My gardening adventure of 2011 began in a harried haze of confused urgency. You will note below that a photo of cooked Christmas Lima Beans graces my first post while in reality my seedlings are just now happily winding themselves up their willow reed support. In my crazed excitement perusing the Seed Savers Exchange online seed catalog www.seedsavers.org, I clicked the category “Cooking Beans” thinking, well duh, of course I’m going to cook them….Mind you, I attempt all of my online shopping with a background chorus of screams in various pitch …. Variations indicate not just emotional but actual physical injury, which necessitate quickly shutting down the laptop, jumping up from the table, and running mommy to the rescue. By the time I’ve returned to my shopping, I’ve forgotten exactly where I was in the online catalog and resume as best I can. So I frantically complete my order for three different kinds of “cooking beans”, balking somewhat at the price and quantity (500 seeds?) but needing to wrap up the order before the next screaming session began. After a few days, the lovely beans arrive in the mail and I examine the package and search everywhere for planting instructions. I call the company to ask if they are bush or climbing type etc. and I exclaim my surprise that no instructions were included with the package. The patient and kind young woman explains that I purchased “cooking beans’ (well, duh) and the beans in these packages are not proofed for germination. Well, lucky for me they hadn’t been sitting in the Seed Savers’ basement for the last three or so years and the seeds I planted in peat pots had already germinated so I was good on that front but feeling rather obtuse that I hadn’t noticed the LARGE DISCLAIMER at the top of the “Cooking Beans” page that said “THESE SEEDS ARE NOT MEANT FOR PLANTING”. Cooking beans, duh. Okay, got it.
On the bright side, I have bonus beans! I get to cook them before I even grow them. Since I’m growing three types I think I will cook one each month for the next three months. That way, while I am battling caterpillars, aphids, heat and humidity, the beans culinary potential will encourage me through the long, hot days of summer.
I adapted my first recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This cookbook contains magic. Every time I open it I find just the perfect recipe and seemingly one I’ve never seen before. Case in point – she has a recipe called Giant Lima Beans with Parsley and Sorrel. I have always wanted to try sorrel and fortuitously, a local hydroponic grower supplies it. It tastes like sour spinach – very refreshing but tart. And as mentioned above, I have a quantity of giant Christmas Lima Beans and no reason not to cook them up. I imagined that my beans really would benefit from the crisp green crunch of celery so I added that to the sauce ingredients. I slipped off the vegan wagon and cooked the green onion and celery in butter – the smell is divine. I thought the sorrel would “melt” and become saucy, but maybe I didn’t tear the leaves into small enough pieces because they wilted but didn’t become liquid. The beans tasted earthy like kidney beans but milder with a more tender skin and firmer interior. Due to their size they did great in a dish where their substance provided the ‘meaty’ base for a vegetarian meal. They were terrific finger food for my two-year old, who kept snatching them from my plate (I had prudently fed them their own dinner, just in case). And the leftover beans added substance as a topping for salad the next day.
Christmas Lima Beans with Sorrel Sauce
2 cups Christmas Lima Beans – boiled for one minute in four quarts water and soaked for one hour
Herbes de Provence
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup diagonally sliced celery
1 cup sliced leek or green onion
1 cups torn sorrel leaves
1/2 chopped fresh parsley
Cooked Brown Rice
After the beans have soaked, drain and rinse, return to pot and cover with water and add a generous tablespoon of Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil and cook until tender 45 to 60 minutes adding boiling water as necessary to keep the beans submerged 2-3 inches. Add a generous tablespoon of salt at about the halfway cooking point. When tender, drain and return to the pot to keep warm. (reserve a cup or so of the cooking liquid for the sauce).
Melt the butter in a sauté pan and when hot add the leek or green onion and the celery. Saute until just tender and then add the sorrel leaves. Mush up the leaves with the back of a wooden spoon. Toss in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste. A 1/2 cup or so of the bean cooking liquid will moisten and thin the sauce. Cook until the sorrel is wilted , 3-4 minutes.
To serve: spoon the brown rice onto a plate. Layer with a portion of the hot, cooked beans and then top with the sorrel sauce. Serves 4.