I have four words for you. Lima. Beans. In. Cream.
Still there? Yes? You won’t be sorry, I swear. They may not sound like much, but they’re right up there with cream-braised Brussels sprouts, and that is not something I say lightly. In fact, if it’s any indication, I rank those Brussels sprouts as one of my Top Ten Best Things Ever. Just so you know. I mean business about these lima beans.
When I decided to make these, I was mainly after something soothing to eat on election night. My first idea was a pan of brownies and some beer, and that’s still a viable plan, but I figured we should have some vegetables too. Even if they are in cream, which kind of cancels out the vegetable part. Anyway, the recipe was inspired by none other than Miss Edna Lewis, whose sweet face alone is miraculously soothing. I like to think that, were she alive today, she too might require a brownie, a beer, and some lima beans in cream on this most important, and most nerve-wracking, of nights.
Miss Lewis’s version of the recipe called for freshly shelled lima beans, but I took some liberties and used frozen instead. They get simmered in water for about 15 minutes, or until they are tender, and then you drain them, dump them back into the pan, and add a cupful of cream. Now, I know. It sounds like a lot. It is a lot. But listen: we are living in very uncertain times, and when something this certainly good comes along, you would be wise to not ask questions. You would probably also be wise to not eat it every single day, but that’s another issue.
So, yes, you add the cream and some salt and pepper, and then you set the pan on the heat just long enough to warm it through. During this time, you might take a minute to notice how pretty it looks, the lima beans peeking up out of the cream like cobblestones on an empty street. Actually, what it really called to mind for me was the Pebble Garden at Dumbarton Oaks, in Washington, DC. Have you ever been there? Remind me to tell you sometime about the afternoon I spent there with my mother, my sister, and my niece, and about how we accidentally got locked in the gardens at closing time, and how, as the sun started to set, we climbed our way to freedom over the brick wall that encloses the estate, giggling like schoolgirls until we were caught by a security guard. Or nevermind. I guess I just told you about it.
But about the cream and lima beans. It takes only a few minutes to warm them together, but in this short time, they do something sort of remarkable. Each brings with it a kind of sweetness - a green, starchy kind from the beans, and a rich, caramelly kind from the cream - and together, mingling and melding, they become unreally delicious. I mean, lima beans in cream. It even sounds delicious, a cute little near-rhyme. I can imagine this dish sitting beautifully alongside a piece of roasted chicken on a Sunday night. Or you could serve it as Miss Lewis did, on the holiday table. I think it would be spectacular with turkey, or with a roast of beef. I’m not entirely sure of how it will go with brownies and beer, but I’ve got my fingers crossed - about that and so much more.
Lima Beans in Cream
Inspired by The Taste of Country Cooking, by Edna Lewis
For this recipe, try to use the best, richest-tasting cream you can find. I am completely in love with Fresh Breeze Organic heavy cream, made in Lynden, Washington.
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen baby lima beans (about 3 cups)
1 cup heavy cream
¾ tsp. kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. unsalted butter
Dump the lima beans, still frozen, in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, and add cold water to cover by about 1 inch. Place over medium-high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to maintain a brisk simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Drain into a colander, and then return the beans to the saucepan. Add the cream, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir gently. Warm over low heat, shaking and swirling the pan occasionally, until the cream is warmed through and slightly, ever so slightly, thickened. It will still look quite soupy. Do not allow to boil. Stir in the butter, and serve hot.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings