I’m not used to summer rain. I’ve experienced it, here and there–spattery showers in the green Northeast, fast-moving tropical cloudbursts in Central America. But it’s not part of the rhythm of my life. I’m used to summer in the Bay Area as dry, yellow, a little hard, with stiffly moving breezes. Not the quiet humid trickle we’ve been having lately.
This is June rain, and it feels weird–simultaneously soft and heavy. The clouds outside say soup and a blanket, but the stickiness on my skin says lemonade and a humming fan. It’s been making it hard to cook, when I come in from outdoors wiping sweat from my forehead, but within minutes I’m shivering at the gloom in the sky. There’s so much gorgeous produce at the markets, that needs so little done to it, and yet the weather is tricking me into wanting hot meals.
So here’s a compromise: a warm summer succotash, with zucchini and cherry tomatoes and corn-off-the-cob, with edamame and sweet onion, with big shards of parsley and ribbons of quick-fried ham. Everything gets quickly and simply cooked, until the tomatoes barely slump and the corn is just this side of raw. It’s a potpourri of summer textures, all sweet-crunchy and beany-soft and squash-squishy and tomato-juicy. Of course, this being a summer vegetable dish, it really shines with the freshest and best ingredients you’ve got–farmer’s market fodder, for sure. If you wanted to substitute fresh shelling beans (or favas, or limas) for the edamame, I’m sure you could; they might need a little longer cooking, but I’m sure they’d be lovely.
This is the kind of meal I make for the rain–warm and meaty, but with all the freshness of the warm season. (Now give me back my dry hard sunshine.)
Summer Succotash (serves 4 as a main course, 6-8 as a side dish)
Adapted from Gourmet
Note: Feel free to use bacon instead of ham, if you’d like. You’ll want to cut back on the olive oil, since the bacon will contribute plenty of its own fat.
4 ears corn, shucked
8 oz shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp olive oil, divided (see note)
4 oz thin-sliced ham or prosciutto, cut into 1-inch ribbons (see note)
1 small Vidalia onion or other sweet onion, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Pinch of crushed red chili flakes, or to taste
1 pint (about 10 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of half a lemon (about 1 tbsp)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cut the kernels off each ear of corn, then use the back of the knife to scrape any remaining corn milk from the cob. Transfer the corn and milk to a bowl and set aside.
Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the edamame and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until just tender. (Frozen beans are already cooked, so just boil them till they’re thawed.) Drain the edamame and rinse with cold water, then set aside.
In a large heavy-bottomed skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ham and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until deeply browned and starting to crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Add remaining 1 tbsp oil to the skillet, and increase the heat to medium-high. Add onion and zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until the onion starts to soften and the zucchini is crisp-tender. Add garlic, thyme, and chili flakes, and cook for another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, corn, edamame, and lemon juice, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the edamame and corn are warm and the tomatoes are just starting to collapse.
Remove the succotash from the heat and stir in parsley and the reserved ham. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve warm.