Filed under: in the kitchen
We had wonderful brisk fall weather this weekend, with the kind of deepening chill in the air that calls out for aromatic slow-cooked stews and dishes. I had a bag of dried lima beans in the pantry, bought in a moment of homesickness, and decided this was the weekend for them.
Lima beans have a wealth of emotional significance to me – I don’t know that I’ve ever eaten lima beans, as a dish unto themselves, that weren’t prepared by one of my family members. Even at church potlucks, I would hunt out a pot I recognized rather than dip into anyone else’s offering. My paternal grandmother tends to go for blue/purple/gray beans cooked with a piece of fatty ham hock. They are uniformly delicious and comforting. We colloquially called them butter beans, which ought to give you an idea of their lipid heavy mouthfeel. You can eat them strained and mostly dry, or have them swimming in savory broth, depending on your preference. My maternal grandmother cooked that dish as well, but her specialty was large white beans in a stewed tomato base. The dish could be split during cooking, with half the recipe cooked plain and half cooked with tomatoes, and both are brought to the table for your tongue to tease out the differences. Properly done, the beans would easily mush when pressed to the roof of your mouth with your tongue, and would be accompanied by fresh biscuits made of flour, milk, and Crisco.
I didn’t have any ham, salt pork, or bacon in the house, so I made these with a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous shake of salt. It worked out just fine. If you have access to home canned stewed tomatoes, that would be much more authentic, so please use them if you can!
1 cup dried lima/butter beans
3 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
…As you can see, the recipe is going to be criminally simple.
Soak the beans according to package directions. Or make your own directions if you like. My package said soak overnight, but I soaked them from 11 am to 8 pm. Same difference. The directions were vague about whether to replace the soaking water with fresh water when it came time to cook, so I didn’t. In hindsight, that was probably the correct decision – the starch in the soak water helps thicken the broth as it cooks.
At the end of the soak period, turn the flame on high and bring the beans to a boil. When foam forms, spoon it off. Then add the oil, salt, and tomatoes.
Cover and simmer for at least two hours on low heat, stirring every half hour or so, testing for appropriate mushiness towards the end.
And that’s it. Really.
Delicious, hearty, savory lima beans. How easy was that?
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