Start with shell beans — in my case, black-eyed peas, but others work just as well. Combine them with corn (preferably yellow, as white looks a bit anemic). Then add frying peppers (Jimmy Nardello's are divine), scallop squash or zucchini, and tomatoes. (I used an amazing Black Krim tomato weighing over a pound, plus some smaller varieties.)
All of these garden gifts come together beautifully in a ragout — as they did for me, around Labor Day.
Shell beans cook in varying amounts of time, so cook time is something you’ll just have to judge for yourself. My black-eyed peas, a delicate pale green, their eyes still more red than black, cooked in about 20 minutes, faster than other shell beans I’ve encountered.
I finished this with a little cream, which is so perfect with corn. To play with the corn theme, I like to serve the ragout with stone-ground corn grits or firm polenta, cut into triangles and grilled.
Corn is always good with grilled chicken or pork, too, but made with care, this dish stands nicely on its own. While you can more or less cook everything together, greater stature is achieved if you take just a little extra time to cook the parts separately, and use the peppers as a garnish.
1 cup shelling beans (or as many as you can amass)
1 bay leaf and 1 thyme branch (aromatics)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Jimmy Nardello peppers or red peppers, such as Lipstick, cut into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 pound scallop squash or zucchini, cut into small wedges
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, finely diced
5 to 6 ears yellow corn, the kernels sliced from the cobs with the milk
1 pound tomatoes, seeded and neatly diced, the juice reserved and strained
5 basil leaves, finely sliced
¼ cup cream
1 handful small yellow fruit tomatoes (such as Sun Golds), halved
Cook the beans: Put the shell beans in a pan, cover with water, add the aromatics and ¼ teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes for black-eyed peas, possibly longer for other beans. When tender, season with salt and pepper and set aside (no need to drain them) while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Cook the peppers: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan, add the peppers, and sauté over high heat until the skins have started to wrinkle and brown in places and the peppers have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the vinegar, turn off the heat, and slide the peppers around the pan until they’re glazed. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Cook the squash: Wipe out the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and when the pan is hot again, add the squash. Cook over high heat, turning often, just until browned, then season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Finish the dish: Melt the butter in a Dutch oven, add the onion, and cook it over medium heat for 3 minutes. Add the corn, diced tomatoes, and the cooked beans and their liquid, plus enough water to make about 3/4 cup. Season with ½ teaspoon salt, freshly ground pepper, and half of the basil leaves. Simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are done, about 6 minutes, adding the sautéed squash during the last few minutes so that they heat through. Add the cream to the vegetables and, when hot, taste for salt and season with more pepper as needed.
Serve the dish: Slide the ragout into a heated dish. Cover with the peppers, the halved yellow tomatoes, and the remaining basil and serve.
If you like it hot, add diced green serrano or jalapeño peppers with the squash.
Season with smoked paprika, smoked salt, bacon, or smoked anything.
Sauté wild shrimp and add them at the end. Shrimp is always good with corn.
Go in a very different direction with the seasonings, using chile, cilantro, and mint in addition to the basil.
Ceramic dish courtesy Ray Grimm.
Related recipe: Squash, Corn, and Shell Bean Ragout with Sautéed Frying Peppers
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