New England on Thanksgiving.
This Brazilian version of succotash holds fast to the corn, but swaps out the lima beans for black beans, a staple of Brazilian cuisine. So are okra, coconut milk and cilantro, which I’ve also added.
Although okra boasts a unique and appealing taste, its texture ‚Äî depending on how it is prepared ‚Äî can be off-putting. Sliced and cooked, okra gives up a gelatinous liquid. That’s not a problem in Louisiana, where locals depend on okra’s gluiness to thicken their gumbo. Likewise, okra dipped in buttermilk and fried in cornmeal is considered a delicacy throughout the South.
I wanted to do what I could to minimize the veggie’s gooiness. I knew if I cooked the okra pod whole, the liquid would stay inside the pod. But it didn’t seem right to feature whole pods of okra in a succotash dish; I needed to work with sliced okra.
I discovered that acid would work to tamp down the goo. I teamed tomatoes, a great source of acid, with fresh lime juice, a popular Brazilian ingredient, which did a pretty good job of tamping down the okra liquid. However, if you’re still leery of okra or can’t find it, just leave it out. Likewise, if you’re not a fan of cilantro, replace it with fresh basil or parsley.
BRAZILIAN STYLE SUCCOTASH
Start to finish: 50 minutes (30 minutes active)
3 slices bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 small serrano, minced
8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved, or quartered if large
1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and sliced 1/3rd-inch thick
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 cups fresh corn kernels
One 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup cilantro, leaves and tender stems, chopped
1/3rd cup chopped toasted peanuts
In a large skillet cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain; when it is cool, crumble and set aside.
Add the onion to the fat in the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and the serrano; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally until they are softened. Add the okra, 1/2 cup water and lime juice along with a hefty pinch of salt; bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally 2 minutes. Add the corn and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Add the black beans and coconut milk and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is heated through. Add the cilantro and salt to taste. Serve each portion sprinkled with the crumbled bacon and peanuts.
Makes 6 servings.