Last Saturday morning at the Madison farmers market, currently a veritable cornucopia of autumnal produce, I spotted a bag of freshly shelled lima beans from the Green Barn Farm Market (the same farmers who grow the infamous succulent broccoli). As fresh lima beans don’t crop up (HA, pun!) too often, I contemplated the bright green legumes for a good few days before plunging into their unfamiliar waters. Seeking inspiration, I searched for dishes featuring limas (also known as butter beans) on Epicurious, one of my favorite non-vegan recipe catalogues. A host of succotash recipes appeared, but since the Madison harvest of sweet corn, a necessary ingredient in succotash, disappeared just last week (heartbreaking, I must say), I overlooked the summery side dish and opted for a warming soup more suited to the blustery October days.
With Epicurious’ Fava Bean and Spring Vegetable Soup as my muse, I almost completely overhauled the entire recipe as written to transform the soup into a clean-out-the-refrigerator-type dish: only the olive oil, carrots, and basil survive from the original recipe. My newly formed soup highlights the bounty of fall veggies available at the farmers market, rather than the mild-flavored ones of spring, to create a somewhat heartier dish than its Epicurean counterpart, though still retains the integrity of each vegetable’s true flavor…and their vibrant green hues.
Simple, clean, and quick, this soup makes a perfect weeknight meal served alongside your grain of choice (last night, I opted for amaranth). As with most other soups, this tastes even better the next day after the flavors have truly mingled, though the vegetables’ bright green colors will wane a bit.
Very Green Lima Bean Soup (Gluten Free, Soy Free, Nut Free)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium fennel bulb, diced
- 1 medium-large carrot, diced
- 5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 lb freshly shelled lima beans (about 2 cups; can substitute fresh fava beans or a 10-oz bag of frozen baby limas.)
- 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
- 8 oz broccoli (I used a gorgeous head of purple Peacock broccoli, but any variety will do, perhaps even Romanesco!)
- Large handful of spinach, roughly chopped (about 2-4 oz.)
- HUGE handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced (about 2/3 to 1 cup.)
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the fennel and carrots and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add limas, brussels sprouts, and broccoli and simmer until tender, uncovered, about 15-20 minutes. (Make sure it simmers uncovered or else the vegetables’ lovely green colors will disappear into an unappetizing grey). Turn off the heat, stir in the spinach, basil, and pepper, and serve.
Local Ingredients: Fresh lima beans from the Green Barn Farm Market, brussels sprouts from Ridgeland Harvest, Peacock broccoli from Jones Valley Farm, carrots from JenEhr Family Farm, fennel and spinach from Driftless Organics, basil from my garden.
Comment Provoking Questions: What are your favorite implementations of lima beans? How about your favorite online recipe catalogue? Where do you look for inspiration about unfamiliar/seldom used ingredients?
Until next time, Ali.