Succotash Deconstructed

harry-224x300.jpgI’m crazy for the farmers’ stands that dot the landscape out here in the Hamptons. Oops, sorry – I heard yesterday that the proper designation for this area is “The East End.” If you say, “The Hamptons” they know you don’t really belong here.

We’re still in rehearsal, so we haven’t had full days to explore the back roads and dig out the farmers who still have dirt under their fingernails. But we found a stand the other day that’s the best so far.

It’s called Fairview Farm at Mecox and it’s the proud enterprise of Harry Ludlow and his family. Harry is a charmer and one gets the feeling that he had some dirt under his fingernails not very long ago. And his wife and daughters bake fresh fruit pies that are to die for.

We found him on our way to a brunch at the house of a very famous dead person. I’m not going to drop his name because it has no relevance to the story, but the very famous dead person – when he was alive – bequeathed this house to friends of his, who happen to be friends of some friends of ours. That’s how we got to see it.

This is my dream house. If I had a billion dollars, the very first thing I would do – after feeding the poor people – would be to buy this house, or one like it. It’s not one of those mega-mansions you see all over the place in the Hamptons – oops, sorry, the East End. You know, the ones with the high hedges to keep out prying eyes and the long curving driveways that lead up to some monstrously large edifice that houses two or three skinny rich people. My dream house is not like that. It’s a real beach house – a clapboard cottage, two or three smallish bedrooms, a nice living area and kitchen, perched on the dunes, steps from the ocean, the salt breeze caressing your cheeks. Heaven on a stick.

Anyway, on the way to my dream house we stopped at Harry Ludlow’s stand and bought pretty much everything he had – beautiful, beautiful stuff. Lima beans still in the pods, fresh-picked corn, simply gorgeous tomatoes and long, Italian-style sweet peppers – and it occurred to me that these were the ingredients for succotash, which is a dish I never much liked because it’s so heavy – everything stewed in glops of butter.

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But when I got home I cooked them each separately and we had one of the best lunches of the year. I shelled the lima beans, parboiled them, napped them with a little very good olive oil (ours, actually, from our trees in Umbria) – that was plate number one. Then I did four ears of corn – two apiece; I don’t have to tell you how to do corn on the cob – roast it, grill it, boil it, steam it – just don’t overdo it – that was plate number two. Then I seeded the peppers, sliced them into a nice bitable size and blistered them in very hot olive oil; add salt and they’re perfect – so perfect, in fact, that I ate most of them standing at the stove right out of the frying pan – like popcorn. The rest of them went on plate number three. I sliced the tomatoes, added some oil, salt and some fresh-torn basil and that was plate number four. We happily munched away on each dish separately and let them all comingle into succotash in our tummies.

Top notch lunch.


Michael Tucker is an actor and author whose third book is the recently published Family Meals: Coming Together to Care for an Aging Parent.  You can read more about his food adventures on his blog Notes from a Culinary Wasteland.