Lima Love

Laugh if you like, but I’m growing fonder of lima beans year by year.

This past Saturday marked the fifth year of Encinitas’ Lima Bean Faire, a fundraiser for the San Dieguito Heritage Museum (www.sdheritage.org) and my fourth year (I think) as a judge of the faire’s cooking contest. (Also judging were Coast News columnist David Boylan (“Lick the Plate”) and Chef Marian of ChefMarian.com.)

I was not a fan of lima beans as a child. They were the hated ingredient in the blocks of frozen succotash that were our family’s default dinner vegetable. They were mealy and dry, and far inferior to the corn niblets and green beans they accompanied.

But now, after several years of experiencing limas transformed by amateur and professional chefs, I’ve come to appreciate them. They certainly are no longer the shriveled nubbins I remembered from childhood. Nope. I now know them as moist, inviting, satisfying and savory, not to mention nutritious, full of fiber and economical, as most beans are.

This year’s contest allowed other kinds of beans besides limas, and entries included soups, dips, salads, stews, casseroles and pasta dishes, as well as several (yes!) desserts. According to Jean Bruns, a museum board member, this year’s turnout was 21 cooks entering 26 dishes.

The winners:

People’s choice:  Sean O’Leary – L Im A Piggy Soup;

Professional division:

Salad/Side – Brett Nicholson, Brett’s BBQ: Black Bean Salad

Entree/Side — Steve Molina, Delicias Restaurant, Five Bean Fritters With Spiced Yogurt Tzatziki;

Dessert — Mary Dralle/Cooking With “Klibs,” Xocolatl Bars.

Amateur division:

Salad/Side — Evelyn Weidner, Ginger Citrus and Sweet Chipotle Dips;

Entree/soup — Sean O’Leary, L Im A Piggy Soup;

Dessert — Kristin Gaspar, Mini Lima Bean Pies

Winning recipes, as they have been every year, will be compiled in the group’s fundraising cookbook, soon to be available at the museum, 450 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas (760-632-9711).

Sean O’Leary’s prize-winning soup was one of my favorites. He’s a former chef turned freelance photographer (www.simplysophotography.com). This recipe makes a LOT of soup, but you can cut it down for a smaller batch. The  pork bone is for flavor, not for meat, Sean says. He adds that you can roast it beforehand for more flavor in the soup.

L IM A PIGGY SOUP 

5 pounds dried lima beans

6 stalks celery

3 carrots, peeled

2 1/2 pounds onions, peeled

1 head garlic, peeled

1 Fresno chile, seeded

1 pound ham, chopped

1 pound pork shoulder bone or other pork bone (not meaty)

1 bunch parsley stems

1 bunch green onions

1 1/2 tablespoons paprika

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/2 gallons chicken broth

Salt and cracked black pepper

Lime Creme:

12 ounces sour cream

4 ounces mayo

1 lime

Kale Chips:

1 bunch kale

Leek Threads:

1/2 pound leeks, cut lengthwise and cleaned

Soak dried lima beans overnight in a 20-quart stock pot. Make sure water level is at least 4 times the volume of the beans.  The next morning, strain the beans in a colander and set aside.

After cleaning and preparing vegetables, rough-chop them. You don’t want to cut them too small.

Place the dry 20-quart stock pot back on the stove and add some vegetable oil over medium heat.  Let the pot get warm.  Add celery, carrots, onions, garlic and chile, and sweat them until they are translucent by occasionally stirring them. This should take 8 to 10 minutes.

At this point add reserved lima beans, ham, pork bone, parsley stems, green onions, paprika, cumin, oregano and chicken broth.  Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down heat to low and simmer for 3 hours or until beans are soft.

Remove pork bone and discard.

Cool soup until it is about room temperature.  It is best to cool soup as quickly as possible by placing pot in your kitchen sink. Surround the pot with ice and fill sink with cold water a quarter full.  Stir soup to cool it faster.  Once soup is cool enough, blend in a blender starting at low speed and working up to high speed until soup is smooth. Do small batches at a time.  Reheat soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lime Creme: While soup is cooling, mix sour cream, mayo and lime juice as desired in a small bowl.  Add a little water and salt until desired thickness and flavor.

Kale Chips: Cut the leafy part off the kale stems.  Now cut kale into desired size.  In a saute pan, add vegetable oil to fill saute pan 1/4 full.  Heat oil to medium-high. Place a little bit of kale in saute pan at a time. Be careful — the kale will splatter oil due to water content in the leaf. Pan fry kale until oil is no longer bubbling around the cut pieces.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and shake over pan to remove excess oil. Place on paper towel to drain and season with a little salt while still hot.  Set aside.

Leek Threads:  This is the exact same method as to make the kale chips. Slice the leeks crosswise into thin shreds and then pan fry.

Once you have all the components ready, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with Lime Creme, Kale Chips and Leek Threads.  Enjoy!

Here’s the recipe for Xocolatl Bars from Mary Dralle’s (“Cookin’ With Klibs”). The recipe uses lima bean flour, which she said she gets at the Santa Ysabel General Store. “Frazier Farms in Vista carries bean flours as well as Jimbo’s, Sprouts and Henry’s,” she noted. “A substitute bean flour could be used in place of the lima bean flour.”

XOCOLATL BARS

1/2 cup lima bean puree

1/2 cup butter, unsalted

1 cup raw sugar

1 cup brown sugar, slightly packed

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons creme de cacao liqueur

1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chunks

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour, sifted

3/4 cup lima bean flour, sifted

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

In a large mixing bowl, cream the first four ingredients until fluffy.

Beat eggs in one at a time, then fold in vanilla, creme de cacao, and dark chocolate chunks.

On a large piece of wax paper, measure out all of the dry ingredients. (This method will ensure that all of the items are added.) Fold wax paper in half, pour into sifter and sift into bean mixture. Fold until all is incorporated.

Press dough into a parchment paper-lined 11-by-17-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

(c) copyright Laura Groch 2013

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