Greens: Cooked or raw? August 30, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading, recipes.
Tags: arugula, collard greens, cooked greens, dangers of raw greens, greens, healthy greens, kale, raw greens, salad greens, salad recipes, salads, spinach, watercress
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Silence Dogood here. I’m mostly an equal-opportunity greens fan; I love them raw (in salads and sandwiches), semi-cooked (in hot sandwiches like cheese panini with tomatoes and arugula), and cooked (in pasta, soups, dal, sauteed, or steamed). Pretty much the only greens I won’t eat are the ones that taste like dirt (beet greens, Swiss chard), the ones that are prickly (radish greens, turnip greens), and the ones that come from cans. (Just give me the beets and radishes and Japanese turnips and let me enjoy the colorful chard as an ornamental.) If I knew how to grill, I’d doubtless love the grilled halved Romaine lettuces and halved radicchio that have become popular.
I love to make a big pot of greens, including the “supergreens” kale and collards, along with spinach, arugula, and methi (fenugreek greens), cooking them down with a tiny bit of water clinging to the leaves, and then make saag paneer, the delicious, Indian dish that uses their equivalent of farmer’s cheese/fresh mozzarella, paneer, with a simply luscious mix of sauteed onion, spices, and cream. Served over basmati rice, which soaks up the sauce, it’s pure heaven.
Greens prepared this way are also a great base for soups and a great filling layer for lasagna. (You can tuck them in between the lasagna pasta and the ricotta or Greek yogurt, then top with sauce and shredded cheese.) So are greens that are added to dishes like pastas at the last moment. I love sauteing diced sweet onions and minced garlic in extra-virgin olive oil, perhaps with sliced mushrooms and diced red, orange or yellow bell pepper, a dash of crushed red pepper, Italian herbs (a mix of basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme), salt (we love RealSalt and Trocomare, hot herbed salt), and fresh-cracked black pepper. Then I add arugula when everything else has cooked down, use pasta tongs to immediately add cooked spaghetti to the sauteed veggies, and toss the pasta with the veggies and my choice of shredded cheese before serving it up. Yum!
But I’d still want to serve my pasta with a crunchy green salad. I really love salad, from a Caesar (yes to hard-boiled eggs, no to croutons and anchovies) to the famous iceberg wedge (I like mine with chopped sweet or purple onion, diced tomato, crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese, and an olive oil-lemon dressing, with plenty of salt and fresh-cracked black pepper).
There are so many salad variations that I can’t understand why everyone doesn’t love salad. One of my favorites has a crunchy Romaine base with arugula, radicchio, Boston (Bibb, butter) lettuce, watercress and frisee giving texture, flavor and color, with shredded carrots, diced bell pepper (red, yellow, and/or orange), diced red onion, cherry tomatoes (my favorites are the orange Sungold tomatoes), cucumbers, red cabbage, shredded white sharp Cheddar and/or blue or Gorgonzola cheese, sliced hard-boiled eggs, black olives, scallions (green onions), and pepitas (roasted pumpkinseeds) for nutritional value and crunch. I’ll add avocado and/or jarred artichoke hearts in oil for an especially decadent salad. With so much going on in the salad—especially if I mix in fresh basil, mint, cilantro, or another fresh herb—I like to keep the dressing simple: good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
But not all is well in the raw greens world. I had a very sad revelation a few months ago when I read that eating raw kale was damaging to people with thyroid issues. I love raw kale in salads, but I guess I’ll be eating all my kale cooked from now on. A dear friend reminded me that the oxalic acid in spinach is bad for people with arthritis, and can not just accumulate in the joints but contribute to the formation of kidney stones. And if, like my father, you’re on blood thinners to prevent heart attack or stroke, your doctor will probably tell you to avoid all greens and salads, since leafy greens are rich in vitamin K, a natural blood thinner. Bummer!!! Not to mention that you need to eat some oil with your greens to release their nutrients in the body, preferably a healthy oil like olive oil.
