by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
One of my favorite courses we instruct at Lincoln Land Community College is the Food Production III class, or “Food Pro 3”. It covers regional cuisine across America and runs in tandem with the height of the growing season – many of the ingredients used are available at the farmers’ market now. These second-year students are well into their learning phase and are gaining real world experience out in the workforce. As their appetites and inspiration begin to awake, they like to create. Quite often they will put a spin on dishes we study in class using local ingredients.
Ironically this is the main point of the class. We learn about influences of other cultures that settled in certain regions and adapted their recipes to use local ingredients and other cooking methods that were taught to them by Native Americans. In Food Pro 1 and 2 we study a lot of French techniques and talk a lot about “mirepoix” which is a mix of mostly onions with celery and carrots. This mix is an aromatic base for stocks, soups and sauces that helps balance and enhance the flavors of the main ingredients. In New Orleans root vegetables do not grow well in the soggy soil and carrots are replaced with peppers. This mix is called “the Holy Trinity” and serves the same purpose as mirepoix.
The pilgrims learned from Native Americans to harvest vegetables they used as a base for many dishes called “the Three Sisters” which is corn, beans and squash. These three types of vegetables can grow together and in a way that protects them from weeds and promotes the nourishment of the other plants around them. The bean vines suspend from the tall stalks of corn while the squash grows along the ground spreading out between the other two plants. They are hearty and last a long time. Squash, like pumpkins, butternut and other gourds have a long shelf life, and beans and corn can be dried and used throughout the winter.
The first cuisines studied in Food Pro 3 are from the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions where we learn about the Three Sisters, but it is when we study the cuisine of the South that we make a dish using all of them together. This dish is called succotash and usually includes bacon and tomato blended with the three and can also have onions, potatoes, herbs and fish – it depends on the chef and their liking. It has always been a favorite “go-to” of mine this time of year as it pairs so well with grilled, seared or fried chicken, pork and seafood. It is very versatile and delicious and it is fun to say! Suffering succotash!
2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans (see note)
4 slices of bacon
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 ounces zucchini, seeds removed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
corn kernels from 4 ears
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 Tablespoons butter
5 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup basil, thinly sliced
Place lima beans in a medium saucepan, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to medium-low, and simmer until beans are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While beans simmer, place bacon slices in a large cast-iron skillet over medium. Cook until crisp, about 8 minutes, turning once after 5 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels; crumble and set aside. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Add chopped onion and garlic to skillet over medium and sauté stirring often until onion is just tender about 5 minutes. Stir in fresh corn kernels, fresh zucchini, salt, pepper, and drained beans and cook stirring often until corn is tender and bright yellow about 5 to 6 minutes. Add butter and cook stirring constantly until butter is melted about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Stir in halved tomatoes and basil; sprinkle with crumbled bacon, and serve immediately.
Note: Lima beans are traditional, but any beans can be used. I like black-eyed peas and I also add some hominy to my succotash. Any squash can be used, but you will need to adjust the cooking time for hard squash like butternut so add it in with the onions and garlic or roast separately and it and add at the end.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.