Can you guess what lies beneath this lid?
A juicy berry crumble? Cornbread? An apple crisp? Maybe even a river of deepest, darkest chocolate pudding?
If you know my unabashed love of sweets and carbs, then those are definitely distinct possibilities.
But surprise, surprise: Lift the lid and you’ll find a delicious batch of home-cooked beans, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh parsley, and crumbles of goat feta cheese. It’s a dish not only full of flavor, but of fiber and nutrients, as well.
I post a lot about extravagant restaurant tasting menus. I know that the largest category of recipes in my blog’s index is by far that of cookies. And there’s no denying that my Instagram account is full of images of buttery pastries.
I do cop to all of that.
But what you may not know is that in between those bites, I am careful about what I eat. Meals I cook at home are usually abundant with fresh veggies. Most nights, no matter what else I eat for dinner, a green salad usually accompanies it. And breakfasts and lunches at home are often punctuated with lots of fresh fruit.
I work out at the gym most mornings every week. I walk to the bank — rather than drive — when I can. I take the stairs whenever possible. And for the most “romantic” of birthday presents a few years ago, I got my husband to buy me a stand-up computer desk.
So, in celebration of February being Heart Month by the American Heart Association, I wanted to share with you today not a cookie recipe, not a dessert recipe, but a heart-healthy bean one that I love.
It’s especially important for women, as heart disease is often a silent killer. Indeed, since the Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign started, to focus attention on cardiovascular health issues specific to women, nearly 300 fewer women are dying every day. Not only that, but the death rate for women from heart disease has decreased by more than 30 percent.
I’d say that’s worth saluting, especially with beans. Not just any beans, but the very best beans around. Napa’s Rancho Gordo is an artisan bean grower and purveyor that got me to really appreciate the taste of specialty, heirloom beans. If you’ve never had a bean with real flavor, then you’ve never had Rancho Gordo’s.
Every year, I buy a supply, choosing among its different varieties. This year, I took a chance to try its Christmas Lima Beans. Why a risk? Because I hate lima beans. I grew up on the mushy, mealy ones found in canned soups or in packs of frozen mixed veggies. I would always pick them out, and wad them up in a napkin so my parents couldn’t tell when I threw them out in the trash. That’s how much I loathed them.
These, however are a revelation. First, they are huge in size, with an almost pinto bean-like color after cooking. Second, they have the most amazing chestnut-like flavor. They are the farthest cry ever from the dreaded lima beans I grew up with.
I soaked them overnight. Then, I filled the pot of beans with clean water, as well as sauteed chopped carrot, celery, and onion. I also tried a trick I learned from Chef Chris Cosentino of Cockscomb in San Francisco and Acacia House in St. Helena. He told me he adds a cut potato when cooking a pot of beans, a trick he learned from Italian grandmas to make the beans and its resulting broth creamier. Darned if it didn’t work, too.
You can follow the cooking and garnishing directions in this recipe for most any type of dried beans. It may sound a little wacky to be making Christmas Lima Beans in February. But these beans are a gift of good health that’s surely welcome any month of the year.
CONTEST: Macy’s is the national sponsor of Go Red For Women. As such, one lucky Food Gal reader will win a $100 Macy’s gift card, plus some fun swag from the American Heart Association.
Entries, open to those in the continental United States, will be accepted through midnight PST Feb. 17. Winner will be announced Feb. 19.
How to win?
You’ve already read how I try to incorporate heart-healthy habits into my life. Tell me what you do. Best answer wins.
Christmas Lima Beans with Parsley and Goat Feta Cheese
(Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish)
1 pound bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans (or your favorite dried beans)
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced
1 small onion, roughly diced
1 stalk celery, roughly diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf
1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut in half
Salt and pepper
Handful of freshly chopped parsley
Goat feta cheese, crumbled
The night before, place beans in a saucepan and cover with water. Allow to soak overnight.
The next day, drain the beans, return them to the pot, and add enough water to cover them by about 1 1/2 inches.
In a saute pan over medium heat, drizzle in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrot, onion, and celery, sauteing and stirring until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, and saute for another 30 seconds.
Add contents of the saute pan to the pot of beans. Next, add the bay leaf and potato to the pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook the beans, stirring them occasionally, until tender, about 1 hour. Add salt and pepper to taste.
When the beans are done, spoon them along with a little of their broth into separate bowls or a large serving bowl. Garnish with parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and the feta cheese. Serve immediately.
From Carolyn Jung
PLUS: You’re invited to a Feb. 24 Go Red for Women/Por tu Corazon health fair and blood pressure screening event at Eastridge Shopping Center in San Jose. The American Heart Association Silicon Valley, the Consulate of Mexico in San Jose, Santa Clara Public Health Department, Foothill Community Health Center and Telemundo are working together to increase awareness about cardiovascular disease among Spanish speakers and provide free health screenings and blood pressure readings during this event. The health fair, which includes fitness activities, guest speakers and entertainment, will be from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Level 2, in front of the Macy’s entrance.