February 20, 2011

farro and Christmas lima bowl

My crush on Rancho Gordo's heirloom beans shows absolutely no sign of abating. 

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.

Serves 2
  • 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
Saute the scallions in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until they soften and begin to caramelize around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the farro and beans and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Then add the kale and a pinch of salt and grind of black pepper, toss to combine evenly, cover, and cook on low for a few minutes until the kale is wilted.

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
For a rustic, herb-flecked dressing, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, and herbs, add a little water to achieve a drizzle-able consistency, and season with salt and pepper. If you're in a fancy mood, puree the ingredients in a blender for a vibrantly green, silky-smooth dressing.


*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.


  1. I love the Christmas limas, and my only lament is that the beautiful burgundy mottling diminishes when cooked. But that diminishes after I take a bite of these delectables---truly "chestnutty"

    With RG, It's hard to have a favorite.

    great recipes--and tip about the cider vinegar---I didn't realize that!

  2. Aren't the beans from Rancho Gordo the best? The texture is just so much more tender, you can taste the freshness. This looks like a good and refreshing salad.

  3. yep..I have to make this as soon as my kitchen is put back together! love the tahini added to the mix..

  4. Hi ladies - thanks for your comments!

    Nancy - yup aren't the Christmas limas just amazing?! Their mottling does fade, though I found it was more preserved after cooking compared with some other beans, like cranberry beans that end up sort of a uniform pink. Next up, the RG tepary beans!

  5. Such a lovely recipe, I could enjoy this any time of the year!

  6. I love your experimenting with heirloom beans. I will watch your blog intently since I recently went to NYC and bought a whole bunch of heirloom beans from Kalustyan's. Since I am Canadian, I haven't tried Rancho Gordo beans yet, but I hope these are ok, too. :)

  7. Hi Janet - it's great that you made it to Kalustyan's while you were in nyc. Such a great store! I've never bought beans there, but I've tried their dried herbs and spices and always found them to be good quality and very fresh. Definitely let me know how the heirloom beans work out!

  8. Excellent recipe! I added fresh mint, basil, dill and fennel to the tahini dressing and I used feta with Mediterranean herbs. This is an absolutely delicious dish -- so elegant and flavorful. I found it by just googling all the items I had on hand -- fresh kale, heirloom beans, farro and fresh beets (yellow and red)! I got all these wonderful vegetables and herbs from a Farmers Market! What a treat! Thanks so much!