A Bitten Word Recipe
Now that we're in high summer, there's nothing we love more than grabbing some vegetables from our CSA or the farmers market, tossing them in a hot skillet and giving them a quick sauté.
This time of year, you can really throw just about any vegetables together in a skillet and it'll taste good. Tomatoes, corn and okra? Zucchini, eggplant and peppers? Summer squash, green beans and onions? You really can't go wrong.
But there's one key ingredient we're always sure to include no matter what summer veggies we throw in the pan. Even just a little bit of it can elevate any vegetables this time of year. It's essentially free, and we'll bet you already have it (or the makings of it) in your kitchen.
We call it summer's secret weapon.
What is this magic ingredient? We'll give you a hint: It's in that photo above of some summer vegetables we sautéed this weekend. See it? No?
Want another hint?
Well, let's put it this way: Vegetarians can probably skip the rest of this post.
Yup, it's bacon grease.
And if you're not throwing a dab of that porky goodness into your vegetable sautés, you're really missing out on something great.
Just a tablespoon of bacon grease can flavor an entire vegetable succotash -- and what a flavor it is! The rendered fat adds a subtle smoky saltiness that infuses all the vegetables with an incredible depth of flavor. It's not enough to taste "bacon-y" -- just enough to add a lip-smacking, silky, savory richness to the whole dish.
And we can already hear protestations: "Lard is so fattening!" "How can you possibly recommend something so unhealthy?!" But consider this: By just about any definition, lard is a healthier fat than butter. It has one-third less saturated fat than butter, and about double the amount of butter's monounsaturated fat (the "good" fat). While lard has only about half the monounsaturated fats as olive oil, it has about the same polyunsaturated fats (other "good" fats) as olive oil. Also, lard has no trans fats. It's all natural, and your grandparents loved it.
So the next time you fry bacon in a skillet, leave the grease to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then simply pour it into a glass jar, screw on the lid and store it in the fridge. It'll keep for a year, or you can freeze it and store it even longer.
Then when you're ready to fix some vegetables (as our grandmothers would say), drop a tablespoon of that fat into a hot skillet.
We guarantee it'll lift your summer vegetables to new heights. And in no time you, too, will be referring to bacon grease as your secret weapon!
A Recipe from TheBittenWord.com
Note: A succotash is extremely forgiving. We tend to measure by handfuls rather than cups. You could throw in just about any vegetable you have on hand, and you'd be fine. But here's a basic recipe for a very good succotash.
1 tablespoon bacon grease OR 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more olive oil as needed)
1 medium onion, diced
1 large zucchini, seeded and diced, about 2 cups
2 cups fresh corn
2 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon fresh basil (optional), chopped or torn into small pieces
salt and pepper
Heat bacon grease or olive oil in a large saucepan on medium heat, being careful not to allow the grease to start smoking. Add onion and a dash of salt, and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add zucchini and corn and sauté another 4 minutes, until zucchini becomes slightly softened. If vegetables are getting too dry, add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.
Add tomatoes and sauté an additional 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in basil, if desired. Salt and pepper to taste.
Consider adding or substituting any of the following:
- Vegetables: Peas (fresh or frozen), edamame (fresh or frozen), pearl onions, squash, eggplant, okra
- Herbs: Thyme, Tarragon, Mint, Oregano
- Other Mix-Ins: Bacon (for some pork-on-pork action), Garlic