The real divider in our household, though, is spinach. Our friend Ben likes it raw in salads, I like it cooked. I find the texture of raw spinach both limp and dusty—no crunch, and this dreadful musty, felted texture. (I feel the same way about raw mushrooms, and won’t eat them in a salad, either, although I love cooked mushrooms.) I, on the other hand, love cooked spinach (again, cooked down with just a few drops of water) with balsamic vinegar. OFB hates it. His exception is spanakopita, the Greek phyllos pockets filled with spinach and feta. We’ve finally found common ground with spinach sauteed in olive oil with minced garlic or onion. OFB will eat it if I add crushed red pepper, and I can discreetly add a splash of balsamic vinegar to my serving. And yes, I do buy baby spinach for his salads when I remember!
‘Til next time,
How to use chopsticks. August 28, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: chopsticks, eating with chopsticks
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Silence Dogood here. If the only experience you’ve had with chopsticks is watching Pat Morita catch flies with them in “The Karate Kid,” it might be a little intimidating to go to a restaurant and see everybody else using them. And embarrassing to have to say “Could I have a fork, please?”
As a chopstick novice myself, I’ve managed to learn how to eat vegetable tempura rolls and things like stir-fries and General Tso’s tofu with chopsticks, but still can’t manage soft, slippery things like mapo tofu or tiny things like grains of rice. (Hint: In “The Man with the Golden Gun,” a James Bond movie set in Hong Kong, they showed a family basically holding bowls of rice to their mouths and shoveling the rice in with their chopsticks. Made sense to me!) I was once served a soup-like porridge at a Zen monastery which I was expected to eat, along with the rest of the meal, with chopsticks. Yow!!! Fortunately, we were able to serve ourselves and I took a tiny portion of porridge and somehow managed to down it all, as was expected. Never again!
Anyway, one restaurant, a wonderful Sichuan (Szechuan) restaurant in State College, PA, called Sichuan Bistro, has come up with a discreet way to help chopstick-challenged diners: chopsticks that come with directions. The directions, printed on the red paper chopstick cover, are straightforward: Take one chopstick, tuck it under the thumb of your dominant hand, and hold firmly. Add the second chopstick and hold it between your index finger and thumb, as you’d hold a pencil, while still holding the first chopstick wedged down between your thumb and hand. To eat, hold the first chopstick still and move the second one up and down to capture and immobilize food.
I certainly wouldn’t agree with the printed directions that “now you can pick up anything” with chopsticks—I’m still not going for the porridge or rice—but this technique really does work. Try it and see for yourself!
‘Til next time,
Fantastic stir-fry (or pasta) in a flash. August 27, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: easy yummy pasta, fast pre-prepped stir-fry, fast stir-fry, four-ingredient pasta, fresh veggie pasta, recipes with precut veggies, stir-fry, stir-fry vegetables
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Silence Dogood here. I have a guilty little secret, and that’s that I just love the cut-up combos of vegetables that you can find in the produce section of pretty much any grocery store. Why is that, when I actually enjoy chopping vegetables? It’s because those packages of multi-hued veggies are so pretty, so colorful. Their siren song is impossible to resist. Poor our friend Ben tries, in vain, to pull me away from the prepared produce section when we’re out grocery shopping; after all, I’ve already bought several shopping bags full of fresh, whole produce by that time.
Needless to say, that precut, precombined produce isn’t out there just to show its pretty face. It’s there for those nights when you’d really enjoy something fresh and healthy but don’t have time to stand for an hour or so chopping vegetables. If you’re in that boat, here are two suggestions for absolutely luscious main dishes that take almost no time to cook.
Fast, Fantastic Stir-Fry
First, buy as many packages of pre-cut veggies as you think you’ll need, depending on how much you eat and how many of you there are. We like the ones with red onion, red, yellow and orange bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and snow or snap peas. We love onion, so we buy an extra carton of diced red onion, and we also buy an extra red bell pepper to dice into the mix. Next, we get Iron Chef Sesame Garlic Sauce in the International aisle, and pick up a bottle of Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce from the condiments aisle if we’re running low. Finally, we get a package of pressed smoked tofu from the health-food store next door. (You could sub extra-firm tofu from the grocery if your health-food store doesn’t stock pressed smoked tofu. In that case, I recommend pre-cubed to save time.)
