Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
As we move further into summer, the idea of putting together complicated meals becomes less and less appealing. Moreover, the beautiful produce that starts to come into season requires very little manipulation to turn into a flavorful dish. In this recipe, I bring three summer favorites together: peaches, corn and tomatoes.
Succotash is a classic American recipe that typically has corn and lima beans as the base, but from there the variations are endless. Here, peaches and tomatoes add sweetness and tang to the blend, while thyme contributes an herbal touch. I wanted to make use of the beautiful sweet corn available during the summer, but you can certainly substitute thawed frozen corn when fresh isn't available, or simply to save yourself the time and trouble of shucking the cobs and removing the kernels.
Ripe but firm peaches are ideal for the succotash, as these will be sweet yet hold their shape and texture through the light cooking process. On the other hand, if you have a soft peach that’s verging on overripe, use that one for the gastrique, as it will break down more quickly into the sauce.
A gastrique is a simple sauce with a fancy name—just a combination of caramelized sugar and vinegar that is reduced. I didn’t truly caramelize the sugar in this version, opting instead to simply extract the peach's flavor by simmering diced pieces in water to break them down, and reducing the liquid before adding a lightly tangy Champagne vinegar. Adding a scant drizzle of this simple sauce brought a bright, unifying flavor to the dish.
This succotash would make a lovely side to just about any protein; however, the hint of sweetness you find in ham steaks goes particularly well with the peaches. Ham steaks are also inexpensive, and you can find them fully pre-cooked (though not all of them are, in which case adjust cooking time accordingly); searing a pre-cooked one for just a couple minutes per side adds a hint of smokiness that serves as a nice counterpoint to this dish's otherwise fresh flavors.
From my local store, I opted for a steak pre-portioned into 3-ounce servings, but if you can only find larger steaks, you can certainly divide them yourself. I found one 3-ounce portion with a generous amount of the succotash to be a good serving for a light supper or lunch; however, you may want to plan on more if serving eaters with larger appetites.
I decided to try one red and one white wine with this meal: a Beaujolais and a Viognier-based Côtes du Rhône white. The Beaujolais worked well with the ham, bringing out the smoky flavors, but the fruity Gamay didn't sing with the salad, proving to be a fairly simple pairing.
The white Côtes du Rhône, however, harmonized with the peaches in the succotash. Heady floral notes in this wine also added depth to the food, while hints of minerality and herbs brought out the thyme seasoning in the salad and made for a far more interesting combination.
Pair with a Viognier-based blend such as E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône White 2014 (87 points, $19)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Total time: 65 minutes
Approximate food costs: $22
1. Add 1/2 cup of the diced peaches, the sugar and 1 cup of water to a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Break down the peaches by occasionally mashing with a spoon or fork. Reduce the mixture by half, then add the 1/2 cup of vinegar. Continue to reduce until the mixture becomes lightly syrupy, about 20 to 25 minutes in total. Keep the gastrique warm until ready to serve, then pass it through a strainer to smooth out the sauce.
2. While the gastrique simmers, gently sweat the onions in a pan with a small amount of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt until soft and translucent, approximately 12 minutes. Use a knife to remove the kernels from the corncobs. Add the kernels and the lima beans to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add the corn, remaining peaches, tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of vinegar and chopped thyme, and gently toss to combine. Warm the mixture for a couple of minutes and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.
3. Season ham steaks with salt and pepper. Heat a greased grill pan over medium-high and sear the ham steaks for a couple minutes on each side (longer if they are not pre-cooked or are larger, thicker steaks that you'll be dividing).
4. To serve, drizzle a small amount of gastrique on each plate, and top with a ham steak and a generous helping of the peach succotash. Garnish with additional thyme if desired. Serves 6 to 8.