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Succotash is one of my favorite side dishes. With as many variations as a potato salad might have, it most often refers to a warm dish made with corn and lima beans. I had never really had it until we started going to Kingfish Cafe, where they do it right, with corn, lima beans, bell pepper and lots of cream. Cream for days. It is so tasty and comforting. When we decided to have a Southern-themed July 4th barbecue, I knew immediately that I wanted to make succotash– but I wanted a lighter, summery version of the classic dish. After looking at a few recipes, this is what I came up with. I grilled the corn to give it some extra flavor and texture, added jalapeno for pop and replaced the cream with a bright tarragon vinaigrette. This salad will be a new summer staple in our house.

Let’s talk about tarragon for a minute. Tarragon is a misunderstood herb. I feel like I need to stick up for it a bit, tell everyone why I love it so much. It’s assertive, doesn’t play well with every ingredient, and its bold, brash anise flavor is too much for some to handle. There’s a reason you don’t hear about tarragon pesto all summer– a little goes a long way. I love the flavor of tarragon and use it every chance I get. At my house, tarragon has two best friends, chicken and mushrooms, and loves to relax with some vinegar, too. In the summer, when corn comes to town, chicken and mushrooms take a vacation and corn and tarragon hang out all day long. There is nothing like the sweetness of corn accented by tarragon. Throw in some other sweet or mild vegetables (potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes and zucchini, for instance) and you have a veritable party, which is the case with this succotash salad. Though tarragon is not a traditional ingredient in succotash, it works perfectly to provide a fresh, lightened twist on a classic recipe. When you make this succotash salad, don’t be surprised if it inspires you to invite corn and tarragon to hang out at your house all summer, too.

succotash salad with tarragon

Succotash Salad

  • 3 ears of corn, grilled or boiled, cooled and cut off the cob
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1 lb. lima beans*
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small (corn kernel-sized pieces)
  • 1/4 c. tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 T. honey (optional)
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1-2 T. fresh tarragon
  • kosher salt & pepper

Start by cooking your corn; you can do so up to 2 days in advance. If you haven’t grilled corn before, there are two good methods explained here. I tend toward the foil-wrapped method and take mine out of the foil and onto the grate earlier than most to get some good char on the kernels. You can use olive oil, canola oil or butter and a little salt & pepper for the seasoning. If you’d rather boil the corn, salt a generous pot of water and cook for about 10 mins. When your corn is cooked to perfection, allow it to cool and then use a sharp chef’s knife to take it off the cob. If you’re making it ahead, I recommend storing it on the cob in the refrigerator and cutting it off the cob just before making the salad, so it doesn’t dry out.

To cook the lima beans, boil 4 c. water with a pinch of salt; add the limas and cook for 2-3 mins. They will be al dente. Drain and set aside to cool slightly, preferably in a colander so they drain completely.

To the same pot you boiled the lima beans in, add the butter and green onions. Cook the onions for just a minute or so, then add the boiled lima beans. Toss everything together and cook over medium-high heat for about 3-4 mins., stirring constantly, almost like a stir fry. Taste the limas and continue to cook if you find them too hard. I like them quite firm in this salad.

Add the cooked corn and the cooked limas and green onion mixture to a large bowl. Add the jalapeno and bell pepper and toss to combine. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey (if using), olive oil and fresh tarragon. (Start with 1 T. fresh tarragon if you used tarragon vinegar, slightly more if you used plain vinegar.) Pour the dressing over the vegetables, season with salt and pepper and toss again to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings; add the rest of your fresh tarragon if you’d like. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. I found this made a great leftover lunch for a few days after our barbecue; the flavors melded nicely and the vegetables held their shape.

*I used frozen lima beans and have written the recipe to reflect that. You could also cook dried limas and pick up the instructions at the point when the parboiled limas are cooked with green onions in butter.