Giving gifts to Cindy is hard work. She isn’t picky by any means but has immaculate taste. She never asks for anything but always loves something heartfelt. For years I have struggled with this, usually defaulting to a bottle of her favorite perfume until the manufacturer stopped producing it so for a while now I have been out of luck. But it turns out in the years I have been away, she has become this remarkably food-conscious person, eating not just what’s good for her health but what is good for the people who harvested and grew it for her, not to mention for the environment. So this winter – instead of getting her a massage or a bottle of lotion or a pair of slippers, I gave her a share in a meat CSA for Christmas. Well the woman went crazy for it and all I hear now is how much she LOVED it – love that it was grass fed and pasture raised and the portions were small but flavorful. And I love how excited she was about it. It made me think what else she would love for her kitchen – not pots or gadgets but ingredients, artisanal or locally sourced with a story behind it. So I gave her Rancho Gordo beans for Mother’s Day. I am not sure these hit the mark like the CSA. Even though she praised this gift as all mothers do of gifts their children give them, I knew she wasn’t as excited about these because when I came home a few days ago, only one bag of beans had been used. When I asked about the shipment she claimed she didn’t know how to use most of them, that some of them were too obscure. So I set out to make them more accessible.
I started with the Christmas Lima Beans because, truth be told, those were the stumpers in the batch of Gordo beans I purchased for my kitchen. In fact, I left them in New York. Pity for me, because when I started to research these beans, it turns out there are brilliant uses for them – they hold up well in stews and can stand out in a salad. I even saw a recipe for the limas mixed with just garlic oil and herbs. I will channel Ina Garten when I think, “How easy is that?”. When the limas and I got down to business, I was shocked at how quickly they cooked up despite how big they are. The texture is creamy and smooth, sort of like biting into a savory caramel.
For the first recipe out of the gate, I decided on a hybrid between red beans and rice and this amazing tomato-based bean bake I had a few months back at my friend Sara’s house. It had to pack up well, because as luck would have it I had offered to take lunch to Cindy and Bob at their office, so I opted for a one-pot deal here. The acid in the tomatoes and the brightness of the lemon zest pair well with the creamy beans. My mind is whirling now with all the other ways this little lima can be used – next up I think I am whipping it into a bean dip. Stand tuned and enjoy!
Christmas Lima Beans and Rice
For a recipe to cook Christmas Lima (or any other type of) beans, go to Gordo’s website – their method is the best. You could easily omit the sausage and turn this into a vegan-friendly dish. For the grains, I used a combination of half brown rice, half red quinoa, which turned out to be a nice combination. Active time: 25 minutes, plus soaking and cooking beans, up to 12 hours); Serves 4.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small leek, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 6 inch andoulle sausage or chorizo sausage, quartered and diced
2 cups cooked Christmas Lima Beans
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup of stewed tomatoes
¼ cup water or broth
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste
about 20 chives, snipped into two inch segments, divided
2 cups cooked grains
In a 12 inch cast iron skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and red peppers; sauté until translucent and leeks are slightly golden, about five minutes. Add sausage and garlic and sauté another five minutes. Add beans, tomatoes and water to the skillet and simmer until beans are cooked through and sauce has reduced a bit, about ten minutes. Turn off heat and stir in crushed red pepper, zest and half of the chives.
To prep for transport –
In a round or square casserole dish, spread rice as the base layer to the edges of the dish. Spread out bean mixture over rice, top with remaining chives and cover with foil. At final destination, scoop out servings and enjoy!