Fava Bean Succotash and Camping with Dinosaurs

We just ended a weeklong vacation camping trip.  In a tent.  Without a fridge.  We camped through dinosaur country, checking out dinosaur fossils, dinosaur tracks, 10,000 year-old petroglyphs, and rockhounding.  My husband and boys love this stuff.  I’ll be honest, my happy place is not in a tent, un-showered for five straight days.  {My happy place is more along the lines of a beach, crystal blue waters stretching to the horizon, something all-inclusive would be great–because then I don’t have to do the dishes…and it’ll have a shower…}  I will tell you from personal experience that squeeze cheese + crackers, raisins + cream of wheat, and non-perishable fruit containers in heavy syrup do not satisfy a fresh food craving.  I am high-tailing it to a Farmer’s Market tomorrow, and drooling while writing today’s post.

One of our camping nights was pretty chilly and rainy, and other than hot chocolate, I kept thinking of a dish I’d made a few weeks ago:  A warm bowl of creamy polenta topped with succotash.  Succotash is traditionally a Southern dish cooked with corn and lima beans.  I substituted fresh fava beans in place of the lima beans {lima beans never were my favorite growing up}, and asparagus tips I had on hand.  I am going to have to figure out how to turn this meal into one of those “Just Add Water” camping meals and pack it along next time!!

Fava beans are like lima beans in size, but where limas are kind of starchy, dry, and flavorless, favas have a sweet flavor and juicy texture.  They are also packed with a nutritional punch:  Per 1 cup of favas, you get 10 grams of Protein (20% of your daily nutritional need), 418 mg of Potassium (11% daily need), 9 grams of fiber (36% daily need), and throw in some Vitamins A and C, Iron, and Magnesium for good measure.  And, when mixing a legume with corn, you are also getting all the protein essential amino acids in one bite.

There are only a few beans per pod, so count on purchasing at least one pound of fava pods per person/serving.  You open the bean pod by pulling the “seam” of the bean from the top down, like opening a zipper on a jacket.  The beans are encased in a white, waxy shell.  That shell is removed by boiling for about 5-7 minutes, then running under cold water to stop the cooking process.  I cook mine in a colander for the easy pull-out-and-run-under-cold-water method.

fava bean succotash 1 fava bean succotash 2

The succotash is super easy to make–just get the fresh corn shucked, the fava beans shelled, and the asparagus tips cut up, and sauté everyone together, adding water halfway through the cook time, and then some butter at the very end to make a buttery succotash sauce.  I served this meal on top of creamy white polenta–it was filling, sweet, savory, and Farmer-Stand-Fresh.

fava bean succotash 3 fava bean succotash 4 favabeansuccotash


FAVA BEAN SUCCOTASH WITH WHITE POLENTA

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes to keep vegan)
  • 4 pounds fresh fava bean pods, shelled from the main pod
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut from the cob, reserving 1 fresh cob
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter option)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the polenta.  Stir 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup milk (or water), and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside.  Heat 3 cups water to boiling in a large pot.  Once boiling, add the cornmeal mixture and stir vigorously to keep the mixture smooth and lump-free.  Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.  You may need to add another 1/2 cup-1 cup of water, 1/4 cup at a time, while cooking, depending on the consistency you like.  Adding more water while cooking will give the polenta a looser consistency, less water will make a thicker polenta.  Once done, add the parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes and put a lid on the pot to keep warm while preparing the succotash.
  2. Place the fava beans with the waxy, white exterior shell in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 5-7 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water for 2-3 minutes.  The beans will pop right out of this waxy exterior with a little pinch.  Completely shell the beans into a bowl.
  3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the fava beans, corn, asparagus, and onion, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the beans are just tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup water and the cob, and allow to come to a gentle boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.  Remove the cob and add the butter, stirring until a smooth, velvety sauce has brought all the vegetables together.
  5. To serve, divide the polenta evenly among the bowls or plates, and top with the succotash.  If desired, sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.

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Dreamy Polenta

Growing up I called my mom’s friends by their first names, with the addition of the Southern conventional title of respect, Mr. or Miss.  To this day, in my mid-30’s, I still think of my mom’s friends as “Miss Irene and Mr. Joe”; “Miss Trina and Mr. Stuart.”  My brothers and I called our stepdad “Mr. Bob”, simply because that’s how my mom introduced us to him, and the name stuck, even during their marriage.

Mr. Bob loved grits for breakfast.  Cooked smooth and creamy with a dollop of butter on top.  I didn’t realize until I was older that polenta is just a fancy name for grits.  It’s all stone-ground cornmeal, whether white cornmeal or yellow.  Although I remember Mr. Bob’s grits were always white, while all polenta meals I’ve made and eaten have been made with yellow cornmeal.

