Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano

With your more well-known beans, I don’t have too much trouble figuring out what to do.  Black beans make a great soup or salad base, white beans and pretty much anything go well together, and red beans just require a bit of spice.  And garbanzos, well, I could almost eat them every day.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (4 of 6)

But my nose certainly crinkled a bit to get giant lima beans as part of my Rancho Gordo bean subscription.  The mealy sallow green crescents I remember eating from time to time as a child were not inspiring, with the fact that they were dried only being a new wrinkle.  What to do but turn to google.?

I’m happy to report that the same things that work so well for other beans do the trick here too.  Like all the herbs I grow in my backyard (and in contrast to all the vegetables and berries, which if they grow at all are eaten by squirrels and rabbits), my pot of oregano is lush and fragrant.  Its flavor in this pesto is as vivid as the color suggests, and is the indispensable flavor that brings this dish together.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (1 of 6)

While this recipe unfortunately proceeds in many stages–cooking the beans, simmering down the tomato sauce, baking the whole thing together in the oven and topping with pesto and fried bread crumbs–it actually requires very little active work.  I cooked the beans and tomatoes one evening, then assembled the casserole the next day when I got home from work and immediately popped it in the oven to be ready for dinner a little while later.  A few minutes pounding on my mortar and pestle is always a therapeutic end to a workday, though you can use a food processor to make the pesto as well.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (3 of 6)

And it probably goes without saying that this treatment would work nicely with any bean you happen to have on hand, but it’s nice to have something up my sleeve for when the next bag of gigantes shows up in my mailbox.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (2 of 6)

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano
  • Lima Beans
  • 3 cups (one pound) dried giant lima beans or gigantes, rinsed and picked over, then soaked for 4 hours or overnight and drained
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • One 14 or 16-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 cup coarsely crumbled feta cheese (6 1/2 ounces), for sprinkling
  • 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • Pesto
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped oregano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
  1. In a large saucepan, cover the lima beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the limas are just tender but still al dente, about 2 1/2 hours; add water as needed to keep the limas covered by 2 inches. Season the limas with salt and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Drain the limas, and if desired, reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid for use in the tomato sauce.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderately low heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, oregano and the reserved bean cooking liquid (or 1 1/2 cups water) and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 1 hour. Season the tomato sauce with salt.
  3. In a mini food processor or with a mortar and pestle, combine the olive oil with the oregano, parsley and garlic and pulse to a coarse puree. Season the oregano pesto with salt. Press plastic wrap against the surface to help prevent browning while you store.
  4. Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the limas to cover the base of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, and spread the tomato sauce on top (or mix together before putting in the dish). Sprinkle the feta on top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 40 minutes, until the beans are bubbling and the cheese is browned. Remove the baking dish from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the bread crumbs and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until toasted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt.
  6. Top the beans with the bread crumbs, dollop with the oregano pesto and serve.
The cooked limas, tomato sauce and pesto can be refrigerated separately overnight. Bring to room temperature before proceeding. While the original recipe suggested using some of the bean cooking liquid in making the tomato sauce, I used water instead as I was cooking both the beans and sauce simultaneously. To my mind, there was no significant flavor loss.

Giant Lima Beans with Tomatoes and Oregano (6 of 6)

Bean, Mint and Ricotta Crostino

I took a class a month or so ago at the Brooklyn Kitchen about 20 minute meals with a twist. Basically, it’s all about this idea that we make meals for ourselves that are really boring and have no zest or life in them. I think this is definitely true for me! I made this appetizer last night before dinner and thought I’d share. I was also really excited about making it because we now have fresh mint from our herb garden which I used in the meal.

Very easy to make. This is a recipe I took from Twenty Dollar Twenty Minute Meals by Caroline Wright.

2 cups of beans (fava preferably)
salt and pepper
olive oil
french bread
fresh mint
red wine vinegar

Heat broiler. While you do this boil 1/2 cup of salter water. Then put 2 cups of drained fava beans (I had to use Lima because I couldn’t find any fava at the local grocery store I was at.) in the skillet for about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and then add salt, pepper and oil and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar with 1/4 cup of mint.

