In Season: Dried Beans, Year-Round

Dried beans are one of my go-to staples, especially during the winter months, when the only thing I seem to want to do is braise foods, or leave a pot on the stove for hours. They might seem like a lot of work, but what beans require is not work so much as it is time, in order to make a meal rich and delicious.

There are quicker, no-soak ways to prepare dried beans. But how hard is it to soak a pile of beans? If you remember to dunk them in some cool water before you go to bed, or even as you are heading out the door in the morning—a sumptuous meal can be made that night for dinner.

Besides the nutritional value of beans—they are high in protein, and low in fat—another advantage is that they are very inexpensive. Your average one-pound bag will run about one dollar, and usually less if you buy them in bulk at health food stores.

This recipe uses dried lima beans and kale. I know, those two foods may not be a favorite in your house, but they get a bad rap. Simmered, then blended together in the food processor, the coarseness disappears and the subtlety shines through. With a squeeze of lemon, and a sprinkling of fresh mint, this dish is bright and cheery, and makes a wonderful dip.

Chunky Beans and Greens

This recipe can be made with virtually any white bean, and any hardy, leafy green. However, I used limas and kale in this recipe. Soak the beans overnight, or for approximately eight hours. One cup of dried beans is equivalent to about two cups of soaked beans.

2 cups soaked lima beans
6 cups water
1 bunch kale (about 6 cups) stems discarded and cut into 1-inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped, plus extra to garnish
salt and pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

In a large pot, or Dutch oven, bring beans and water to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, and cook until softened, about 50 minutes. Season with salt, and add kale. Return to a simmer, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil with a pinch of red pepper flakes, until onions begin to turn translucent. Season with salt and pepper. Drain the beans and kale, reserving about 1 cup of cooking liquid. Add the beans and kale to the sauté pan. Cook together for 5 minutes, until flavors marry.

Place bean mixture into the bowl of a food processor, with the lemon juice and the mint. Process until fairly smooth, adding additional cooking water to smooth out the mixture if needed. Taste for seasoning, sprinkle with reserved mint, and serve with bread or crackers as a dip.

 

Adrienne Kane is a writer and photographer. She is the author of a memoir, Cooking and Screaming, and the food blog, nosheteria.com.

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