Once you’re home, if you got the extra-firm rather than the smoked tofu, put the cubes (or cube it and then put the cubes) into a marinade of the sesame-garlic sauce and the Frank’s hot sweet sauce, adding salt and enough boiling water to just cover. As you prepare the other ingredients, turn the tofu cubes several times to make sure both sides are coated.
In a rice cooker or pot, make enough basmati rice so each person can have a full cup. While the rice cooks, heat up canola, olive or peanut oil in a wok or deep, heavy pan like a Dutch oven (I love my LeCreuset Dutch oven for this, since I can cook over much lower heat than a wok and it retains heat). When the oil is hot, toss in about half the container of diced red onion, then your diced red bell pepper, then a tablespoon of minced garlic or some garlic granules or garlic salt. Then add your veggies, making sure they’re coated with the oil. Finish by adding the tofu and sauce (if it isn’t smoked). If you are using smoked tofu, cube it while the veggies are cooking. Add the sesame-garlic sauce and the Frank’s RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce to the veggies, then slide in the cubed smoked tofu.
When the rice is done, spoon the hot veggie-tofu mixture over the top and enjoy! It’s actually not just the easiest but the best stir-fry I’ve ever had. (And to make things even easier, you can always just pick up rice from the local Chinese place on your way home from the grocery. Their rice is always perfect!)
Moving on, let’s look at the pasta:
Our groceries offer packs of cut asparagus, sliced baby Bella mushrooms, and red onion. On its own, one of these packs would probably be delicious roasted with olive oil drizzled over the top. But I’m always craving pasta, and I had a carton of whole button mushrooms and a couple of red bell peppers that needed to be cooked. So I heated some olive oil, diced a Vidalia onion, the carton of mushrooms, and the bell peppers, and sauteed them until the mushrooms cooked down and the onion clarified. Meanwhile, I heated up a big pot of water for the pasta.
Once the water was boiling, I added the package of asparagus, mushrooms, and red onion to the other veggies, then added the pasta to the pot of boiling water. When the pasta was ready, I added black pepper and salt (we like RealSalt or Trocomare) to the veggies, then stirred in shredded sharp white Cheddar and allowed it to melt. (You could sub shredded mozzarella or a Cheddar/mozzarella mix.) Finally, I used tongs to pull out the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to coat well.
Yum! This pasta was delicious. All we needed was a nice, crunchy salad to have a complete and luscious meal. OFB and I are now officially hooked on both dishes. So easy, so good! Try them and let us know what you think.
‘Til next time,
Don’t throw out those fish and frogs! August 26, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, pets.
Tags: aquarium keeping, aquarium maintenance, aquariums, aquatic frogs, fish, frogs in aquariums
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When our friend Ben moved to scenic PA after grad school, I set up a goldfish tank in my new apartment. One day, I returned from work to find my biggest goldfish, Agamemnon, lying stiff, dry, and to all intents dead on the floor. (After that, I always put a hood on my aquariums. It never occurred to me that anybody would try to jump out.) Picking up the seemingly lifeless fish, I decided that there was nothing to lose, so I threw it back in the tank. Within minutes, Agamemnon, now aka Lazarus, had revived and was swimming around as if nothing had happened. He lived for many more years.
Our friend Ben was reminded of this today when I went into the kitchen and saw one of our two aquarium frogs lying stretched at full length on the floor in a pile of our dog Shiloh’s fur. It looked like a poster frog for rigor mortis, but I picked it up and began removing the dog hair. Eventually, its legs started moving, so I tossed it back in the tank. (Our current aquarium has a tight-fitting hood, so I have no idea how it escaped.) Soon enough, it was swimming around with the other frog and the fish, seemingly unfazed by its misadventure.
If you have an aquarium, or are thinking of setting one up, my advice to you is this: If something dies in the aquarium, it’s dead. But if it “dies” outside the aquarium, it ain’t necessarily so. Put it back in and see if it revives. And always put a hood on your tank!