Once finished, toast the bread. When the bread is finished toast the cheese on the bread and the bean mixture on top!

I really suggest trying to find fresh fava beans because I think they make the difference. I also think maybe adding some diced red onions would add a nice bite to this mix and some added flavor and color.

Try it out-let us know what you think!

If you are interested in knowing more about the cookbook, click here to an earlier post I wrote about the recipes and class I took.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili with Quinoa

One of our favorite meals growing up was a soup of butternut squash, black beans, and assorted southwestern flavors that came to be known by the name “rubber band soup.”  A recipe originally passed along to my mother by a co-worker, we made it often enough to make it our own.  One time, though, there was one too many tweaks.  As we sat down to eat, we all noticed an odd flavor.  Everyone hesitantly sipped a few more  spoonfuls, not sure the rubbery taste was only their imagination.  A few askance glances around the table, and my mom got up to stir the soup pot to see what was going on.  And there was a rubber band, fresh from the local paper, floating in the inky liquid.

It turns out rubber bands can infuse their characteristic flavor into a broth as handily as any bay leaf or sachet of herbes de provence.  In case you were wondering.  And in case you were still wondering, I don’t recommend it.

We didn’t finish that particular bowl of soup, but the name stuck.  And I think we’ve all agreed to forget who had prepared dinner that night.  Moving on.  Ahem.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Chili (2 of 3)

This chili I’m going to tell you about highlights all of the good parts of that rubber band soup, with none of the synthetic undertones.  And it nicely allows me to tick off two goals in one fell swoop: using my slow cooker, and sneaking more quinoa into my diet (remember, I’m still learning to love it).  Even better, it incorporates additional super-foods such as beans and sweet potatoes, is supremely economical, and can even be vegan if you so desire.

Oh, and it tastes really really good.

Though I only found (and started tinkering with) this recipe a few months ago, it’s been enjoyed not only by me and my husband, but also by both of our respective parental units, my aunt, and even my grandmother.  My children have thus far refused, but that’s par for the course.  (Remember, to my utmost chagrin, this is not one of those mommy blogs where I give you recipes that even the pickiest toddler will love.  Not for lack of trying.  Don’t get me started).

There’s a few factors working in concert to make this chili so satisfying.  Chipotle’s smokiness serves as a substrate to unify a colorful variety of  flavors.  Its charred, roasted flavor melds particularly well with sweet potatoes,  which makes this so much more than just a pot of beans.  The quinoa, meanwhile, is almost imperceptible and serves to thicken the sauce (and add extra protein) more than anything else.  (Even my mother-in-law, who is avowedly not a quinoa fan, loved this stew).

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Chili (3 of 3)

Each time I’ve made this slightly differently, but each attempt has met with success.  I’ve used Mexican oregano (pictured above) and regular dried oregano.  I’ve tried it with brown rather than black beans (though I still prefer black, the stew still managed to disappear in short order).  I’ve doubled it.  I’ve used fewer tomatoes than called for, thanks to pantry shortages.  I’ve even been lazy and skipped the first step of sauteeing the onions, garlic, and spices, instead flinging all ingredients in the slow cooker at once.  Perhaps due to laziness, or maybe it was me frantically trying to get things going before I left for the office.  It worked though.

And there are plenty of other ways to go about this.  My original sources, which I’ve linked to below, did not use a slow cooker–click through for instructions.  I almost always use dried beans, but I know I’m in the minority, so you might be glad to know you can even use canned beans if you prefer.

Just make sure not to add any rubber bands.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Quinoa Chili (1 of 3)

A note about chipotles:  These smoked jalapeño peppers packed in a marinade are key to this dish, but potent in heat–you’ll have lots remaining (unless you are made of truly tough stuff) and likely will not be able to use the rest immediately.  Simply freeze the leftovers — as a flattened out block that you break pieces from as needed or stuffed roughly into ice cube trays–and use as needed (what I also do with tomato paste).  Karen purees her remainders, stores in the fridge, and uses spoonfuls as necessary.  And she reminds me–chipotles do stain, but perhaps that’s just as well–certainly not something you’d want to accidentally rub in your eyes.