This polenta meal I dreamed about.  Literally.  It was the middle of winter, and I guess my subconscious wanted summertime because I dreamed of creamy polenta topped with grilled vegetables.  Here’s what my summertime grill prep looks like:

summer grilled vegetables and creamy polenta 1

Super easy: chop the veggies in large chunks, skewer the onions so they don’t get all wiley on you and fall through the grill grates, olive oil, s+p, and lemon zest.  While the veggies are grilling, cook up the polenta, and then serve family style.

summer vegetables and creamy polenta 3

My husband doesn’t mind sharing a plate with me…and I love eating family style mainly because it means less dishes.  Doing dishes is not so dreamy.

summer vegetables and creamy polenta 4

summer grilled vegetables and creamy polenta


SUMMER GRILLED VEGETABLES WITH CREAMY POLENTA

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2-3 medium zucchini, cut into thirds
  • 1 large yellow or sweet onion, cut into large chunks
  • 8-10 mini sweet peppers
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • fresh chopped basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the polenta according to package directions.  The key to creamy polenta is to really follow the directions and let it cook for a full 30 minutes while stirring!
  2. Prep your grill and allow appropriate time to get sizzling hot.
  3. Prep the veggies:  Place in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil, s+p, and lemon zest.
  4. Grill the veggies, turning occasionally, until yummily charred and cooked.
  5. To serve, divide the polenta evenly among plates, top with an assortment of grilled veggies, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and basil.  Alternately, serve family style, piling the polenta and grilled veggies on one large plate.

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Creamy Polenta with Pesto and Potato Hash

polenta with pesto and potato hash

I grew up in Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington DC.  Did you know I never knew Virginia was still considered part of “the south” until we moved to Pennsylvania before my junior year of high school??!!  I mean, I’d had all the Civil War history lessons, and I knew it was “the south” then, and “the south” during the Civil Rights Movement, but that was the past, right?!  When we moved, everyone at school asked me if I were from Virginia, why didn’t I speak with a Southern accent?

I have also since come to learn that calling my mom’s friends “Miss Trina” and “Mr. Stuart” and “Miss Irene” and “Mr. Joe” is a very Southern thing, and culinarily speaking, Southerners love their biscuits, pies, sweet and salty combos, and creamy things (ie. cream of wheat, creamy grits, creamy puddings and custards and creme brûlée and such)…so it’s good to know I often cook to my roots.  I remember my stepdad loved eating grits for breakfast, but I had no idea grits and polenta were pretty much on the same family tree.  Grits is cornmeal cooked with water or milk, and it turns out grits is “poor man’s polenta”.

Polenta is just a coarser ground cornmeal, and used to be peasant food in Italy, but it’s been gaining ground as a super yummy upscale restauranty item.  I still have yet to try and make polenta fries like I ordered at Riverhorse in Park City with that amazing roasted beet salad.  You can have creamy polenta and top it with all sorts of things, or you can pour it into a pan and cut it in strips or circles or squares and then grill it or fry it and it’ll be crispy crunchy on the outside and oh so creamy on the inside.

I was originally going to try Del Sroufe’s Polenta Pizza with Pesto, Caramelized Onions, and Potatoes, but decided to turn it into creamy polenta and top it with pesto (is it bad that I still have homemade pesto in my freezer from my garden two years ago?), caramelized onions, green lentils, potatoes, fresh tomatoes, and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.  If I’d had fresh basil, I would have put some on top.  Fresh garden, I need you!–Definitely next year’s numero uno project!


CREAMY POLENTA WITH PESTO AND POTATO HASH

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Del Sroufe’s Forks Over Knives Cookbook

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup coarse ground polenta
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3-4 medium sized red potatoes, diced
  • 4 tablespoons of your favorite pesto
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • sprinkling of parmesan cheese (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. First prepare the polenta and lentils.  If you start with the lentils, you can let them simmer while you get the rest of the components ready.  Heat 1/2 cup lentils and 1 cup vegetable stock in a medium pot.  One it reaches a boil, turn heat down to low and cover the pot; allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender and liquid is absorbed.  Keep watching the lentils to make sure the liquid isn’t absorbed too quickly.  You may need to add 1/2 cup or so of more of liquid, if needed.
  2. For the polenta bring 3 cups of water a 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a medium pot.  Have 2 more cups of water ready.  Once the 3 cups water is boiling, add 1 cup polenta to the pot, stirring constantly, and immediately turn the heat down to low.  Over the next 20-30 minutes, gradually add the 2 cups remaining water to the polenta and stir frequently.  The polenta will be ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pot.  [It’s true–cornmeal cooks pretty quickly and looks like it’s ready after just 5-10 minutes of stirring, but it’s important to cook it for the complete 30 minutes–it totally changes the texture to smooth and creamy.  I also like to add a dab of butter and a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese and stir it all up.]
  3. To make the caramelized onions, heat 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, salt and pepper to taste, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let saute, stirring occasionally over 20 minutes or so, until the onion is cooked down and golden brown.
  4. Saute the diced potatoes in another pan, with a few tablespoons of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir every so often until they are golden brown.
  5. To serve, put a good scoop of polenta in your bowl, then a few tablespoons of your favorite pesto, the caramelized onions, the lentils, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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