Two summer salad recipes from the Mississippi delta | Cook residency

February 16, 2017

Deep South recipes: The wilderness is never far away in the Mississippi delta, a treasure trove of fresh create such as the three sisters: corn, beans and squash. Together they make for this duo of summertime salads …

My family always grew a few rows of vegetables behind our Mississippi home. Each springtime we would plant heirloom tomatoes, purple eggplant, butter beans, green okra, pole( runner) beans, sweet bicolour sweetcorn, crookneck squash and at least one row of watermelon. Now, we also have peach and plum trees, and blueberry shrubs. Wild blackberries can be found near the leading edge of the property along the creek. And the two acres of backyard are almost entirely dappled with shade from the pecan trees.

The Delta National Forest stretches out from our property line, where cotton rows turn into ancient oaks and cypress. Wild pigs roam freely, rooting up palmetto for daytime snacks and unleashing havoc on new harvests in the field under the cover-up of darkness. There are white-tailed deer, turkeys, the occasional squirrel, and the even more rare black bear( its illegal to hunt them now, but there was a period when Teddy Roosevelt did so in the area where Im from ).

Civilisation and wilderness live side-by-side in the Mississippi delta. In some styles they are inextricable. We take what we can from the wild in order to survive; and we took our cue from the people who lived there before us. The influence of the native American tribes of Mississippi cannot be overlooked. The mystique of a former culture persists throughout the state, from the Natchez Trace trail and the burial mounds to the occasional thrill of procuring an arrowhead in old fields. Theyve taught us how to live off the land, as foragers, hunters, and farmers.

The Choctaw, Yazoo, Biloxi, Houma and so many other tribes all farmed here. From an early age, southerners learn about their primary planting technique which blended corn, squash and beans known collectively as the three sisters. The Native American legend behind this association is that these three were inseparable siblings who can only grow and prosper together. The practical science behind it devotes credit to its practitioners: the corn provides support for the beans to grow upwards while the squash inhibits weed growth and helps to prevent evaporation from the soil. The beans fix nitrogen into the soil through their roots, boosting its fertility for future years seeds.

Summer squash, or yellow courgette as its known in the UK, is a staple in the southern kitchen. Simply treated to bring out the flavor of the squash, we stew it with thinly sliced onions and thyme in a light pork stock, or blitz it with thick buttermilk and cayenne pepper for a silky, chilled soup. Any southern harvest festival should include succotash, a dish that is the perfect festivity of the three sisters on one plate. We pay tribute to these native cultures each year by eating this dish during the annual corn harvest.

The type of beans you choose to use in your succotash is not important. Choose beans that are readily available and to your savors. Feel free to mix and match. The recipe below is vegetarian, but you can stimulate your succotash more substantial by adding rendered smoked bacon, poached lobster, crab or scallop meat. Generally, in the US, the more yellow the corn the starchier it will be. For best outcomes, always select the sweetest assortments of corn.

Squash is fantastic raw. Here, the second recipe employs a technique of brining thin strips of it as a preseasoning. I usually make a doubled batch of the pumpkin seed pesto to keep as a snack in the refrigerator. Youll find yourself spreading it on everything.

Brad Brad McDonald prepares succotash a southern staple celebrating the three sisters corn, squash and beans. Photo: Elena Heatherwick for the Guardian


Serves 8-10, as a side
2 red peppers
125g runner beans
200g broad beans
125g borlotti beans
125g white pod beans, such as white coco beans
100g yellow string beans
1 yellow courgette
2 green courgettes
3 ears of sweetcorn
1 banana shallot
100ml red wine vinegar
200ml garlic-infused oil
1 heaped tbsp each chervil, chives, parsley and tarragon, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive or vegetable oil, for frying

1 First, you need to roast the peppers. If you have a gas hob, you can do it directly on the flame. If not, you can use a hot grill or an oven on its highest defining. Turn the peppers during cooking so the scalp evenly blisters and blackens all over. Put them into a bowl and cover tightly with clingfilm. Allow to cool. The steam will make it easy to rub off the scalps. Halve the skinned peppers, scrape out the seeds, then cut them into strips around 5mm thick.

2 Pod the broad beans, then remove the second scalp around each bean, so you are left with just the tender little its participation in the centre: its time-consuming, but worth it.

3 Pod the borlotti and white coco beans. Cut the runner beans and string beans into 25 mm pieces diagonally.

4 Dice the courgettes into 1cm pieces and shuck the corn kernels off the cob.

5 Finely dice the shallot and mix with the petroleum, vinegar, and lemon zest, whisk together to blend a little

6 In a large pot of well salted boil water blanch each bean individually by assortment until just done but still al dente. Plunge each assortment straight into iced water when done.

7 Saute the corn and courgettes in a little petroleum in batches until lightly coloured and tender. Cool.

8 Mix all the drained beans with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl, taste for seasoning and serve.

Courgette and feta salad with pumpkin seed pesto

Serves 4-6
2 green courgettes
2 yellow courgettes
1 small red onion, finely sliced
75g feta
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
Vadouvan powder
Picked mint foliages, for garnish
500ml water, with 3 tsp salt dissolved into it

For the pesto
125g pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli, stemmed, deseeded
3 garlic cloves, minced
A big handful of parsley
A big handful of coriander
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
tsp orange zest

1 Finely slice the courgettes lengthways into ribbons, then, employing a mandoline or a rotary peeler, finely slice the red onion into half moons.

2 Marinate the courgettes and onion in the brine in separate receptacles for 1015 minutes.

3 Drain both, then lay the courgettes out on a tray, brush all over with the garlic petroleum and season well with the vadouvan powder, allow to marinate for 5 minutes. Dress with the lemon juice just at the end.

4 Now, stimulate the pesto. Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven, then leave to cool. Meanwhile, sweat the shallots, chilli, garlic and salt. Allow to cool. Put all the cooled ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth.

5 Dot a large platter with spoons of the pesto, then roll up each strip of courgette and place them around the plate, crumble the feta evenly over the top and, lastly, scatter with some small, tender, picked mint foliages and drained strips of red onion. Season with a touch more vadouvan and ocean salt, if desired.

Vadouvan spice mix

Vadouvan is a dry curry spice that has become popular across the South in recent years. This recipe is from a dear friend and also worth making in big batches and storing in an airtight container. Once youve made this, youll become a slave to its seductive aroma, but you can simplify the recipe by buying your own pre-made amber curry spice mix.

Makes around 900 g
450g onions
450g shallots
6 garlic cloves
5 whole cardamom pods
tsp mustard seeds
tsp fenugreek
1 tbsp fresh curry leaves, picked
tsp tumeric
whole nutmeg
tsp chilli flakes
3 whole cloves
2 tbsp ocean salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 Peel and chop the onions and shallots into small dice. Blend in a food processor with the garlic till you have a nice paste. Sweat the mix with the salt in the vegetable oil over low heat.

2 Meanwhile, toast the spices in a dry frying pan, cool, and grind to a powder. Add the spice blend to the onion/ garlic mixture and keep cooking low and slow until the bitterness and raw taste has gone.

3 Spread the wet concoction on to a baking tray lined with parchment and dry out in very low oven. Once dry, grind into a powder. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Smoked pineapple-bourbon punch

Serves 4-6
85g smoked pineapple flesh, diced
180ml bourbon
30ml manzanilla sherry
150ml pineapple juice
90ml lime juice
6 dashes Angostura bitters
1 sliced apple
Mint foliages for garnish

1 Blend all together and served chilled.

Brad McDonald is chef patron at The Lockhart and Shotgun in London. His book, Deep South( Quadrille) is out now. @bradmcdonald01

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