Black Bean Sweet Potato Chili with Quinoa From here, as tweaked by here, as tweaked for the slow cooker by me.  Do check those links if you don’t have or don’t want to use a slow cooker.

Serves 4-6; makes 3 quarts; doubles well if you have a 6 quart cooker.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2-3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound dried black beans, rinsed well and soaked overnight
  • 1 chipotle chile from canned chipotle chiles in adobo, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you have it)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt + more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes (1 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 c water

For garnish:  sour cream or greek yogurt. chopped fresh cilantro or green onions

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook until soft and beginning to brown, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, and coriander and stir. Cook together for 1 minute.

Add this mixture, along with all the remaining ingredients, to the crock pot.  Stir and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  You may need to add more water at the end, though thanks to pre-soaking the beans, I have found it not to be necessary.

Serve with fresh cilantro and sour cream or Greek yogurt, if desired.

White Bean Puree with Sage Brown Butter and Walnuts

Sometimes a small change can make all the difference.

This is something I’m trying to remember as I continue to generate new years resolutions for myself.  I’m not one of those people–the ones who wave their hand with dramatic flourish, throw their head back, and declare “Me?  I don’t do New Years Resolutions.”  I probably veer towards the other extreme, as it’s only January 2nd and I have an ambitious to-do list including reorganizing the house, finally getting pictures on the wall, catching up on the various foreign languages I’ve studied, coming up with new activities to do with my children, and finally  sticking to a great new exercise regimen…if only my energy and stick-to-it-ness were as boundless as my list-making ability is prolific.

So I’m trying to remember that it’s the tiny tweaks that make the biggest difference–and maybe for no reason other that you are more likely to follow through with them.   

One small change I made a few years back was to start making soup stock from scratch.  Though it requires that you’re generally “around” for a few hours and that you have the forethought to clear some space in the freezer, there’s not much more to it than that.  I know some people can get rhapsodic about how some kitchen technique or another cosmically altered the course of their life, but I’m not dramatic enough of a personality to demarcate my life into “before” and “after” homemade stock eras.  Even with that, I’ll still say that whenever I use homemade stock, there’s an extra depth of flavor and complexity in even the most simple things you make–it’s a simple routine to get into that reverberates through everything that emerges from your kitchen.

White Bean Puree Sage Brown Butter Walnuts (1 of 4)

I love my legumes, so I’ve made white bean puree many times–but while always good, it was never tremendously exciting.   Instead, it was hummus’s poor cousin–a bit bland, with a texture that was smooth but not quite silky enough.

White Bean Puree Sage Brown Butter Walnuts (1 of 2)
But here’s a lesson in the amazing properties of good soup stock.   Simmered in nothing more than broth, this puree is remarkably rich and smooth, even before the first golden drizzles of brown butter sauce start puddling on its surface.  The walnuts are both a textural contrast and a mellow counterpoint to the puree, and the brown butter sauce enhances the qualities of both:  smooth and liquid like the beans, nutty like the walnuts.  (Not surprising, since the French term is beurre noisette–hazelnut butter).

A dish that can not just hold its own against its tahini-chickpea cousin, but even earns a rightful place on a well-appointed dinner menu–here, with a rack of lamb, grains, and green beans.  Not a bad New Year’s Day meal.  Not a bad lesson to keep in mind for the new year.

White Bean Puree Sage Brown Butter Walnuts (2 of 2)
White Bean Puree with Sage Brown Butter and Walnuts

Note:  If your New Year’s resoluations include not wasting food, assuage your conscience:  you can get through a good amount of fresh sage in this recipe.    We used a roasted turkey broth we had made from Thanksgiving remains, but I’ve included instructions for chicken broth below.


  • 1c dry white beans such as cannelini or great northern beans
  • 1 rib of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2c chicken broth
  • 1 sprig sage (about 6-8 leaves per sprig)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sage brown butter sauce (below)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts

Brown butter sauce

  • 4T butter
  • 1 sprig sage leaves

Soak the beans overnight or at least for several hours if you can.  (If you forget to soak, cover the beans with water and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes, turn off the heat and allow to stand for an hour before proceeding with the recipe).