Storebought tzatziki sauce. August 25, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: best pita for falafel sandwiches, easy falafel sandwiches, falafel patties, falafel sandwiches, Greek yogurt dip, Oikos Cucumber Dill Greek Yogurt Dip, Sabra Tzatziki Sauce, semi-homemade tzatziki sauce, tzatziki dip, tzatziki sauce
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Silence Dogood here. I wrote about making your own “semi-homemade” falafel sandwiches in a previous post, and blithely assured readers that you could find falafels and tzatziki sauce, the Greek yogurt-garlic sauce, ready to heat (falafels) and spread (tzatziki) on your warmed pitas. I had found falafel patties and Sabra tzatziki sauce at a local Giant grocery, even here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. But things change.
For the last several months, I haven’t seen any Sabra tzatziki sauce. There are a couple of other options, but one contains gelatin and another contains fish oil (!!!), both no-nos for vegetarians like me. It’s not tough to make your own tzatziki sauce, but what if what you’re looking for is just a simple throw-together sandwich that’s healthy and tastes fabulous?
I decided to opt for Oikos Cucumber Dill Yogurt Dip, made with thick Greek yogurt (like tzatziki sauce) and readily available in the refrigerated dip section in your grocery’s dairy aisle. But I thought it could probably use some punch. So I bought a container of matchsticked radishes and one of diced red (Spanish) onion in the produce section, plus a container of crumbled feta cheese, and when I got home, I mixed all three into some of the Oikos dip to punch it up. Then I proceeded to put my falafel sandwich together.
I drizzled the falafels with olive oil to crisp them up, then heated them at 250 degrees F. in our convection/toaster oven. Meanwhile, I halved thick pitas (not the thin Lebanese pitas that don’t hold ingredients in pockets without falling apart but are best used for scooping them). When the falafel patties were hot and sizzling, I flipped them and set the halved pitas on top of them to warm up. When everything was nice and hot, I smeared my tzatziki sauce thickly inside each pita half, then added two falafel patties, then mashed in shredded carrot and red cabbage to add texture, body, and nourishment. Yum!!!
If you can find Sabra tzatziki sauce, it will save you some time. But if not, the Oikos dip works well with minimal effort, and also makes a great dip for crudites, with or without the added onion, radish, and feta.
‘Til next time,
Naturalizing bulbs. August 24, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening.
Tags: naturalizing bulbs, naturalizing ferns, naturalizing peonies, naturalizing perennials, naturalizing wildflowers, Peony's Envy, planting bulbs, shade gardening, wildflower gardening
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Following on my previous post, “Why are tulips so short-lived?”, our friend Ben would like to talk about an interesting way to naturalize bulbs and perennials. “Naturalizing” basically means encouraging plants to come up all over the place in random arrangements, rather than planting them singly or in ordered groups. It works best for plants that tend to spread and multiply on their own, like daffodils, many of the little bulbs, and wildflowers.
The usual advice for naturalizing daffodils is to simply toss the bulbs into the area where you want to plant them and planting them where they fall. That way, you don’t unconsciously space or arrange them. But who wants to bruise the poor bulbs?! Not our friend Ben.
So I was quite intrigued to read a technique in an e-mail from Peony’s Envy, a wonderful peony nursery in New Jersey, about how they naturalized their woodland peonies (Paeonia japonica), which are the first peonies to bloom and thrive in the woodland garden settings that support ferns and other shade-loving wildflowers. (Peony’s Envy sells their plants online and on-site, and hosts open garden days throughout peony bloom season.)
The Peony’s Envy folks suggested taking as many tennis balls as you had plants and tossing them in the general area where you wanted the plants to go, then planting where the balls fell. That way, you’re not tossing plants or bulbs around, but are still getting random planting patterns. Mind you, this technique works better if you’re planting six woodland peonies or autumn ferns or hostas or Virginia bluebells than if you’re planting 100 daffodil bulbs (er, golf balls, anyone?). But the general idea is still intriguing. And if you had more plants than tennis (or golf) balls, you could always plant in cohorts: Toss the balls, plant; turn to the next area, toss the balls again, plant; and so on until you were done.
Thank you, Peony’s Envy! Great tip.
Why are tulips so short-lived? August 22, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in gardening, homesteading.
