First was last weekend's auspicious introduction, in the form of their fat and creamy runner cannellini beans simmered into a chunky vegetable soup. A couple of days later, needing another Rancho Gordo fix, I cooked up a pot of Rio Zape beans, a variety similar to pinto beans. Rich, nutty, and creamy, they were delicious dressed simply with olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh herbs. Then later in the week, I made a batch of Christmas limas -- the enormous, burgundy-and-cream-mottled beans shown in the photo above. Earthy with a flavor reminiscent of chestnuts, these too were delectable treated very simply with a drizzle of olive oil and a little sea salt and black pepper. As for a favorite? I can't decide.
Cooking dried beans during the week requires a little pre-planning, but it is well worth it given all of the quick and delicious, protein-packed, and very economically friendly meals that can easily be thrown together when cooked beans are in the fridge. Soups, salads, bean-and-grain bowls, creamy purees. Before heading to work in the morning I set up some dried beans to soak; when I return in the evening the beans are rehydrated and plump, ready to simmer. I store the cooked beans in their cooking liquid, which helps them stay tender and creamy; they keep, chilled, for about a week.
One morning, poking around the fridge for the makings of a portable lunch bowl featuring leftover Christmas limas, I found promising accompaniments in the forms of cooked farro, roasted beets, greens, scallions, and a slab of Greek feta. A quickly whisked together tahini dressing, lemony and flecked with fresh herbs, made a great finishing touch drizzled across the top.
farro and Christmas lima lunch bowl
Lunch bowls are all about variety and experimentation. If you don't have farro around, you can substitute another hearty whole grain, such as spelt berries, wheat berries, barley, or brown rice. For the green element I chose Tuscan kale; spinach or arugula would also work well. And for the cheese, a crumbly goat cheese or ricotta salata would be great, too.
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup cooked farro*
- 1 cup cooked Christmas lima beans*
- 4 or 5 leaves of Tuscan kale, torn into bite-size pieces
- 2 roasted beets, peeled and diced
- Feta cheese
- Sea salt and black pepper
Transfer the mixture to bowls, top with the beets and feta, and drizzle with tahini dressing.
creamy tahini-herb dressing
- 3 Tbsp tahini
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*Cooking the farro and Christmas lima beans:
For the farro: Rinse 1 cup of farro, drain, and soak for 8 to 12 hours in 3 cups of water with a 1 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Transfer farro and its soaking liquid to a pot, adding additional water if needed to cover the grains by about 3 inches. Add 1 tsp sea salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 1 hour. Drain excess water. Yields about 2-1/2 cups of cooked farro.
For the beans: Soak 1 cup of dried Christmas lima beans in 3 cups of water for 6 to 8 hours. Drain and rinse the beans, transfer them to a pot, and cover with fresh water. Add 1 tsp sea salt and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot, and cook until beans are uniformly tender, about 1-1/2 hours. Yields about 3 cups of cooked beans.
A note on soaking: I cook grains in their soaking liquid, but not beans. With grains, some nutrients are lost to the soaking liquid, so cooking the grains in the liquid allows them to reabsorb the nutrients. With beans, soaking helps remove hard-to-digest, gas-producing substances, so it's best to discard the liquid and cook them in fresh water.
I add apple cider vinegar when soaking grains because the acid helps deactivate phytic acid (a substance that prevents GI absorption of certain minerals) in the grains. From what I've read this does not seem to be an issue with beans so I do not add vinegar when soaking them.