Drain the beans and put them into a pot with the celery, carrot, garlic, and one sprig of sage.  Add the broth and about 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook gently for about 2 hours.  (Because you are going to puree this, you want the beans to be very soft).  When the beans start to soften, season with salt and pepper.  Add additional water (or stock) if the mixture starts to dry out.

When the beans are very soft, fish out the carrot, celery, and sage.  Drain the beans but reserve the liquid–you’ll need to add this liquid as you puree to get it to the desired consistency.  Puree in the food processor until creamy, adding liquid as necessary–I used probably a half a cup.  Reheat the puree very gently (I used a microwave) and remove to a serving bowl.

While the beans are cooking, toast the walnuts:  break up with your fingers or chop, then put in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  Toast, stirring frequently until the nuts brown and become more aromatic–be careful not to burn them, it can happen quickly.  Remove immediately from the pan.

To make the brown butter sauce, pluck the leaves of sage from the second sprig.  Melt the butter over medium heat (I used the same small skillet I used for the walnuts).  After the butter has melted, keep heating it–it will start to bubble and sizzle furiously, and then start to recede.  You’ll see brown solids begin to fall and collect at the bottom of the skillet while the butter turns caramel in color.  Around this time you’ll catch the butter’s nutty aroma rising from the skillet.  Add the sage leaves, stir, and remove to a bowl.

Make a well in the center of the puree, drizzle in the brown butter sauce, and sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top.

Tuscan Shrimp and White Bean Soup

I was on the phone with my sister last week and we were both talking about the chilly weather that was upon us. We were also stunned by the amount of snow that had fallen on the northeast. I was telling her how nice it was to enjoy a nice bowl of soup this time of year and how it was sort of a “pick me up” (besides a nice glass of wine..). So this weekend I ventured into the kitchen (it’s been a long time..) to make some hearty soup for a nice Sunday night dinner and enough to pack up for the work week!

My husband had bought a cookbook a while back called The Daily Soup Cook Book by Leslie Kaul and Bob Spiegel. I decided it was time to make good use out of it! It’s a great cookbook with tons of different soups to create that are easy. There are also many different varieties to choose from (seafood, bean, tomato etc..). I’m trying to watch the waistline so I chose the lowfat, non dairy soup. I love bean anything, but I never really use much shrimp in the kitchen. I figured that I would do a combo and settle on the Tuscan Shrimp Soup. I was excited to cook something a little different!

So, I’ll be honest. I bought frozen ready to serve shrimp. I didn’t want to deal with it. For some reason, I just can’t go there with shrimp. I don’t want to deal with de-veining or anything of the sort. The soup that I cooked was super easy (as everything that I blog about!). It consisted of leeks, celery, white beans and diced tomatoes with thyme and rosemary. I was drawn to this recipe for two reasons. One, I love rosemary. Two, I had most of the ingredients!
The soup simmers for about an hour with all the ingredients except the shrimp. Basically, you dump the shrimp in five minutes prior to serving and you are done!

I would definitely make this again, but I would not add water. I didn’t have enough vegetable stock so I did three-fourths stock and one-fourth water and I felt like it really took away some of the flavor. I’m also toying with the idea that I could have blended it with my immersion blender to make it a thicker soup…Still not sure if that would have worked out…


2 tbsp olive oil,
4 leeks, rinsed and well chopped,
2 celery stalks,
3 garlic cloves, minced,
1 bunch of thyme,
leaves chopped and stems reserved,
2 tsp dried rosemary,
2 bay leaves,
1/2 tsp ground pepper,
1lb of cannellini beans rinsed,
8 cups vegetable stock,
1 can of whole tomatoes, diced,
1 lb medium shrimp,
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar,
2 tsps kosher salt

1. Heat the oil in a large stovepoat over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, and garlic
2. Tie the thyme together with a string and add to the pot with rosemary, bay leaves, and pepper.
3. Add the beans, stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour.
4. Add the shrimp and simmer for three minutes.
5. Add the rest of the ingredients (remove the thyme)
6. Serve and enjoy!

