After a busy summer of travel, I finally had the chance to try Stoke, chef Chris Coleman’s new restaurant in the recently renovated Marriott City Center. As I usually do when I visit a new spot for the first time, I ordered more dishes than I could possibly eat.
Everything was great, but one dish in particular really stood out: Late Summer Succotash. This version is filled with ingredients that shine a spotlight on local purveyors: Bi-color corn from Barbee Farms in Concord, pink-eyed peas and tomatoes from Burton Farms in Vale, and okra and peppers from Harmony Ridge in Tobaccoville, harmoniously share a spot on the plate.
Coleman’s philosophy is to take exceptional ingredients and celebrate what makes them special. He keeps cooking techniques simple with the goal of highlighting each component’s uniqueness, and that shines through in his succotash. What I find most appealing about it is, even though we are already past the official end of summer (is it really late September already?), you can modify the ingredients to include what is still available at farmers markets or use items you have preserved from the bounty of the past few months. Don’t beat yourself up over using frozen corn. When I tried the recipe, I used crowder peas instead of pink-eyed peas because that is what they had at the market.
Not to be overshadowed by the vegetables, the sunflower pesto may be my favorite part of the dish. Not only is it delicious as a bed for the succotash, the peppery spread would also be fantastic on steak, chicken, eggs, or spread onto crusty bread. Coleman blanches the arugula to brighten the green and keep it from browning a day or two longer in the refrigerator. You could skip that step if you are going to use the pesto right away or if you are short on time. If you are using baby arugula, feel free to leave the tender stems on.
Jennifer Lover is a creative director, stylist and cook who lives in Charlotte. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marriott Charlotte City Center, 100 W Trade St.; 704-353-6005.
Late Summer Succotash
About 2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onions, carrots and celery
2 cups corn, cut from cob
2 cups field peas, cooked (such as pink-eyed peas, crowders or Sea Island red peas)
1/2 cup bell pepper, small dice
1/2 cup tomatoes, small dice
1/4 cup mushrooms, small dice
1/4 cup okra, cut across into thin rounds
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
Thinly sliced herbs (such as parsley, chervil, tarragon and/or basil)
Heat the butter in a saute pan until melted. Add the onions, carrots and celery and saute until slightly softened. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until warmed through and the peppers, mushrooms and okra are just starting to soften. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and herbs. Serve immediately on a bed of Sunflower Pesto.
Yield: About 6 cups.
6-7 ounces arugula, blanched (see note)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lemon Juice
1/4 cup hulled sunflower seeds, untoasted
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Black pepper and salt, to taste
Chilled water, as needed
Combine arugula, lemon juice, sunflower seeds, Parmesan and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until paste is formed.
Begin running processor continuously and slowly add olive oil in a narrow stream to emulsify. Once pesto has been blended until smooth, add small amounts of chilled water until desired consistency is achieved.
Season to taste with salt and refrigerate immediately in a tightly sealed container.
Note: To blanch arugula, place ice and water in a medium bowl and set aside. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Immediately immerse the arugula and stir for about 15 seconds. Remove leaves with a slotted spoon and plunge into the ice bath. Drain well and remove extra water by squeezing arugula with your hands until dry.
Yield: 1 cup.