The sun sparkled on the waters of Eld Inlet, a soft tropical breeze ruffled through the mimosa tree, hummingbirds flitted from flower to flower, and six old friends gathered in anticipation of good food and long conversations—a Sunset Magazine editor could not have staged a more beautiful day.
We loaded our plates from the snack table with crackers, good cheese, olives, and Nancy’s tomato jam, and convened on the beach, ready to catch up.
The scene was set on the kitchen counter for everyone’s favorite—Succotash. I asked to be the chopper and dicer and, with the aid of Nancy’s beautifully sharp knife, I filled bowls with summer-sweet tomatoes and Walla Walla onions. After the traditional “Succotash” reading, we first ladled savory beans with chunks of smoked ham hock into our bowls, added diced tomatoes and chopped onions, cut corn off the cob onto the vegetables, smothered the lot with butter, seasoned amply with coarse salt, and celebrated Nancy and Tom’s prowess in the kitchen and the garden.
After we walked around the garden to settle the succotash, Nancy brought out a platter of sautéed chicken thighs with balsamic glaze and roasted potato salad—the lily was gilded! Beth made the ultimate finish to a summer feast—a peach tart tatin with a snuggle of whipped cream. We talked about Covid, the adventures of grown children, dashed and future travel plans, the trials of being a home owner, foundations, inspections, wet basements, the joys of retirement, Thai food, mystery writers, noisy boats, quiet woods, and the benefits of hiking.
The Sweetie and I continue to savor the benefits of our connection with these good friends—they know our secrets, they knew our parents, they have seen our kids grow, and they have been there through the thick and the thin. Thanks to every one of them and see you soon!
- 1 ½ pounds Roma tomatoes peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup fine diced sweet onions
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon grated or minced ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes or to taste
Combine all ingredients in a heavy medium saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.
Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture has consistency of thick jam, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep at least a week.
Indiana Succotash—serves 6-8
- 2# dried cranberry or horticulture beans
- 6 large tomatoes–worthy of being called “summer’s finest hour”
- 1 sweet onion (Walla Walla, Vidalia)
- 4 ears sweet corn–the freshest possible
- Real butter, brought to room temperature
- Coarse salt
Soak dried beans overnight, drain, then cover the beans with 1” water, add bay leaf and smoked ham hocks and simmer until beans are soft. Use plenty of water so you’ll have lots of juice.
Dice fresh ripe tomatoes, place in a serving bowl. Fine dice sweet onions, place in a serving bowl. Boil whole ears of corn, have corn and butter available. Each eater spoons an ample amount of beans with liquid in the bottom of their bowl, adds tomatoes, onions, cuts the corn off the cob into their bowl, adds the desired amount of softened butter and adjusts to suit their taste.