Christmas Lima Bean Soup

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This rich, savory soup is perfect for a cool winter evening or an easy week night dinner. I think the broth has a beefy flavor (please keep in mind I haven’t had beef since I was five, so I really don’t know what that is), but it definitely highlights the dark, rich, umami flavor of the beans and mushrooms. Another huge plus to this recipe is its simplicity- it uses less than 10 ingredients, including salt, oil and even water. To add to the blessings this soup brings, the washing dishes afterwards was minimal. Just a pot and a cutting board with a few bowls and utensils (sometimes I manage to use almost every tool, dish, pot and pan i the kitchen). As long as you have the time to let the beans soak, this soup will be a perfect, low stress, low effort way to end your day.

This soup is reliant on the large, meaty Christmas Lima Beans. This particular bean came in a package of beans I had ordered from Rancho Gordo, an amazing company specializing in different varieties of heirloom beans. Before I start gushing, I need to make it clear that I am not being paid or sponsored in anyway for this review- I just really, truly and honestly LOVE their beans. You can’t compare Rancho Gordo’s heirloom beans to those you get in the supermarket- the supermarket varieties are tasteless and tiresome when compared to the rich and varied tastes and textures of the heirloom beans- some meaty, nutty, rich, creamy and each producing its own delicious broth. If you do end up ordering some beans, it’s worth it to buy a lot or order with a friend because shipping is free with more than $75 worth (and it’s shockingly easy to order that many).

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These Lima beans are not what I think of when I think Lima bean. They are a dark purple, almost black, shattered with a radiating white. These beans are named for their place of cultivation, Lima, the current capital of Peru. While I have never been to Peru, the Andes mountains running along the Pacific Ocean have a special place in my heart- I grew up hearing stories of my newly married parents exploring the Inca ruins and hiking their roads. When I first met my boyfriend, we sat next to each other in a class on Andean pre-history, and bonded while learning about the Inca, Moche, Chavin and other ancient cultures. Maybe Peru is where my family finds romance.

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Another element to this soup is the mushroom. I used white beech or Bunashimeji mushrooms, which I highly recommend if you can find them. In the wild they grow on wood, and most often on beech trees. They can also be bought in clusters like the one above, and the entire mushroom should be eaten except for the dirty. fibrous parts at the very end which can be cut off. If you are unable to find them you could also try bunapi or shiitake or crimini, if you’re in a pinch.

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Cooking the beans is the time consuming element to this dish, although all you need to do is wait. Before you even begin to cook, allow the beans to soak for several hours- either overnight or while you’re gone at work. This makes them cook more quickly and also allows them to reach a softer, creamier point once they are done. I must admit, when I cooked my beans I lost track of time. I know they had cooked for at least 45 minutes, but it was probably more than an hour. Just make sure to keep on  eye on them and note when they have gotten soft.

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After the beans are fully cooked, add a little oil and the mushrooms and onions. The oil in the soup adds a little richness, but is mostly their to allow the lipid-loving compounds something to bond to. One thing I love about this picture, is the dramatic change in the broth’s color, induced only by the beans and mushrooms. It is a beautiful soup, from a beautiful bean with a big, bold flavor.

 

Christmas Lima Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • ½ a lb of Rancho Gordo Christmas Lima Beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 3.5 oz Bunashimeji (Beech) Mushrooms
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2-3 cups chopped bok choy
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Steps

1. Put the lima beans in water to soak for 8 or more hours (e.g. overnight, or in the morning before work)

2. Place the beans with 8 cups of water and the bay leaves in a large pot on the stove. Bring up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for 45 or more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft and silky.

3. At this point add the oil, mushrooms and onion. Cook for 5-10 minutes before adding the bok choy. Flavor with salt and a little pepper until the savory notes of the beans and mushrooms are most pronounced.

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