Swiss Chard and White Bean Salad with Torn Lasagna

You know how everyone is agog over Swiss chard these days?  Maybe I’m hopelessly out of it (well, I am, forget the maybes) but a few years ago I don’t think I had ever even tasted it, and at best had only a vague idea of what it was when I started seeing it constantly at farmer’s markets–first in London, then back in the US.   Indeed, it appears to be a favorite among the farmer’s market set, kitchen gardeners, seasonal eaters, and locavores.  It’s also well-pedigreed, as it has been popular since Roman times, which, given my ever-increasing fascination with the classical world, is a compelling enough recommendation in and of itself.  (Sidebar:  Have you read Cleopatra?  Go get it now!)
So, I really want to like chard, I really do.  Still…I have to admit I’m not totally with the program.   We get along well in the right situations, but are not best friends.  Some love its earthy flavor; to me if done wrong that ‘earthiness’ veers a bit too much towards muddiness.  Other times it’s just too tasteless for me.  I keep an open mind:  I still do buy chard from time to time and I’ve happily learned that I do like it, if prepared right.  There’s a lot of vegetables like that for me–cooked up one way, I’m just not interested; done up another, and I’m crazy for it.  (Yes, even brussels sprouts and cauliflower!)
Such is the “allure” of chard that I keep an open mind.  I have had success with gratinsfrittatas and more recently in my “turta,” and I keep on buying it.  Most recently, I decided I wanted to turn my 3 bunches of chard into a substantial, Ottolenghi type salad–something satisfying and substantial, not just a bowl of baby greens.  I had some lovely yellow eye beans cooked up and leftover boiled lasagna noodles–seemed like all the necessary components were assembled.  I poked around my cookbook collection and the internet, but oddly enough there are not a lot of recipes out there for white bean and chard salad.  Soup yes, salad no.  Seems like there should be more, right?  So I made up my own.
I used three bunches of chard, which seems like a lot, but you know how greens are–a bit of heat and they dramatically collapse  to almost nothing.
Adding the beans and pasta expanded out the volume again.  The smoked paprika and cumin liven up the earthier aspects of the chard, which itself stains the silky lasagna noodles a deep pink color.  Beans make the dish satisfying and filling, lemon juice brightens the whole mix.
Since this is best enjoyed warm or at room temperature, it is versatile–it’s great for dinner, it’s also great to take to work the next day with some rustic bread for a light lunch that’s still hearty enough to fill you up until dinner. Even better, since chard is generally available year-round, it works well both in winter and summer.
For more recipes in this vein, check out my potato kale tahini salad here.
  • 1/4 c + 1/4c olive oil
  • 2-3 bunches of Swiss chard or beet leaves with stems, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • juice of 1-2 lemons
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups white beans (I used Rancho Gordo’s yellow eye beans)
  • 4 oz cooked lasagna noodles, torn (or other leftover cooked pasta)
  • 1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4c chopped fresh cilantro
Rinse the chard in cool water and drain (but some water clinging to the leaves is fine).  Cut off the stems (reserve for another use, such as this).  Chop the chard leaves.  Heat 1/4c olive oil in a large skillet or braising pan and briefly saute the garlic for about 30 seconds (or until the aroma rises).  Stir in the paprika and cumin, and then add the chard to the pan and hold the heat at medium-low.  There will be so much chard that it will be nearly impossible to turn, but after a few minutes you can carefully stir.  The leaves at the bottom of the pile will have wilted and shrunken substantially in volume.  Using a spatula, bring these greens to the top and fold the chard at the top underneath so these can wilt as well.  Allow to simmer and steam in the water that is released in the process and stir gently from time to time, always bringing the fresher leaves to the bottom until all the leaves have gently cooked down.
In a bowl, mix the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.  Whisk in the second 1/4 c of oil.  Taste and adjust for salt.  Add the beans, lasagna, and chard.  You can stir in a bit of liquid that has been released during cooking as well.
Garnish with fresh parsley and cilantro.  Serve warm or at room temperature.