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
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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.
Notes
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)

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad

This is one of those recipes I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about before.  I make it a lot:  enough that my husband simply refers to it as “the salad.”   So I think it’s due for a post, especially now that it’s summer.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (2 of 3)

I first made this salad several years ago, from a recipe in Tessa Kiros’s Falling Cloudberries–but it’s so easy that I haven’t actually opened the cookbook (for that recipe at least) since.  As they say, it’s all “up here” (imagine me tapping at the side of my forehead now, if you please).  Meanwhile, my husband just calls it “the salad”–

What’s nice is it is both a filling salad–thanks to the chickpeas, it can be a main meal–and light–plenty of fresh herbs and a touch of hot pepper working their magic.  There’s a little sweetness from the sautéed red onions, some richness from the feta, and a unifying brightness provided by a squeeze of lemon.  And while I give precise quantities in the recipe, since it’s all “up here,” all these measures are really approximations.  It’s an easy summer salad that should be easy to make, so just, you know, go with it.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (3 of 3)

I hate to be that person, so I’m not going to tell you to buy the most expensive brand of feta in the store, but you should definitely buy one that you like, as the cheese is crumbled into the salad and retains its character (and as you can see from the photo, the feta almost insinuates itself into the dressing).  I prefer sheep or goat’s milk feta sold in brine (after being thoroughly indoctrinated on the subject by a dear friend from Greece) but go with what you like.

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad (1 of 3)

Chickpea Feta and Cilantro Salad
Author: adapted from Tessa Kiros [url href=”Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes “][/url]
Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight, and cooked OR two cans.
  • 1/2 c olive oil, divided
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno or other pepper, seeded and chopped fine OR 1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Cook the chickpeas until soft if using dried chickpeas (about 1 1/2- 2 hours). Drain the beans.
  2. Sautee the red onion gently in 1/4c of olive oil. If using dried pepper flakes, cook together with the red onion. When the onion has softened and the red has turned to a slightly translucent magenta, add the garlic and fresh pepper if using. Cook for another 30 seconds or so until you can smell the scent of the garlic, and remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a bowl. Add the chickpeas and the remaining olive oil, and season with salt and pepper (but be careful with the salt as the feta will be salty). Pour the onion mixture over (including the oil) and stir in. (I like to add while it’s still warm to help the flavors meld).
  4. Crumble in the feta, and finally stir in the chopped cilantro and parsley. Adjust for salt, and serve at room temperature.

 

Spanakopi-tart

Another meal, brought to you by the question “how am I going to use up these foods from my CSA?”

I sort of had in mind making an onion tart at the beginning.  I had seen the recent blog post on Chocolate and Zucchini for an olive oil tart crust and wanted to try it.  A tart crust that is whole wheat, and has only a quarter cup of oil (and no butter)?  Very intriguing.  I love regular tart crust, but it does require a lot of butter, and even though I don’t worry about that stuff so much, when you are making a tart crust and actually see how much butter (i.e. pure fat) you are adding, you do tend to think “maybe I’ll wait a little while before making this again.”

We had quite a few (I think) Vidalia onions from the CSA so I figured I could using that as the filling, but frankly that didn’t sound so exciting.  But aha, there was lots of fresh spinach in the fridge too.  And feta.  And I thought:  spanakopita!

So I browned the onions and then added the fresh spinach until it wilted.  I turned up the heat to boil off as much of the excess liquid as possible, hoping to avoid a soggy tart crust.  I let it cool a little and mixed up eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Then I lifted in the onion-spinach mixture, using a slotted spoon (to let any more water drain out).  Then I sprinkled crumbled feta on top.

I was nervous–while I have made up soups before (sort of, anyway) and improvised a frittata or two (also not that daunting), this was something that was baked.  I didn’t know if the pie crust would cook all the way, I didn’t know if the filling would set before the crust burnt, I didn’t know if I had gotten the temperature right.

After thirty minutes, I gently slipped a knife in and it came out clean.  Being a bit antsy about the whole endeavor, I tested a few more spots and convinced myself it was done.  I very gently lifted the rim of the tart mold off and saw that it looked solid and sturdy.  I cooled it a little on a rack, and then slid it off the tart mold’s base.  Dry all the way through on the bottom, and nicely baked.  No sogginess, no raw dough.

It all looked good, but of course the proof is in the eating!  I was a bit worried that I had overdone it on the nutmeg, or that my addition of rosemary  to the tart crust was unwise and would clash with the spice flavor.  But the rosemary seemed to enhance the sweetness of the caramelized onions, and the nutmeg was just right and not overpowering (think of those overly spiced pumpkin pies and how disappointing they are!).  We had a few servings for lunch and I was quite pleased with myself, I will admit.

I guess this is something like a quiche as well, though with this olive oil crust rather than, once again, buttery dough.  And I’m sure it’s “lighter” than spanakopita itself, what with layers of phyllo dough moistened by butter.  What I like is that it’s pretty easy to make and makes a great weekend lunch!

IMG_7807

 

Spanakopi-tart

For the crust (adapted for this recipe from Chocolate and Zucchini); do check this post for extra details, tips, and variations).
  •  250 grams (about two cups) of a 50/50 mix of all purpose and whole wheat flour.
  •  1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  •  1 teaspoon rosemary
  •  60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  •  120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water
For the filling
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb spinach (if you use frozen, be sure to thaw and squeeze out as much liquid as possible).
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 oz feta cheese (more or less, depends how much you like feta!)
Combine the flour, salt, and herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix it in with a fork. Add the water, mix with the fork until it is absorbed, then knead lightly (I do this with just one hand, in the bowl) until the dough comes together into a ball.
Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball of dough and on the rolling pin, and roll the dough out into a circle large enough to fit your tart pan. Transfer the dough carefully into the prepared pan and line it neatly. Trim the excess dough (re-roll it and cut into decorative shapes to top the tart), and place the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.  (Note, the original recipe suggests lightly greasing the mold; I did not do so and had no problems; but I also have a tart tin with a separable base which may make this strategy easier to pull off).
Make the filling.  Preheat the oven to 400F.  Saute the onions over medium heat until they start to brown (about 15 minutes).  Add the spinach–it will overflow the skillet but will eventually shrink down substantially.  Once the spinach has wilted, turn the heat up to high and boil off as much liquid as possible (onions give off liquid when they cook).  Set the mixture aside to cool 5-10 minutes.  Mix the nutmeg, eggs, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the spinach and onion mixture with a slotted spoon to drain out any excess liquid.  Stir together and pour into the filled tart pan.  Scatter chunks of feta over the surface of the mixture.  Bake for 30 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack.  Best enjoyed warm.