These gorgeous huge beans are about one and one-quarter inches long and look like big carnelians with cream-colored markings. They have a creamy texture and a rich flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. Lima beans never did much for me until I learned about Christmas Lima beans from Rancho Gordo. In his great book, The Rancho Gordo Heirloom Bean Grower’s Guide, Steve Sando writes that it is thought that this bean originated in Peru and after it migrated to Italy it was called Fagiolo di Papa or the Pope’s bean. SlowFoodUSA/Ark of Taste states that this bean was introduced into the U.S. in the 1840’s and was especially popular in the Southwest. It is sometimes called Speckled Calico Lima or the Chestnut Lima. When they are cooked the vibrant red and cream markings mellow to a light and dark red brown.
A couple of months ago I was trying to come up with a good dish that involved potatoes and cabbage. I tried some ideas but they were too fancy and didn’t have the taste profile I was wanted. I wanted to taste the potatoes and cabbage but with something extra. About the same time I tried the Christmas Lima beans for the first time. I had cooked them for a long time and didn’t eat them until the next day after they had soaked in their pot liquor overnight. They were rich and succulent. I decided to pair them with some simply cooked yellow Finn potatoes and some steamed cabbage. It turned out to be one of those simple dishes that is deeply satisfying. This recipe is for two servings. It can easily be increased for four servings without increasing the amount of beans to be cooked. Just double the rest of the ingredients.
• 1 cup – about 8 ounces – Christmas Lima beans
• 4 cups of water
• 1 dried bay leaf
• 1/2 of a large yellow onion, cut into chunks approx. 1-inch
• 1 carrot peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
• 1 celery stalk, cut into 1-inch chunks
• 1 tbsp. dried thyme
• 4 small to medium yellow Finn potatoes
• ½ head of green cabbage, cut into four quarters
• ¼ – ½ cup of microgreens
• ¼ – 1/2 cup of Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
• Salt and pepper
Rinse the beans carefully checking for any foreign material. Put the beans and the bay leaf in a large bowl and pour 4 cups of water over them. Let sit and soften for 4-5 hours. When the beans have softened, put them in a 3-4 quart pot with the water they soaked in and the bay leaf. Steve Sando thinks the soaking water should be kept rather than thrown away so as to keep as many nutrients as possible. I have followed his advice.
Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a dry pan. I dice the vegetables quite small so as to get the most flavor from them. Once the vegetables start to soften and stick to the pan, add a few spoonsful of soaking water from the beans and stir the vegetables. When the vegetables are just starting to get brown at the edges, turn off the heat. Put the sautéed vegetables and the thyme in a length of cheesecloth and gather the corners and tie them together. Leave it loose enough so that all the vegetables come in contact with the water. Add the cheesecloth bag to the pot of beans. Add more water as necessary to cover the beans and vegetables by a good two inches.
Bring the pot to a boil over high heat. Once the beans and vegetables start to boil, reduce the heat to med-high and continue to boil for 3-5 minutes. Then reduce the heat to low and let the beans and vegetables simmer for 1-2 hours. If you are using a wide pot, put the lid on but keep it ajar to keep it from boiling over and allow some steam to escape. If you are using a tall, narrow pot you probably won’t need a lid. You may need a flame-tamer to keep the heat low enough. Don’t let them boil again, just keep them at a low simmer.
After two hours test a bean to see if it is cooked to your liking. Cooking times vary and it seems that at my altitude, 3200 feet, beans take a little longer than called for in most recipes. Keep testing and cooking the beans until they are to your liking. When the beans are almost completely cooked, remove the cheesecloth bag and add salt to taste. It takes a while for the beans to absorb the salted broth so don’t add to much salt at first.
One cup of dry lima beans will make about two cups of beans, approximately four servings. This recipe calls for only half of the cooked beans so you can save the rest for another meal.
When the beans are nearly finished put the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold, salted water by one inch. Bring the potatoes to a boil and then turn down the heat to medium and gently cook until they start to soften, approximately 15 minutes.
When you have turned down the heat for the potatoes, start water to boil in your steamer for the cabbage. When the water in the steamer starts to boil, put the cabbage slices, cut side down, in the steamer and cover. Cook the cabbage for 6-8 minutes.
Check the potatoes by sticking a fork into one. If the fork slides all the way in the potatoes are done. If not, cook a little longer. When they are cooked, drain the water and put the potatoes on a paper towel to dry and cool a bit. As they cool the skins will loosen a little and you can slip the tip of a knife under them and peel off the skins.
Cut the potatoes into eighths and sprinkle some salt, pepper and dill weed on them. Arrange the potatoes on two plates.
When the cabbage is done, carefully lift the slices and put them on top of the potatoes on each plate. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper and dill weed on the cabbage. Pour some of the Honey Mustard Vinaigrette over the potatoes and cabbage.
Spoon half of the cooked Christmas Lima beans over the two plates of vegetables along with some of the pot liquor from the beans. Mix some of the vinaigrette with the microgreens and put them on top of the Christmas Limas. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and serve.