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Ole! Lima Bean Cassoulet

Photo by Francine Mastini

The lima bean, (phaseolus lunatus), a greatly maligned and often overlooked legume, is coming back to the dinner table. Sometimes also called “butter beans” because of their buttery texture, lima beans are high in fiber, protein, manganese, folate, potassium, iron and copper.

Beans and grains are becoming more and more of a household staple for those tightening their budgets. They’re packed with protein, low in fat (almost fat free) with zero saturated fats and have the added benefit of easily broken down carbohydrates so they’re less likely to hang around your body and turn into fat. In an increasingly obese society, bean consumption is being encouraged for weight loss as well as being a heart healthy food choice. The lowly lima has only 1 gram of fat in a one cup serving. That same one cup yields 12 grams of protein and nine grams of dietary fiber. That same single cup of cooked lima is probably not something the average American cook has encountered with happy memories. Canned limas, what many grew up with, pale in comparison to the freshly cooked lima bean because they are often overcooked and oversalted after being opened.

The difference between buying a bag of beans as opposed to a can of lima beans can impact a thrifty budget. For vegans, lima beans are a boon, they can be used in place of ricotta in such dishes as lasagne because of their texture.

When cooked right, a lima is a creamy delight. The trick–if it could be called a trick–with lima beans is that you shouldn’t overcook or they become mush and you can’t undercook or they’re crunchy. Striking the balance can prove daunting, let alone that it’s a lima bean. There are many ways to help ensure you avoid mushy beans and fit dried legumes into a busy lifestyle. One method, described in the recipe, is to use a slow cooker while you are busy or at work during the day. When you return home, the beans will be ready to use.

If you are able to get fresh lima beans, no pre-soaking is necessary and the beans can simply be cooked fresh out of the pods. Frozen lima beans are also an excellent alternative.

Enjoy your lima beans!

Ole! Lima Bean Cassoulet
by Francine Mastini
Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup dried lima beans or one 14.5 oz can, drained and rinsed (Yields 2 cups cooked)
  • 1 14.5 oz can chopped “Italian style” tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 stalk celery diced
  • 1 small carrot diced
  • 1 med shallot diced (or alternatively
  • 1 small red onion or a combination of the two)
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1-2 tbsp port wine (or any sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne (to your own taste)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (use a kind that melts: cheddar, jack, etc)

Soak beans to prep and cook till al dente.

Put lima beans in a large pot and cover with one inch of water. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat off after five minutes. Put the beans and the hot water in a slow cooker on low for six to eight hours. Drain the beans.

Tip: Check the temperature of your low setting, make sure it is around but not over 200ºF. This will ensure that the beans do not overcook. See how!

When the beans are softened. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Saute the onion, carrots, and celery in butter in a small casserole or wide saucepan. Add tomatoes and stew all together for about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and the spices together. Layer bean mixture and cheese in clean, greased, casserole. Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

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