Tags: daffodils, Darwin tulips, perennial tulips, planting bulbs, planting tulips, short-lived tulips, spring bulbs, tulips, why are tulips short-lived
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The thing about bulbs is that most of them are so long-lived. Plant them once, and they either come back reliably year after year, or come back and multiply year after year. They’re one of the easiest and most dependable flowering plants, something you can plant once and look forward to every spring thereafter. This is true of daffodils, grape hyacinths, hyacinths, crocuses, glory-of-the-snow (chionodoxa), star of Bethlehem, snowdrops, Siberian squill, and numerous others.
Planting them is ridiculously easy, too: If you’re planting a sizable group of bulbs, dig a trench deep enough to cover the bulbs (shallow for small bulbs, deeper for daffs) and long and wide enough to contain the number of bulbs you’re planting, set the bulbs in root-side down, put the soil back over the bulbs, firm the soil by walking over it, the end. If you’re just planting a few bulbs in an existing bed, tucking in some grape hyacinths, snowdrops, crocuses, and/or daffodils, a narrow trowel will open a V-shaped slit in the soil (again to the appropriate depth) and you can just drop the bulb in (making sure the root end is facing down) and step on the slit to firm the soil over it. This avoids the big holes that “official” bulb planters gouge out of the soil, potentially damaging the roots of nearby perennials, and saves the steps of inverting the bulb planter after each bulb, knocking out the soil, and then replacing it in the hole.
So, our friend Ben wondered, what’s the deal with tulips? Once planted, daffodils grow and multiply for decades without further effort from you. But tulips? Apparently, most tulip hybrids bloom for one or at most two seasons. So-called “perennial” tulips, such as the Darwin hybrids, bloom for at most five years, typically blooming for three before declining. Yet they’re at least as expensive and as much trouble to plant as daffodils. Many gardeners simply treat them as annuals, planting them every fall, then digging them up after they bloom and discarding them.
This wanton waste didn’t sit well with me, and besides, I wondered why they behaved so differently from the rest of the spring bulbs. I consulted my good friend Google and found an answer from ornamental horticultural expert Rob Proctor. He pointed out that in their native land, tulips endured poor, rocky soil, cold winters, wet springs, and hot, dry summers. In these conditions, they were true perennials, just like daffodils, returning to bloom every year. He compared the climate to Colorado’s.
Apparently, our problem is that we cosset our tulips to death. We water their beds all summer, encouraging bulb rot; we feed them or plant them in rich soil (or both); our climate isn’t cold enough in winter or hot enough in summer. Our friend Ben read a fascinating tip, that in Britain, where summers aren’t known for being hot and dry, gardeners dig up the tulips when their bloom cycle has ended and their foliage is starting to decline and bring them inside hot, dry greenhouses to “cure,” then replant them in fall, thus encouraging many years of bloom.
Of course, this still sounds like a lot of work, and you’d need a greenhouse to pull it off. Is it worth it? Er. Our problem would be trying to remember where we’d planted the tulip bulbs, what they looked like versus the daffodil bulbs they were interplanted with, and how on earth we could dig them up without exposing our entire bulb border, a major undertaking. We had such a gorgeous display of daffs and tulips interplanted in our border last year it was breathtaking. But Silence Dogood and I have agreed that we’d better leave everything as is for next spring and see what happens. Maybe we won’t get a single tulip, or a single blooming tulip, but at least our daffodils can stretch out. And if we do get a few more tulip blooms, that will be great.
Super-yummy salad dressing (and dip). August 21, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in recipes.
Tags: best ranch dressing, best ranch dressing dip, dressed-up ranch dressing, ranch dressing
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Silence Dogood here. Next time you want a better ranch dressing or dip, try this fantastic, fast concoction from a friend of a friend:
Angie’s Amazing Ranch Dressing
2/3 store brand ranch dressing (or your favorite)
1/3 really good olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
cracked black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar, put on the lid, and shake.
That’s all there is to it! You’ll be absolutely amazed at what this does to storebought ranch dressing. It’s SO delicious! Angie had brought a jar to a supper gathering as a salad dressing, but no sooner had people tasted it than they started dipping Romaine leaves, cherry tomatoes and baby carrots into the jar and wolfing them down with relish. Try it, you’ll love it!
‘Til next time,
Should you choose gummy vitamins? August 20, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: adult gummy vitamins, chewable vitamins, gummy vitamins, vegetarian gummy vitamins, vitamins
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Silence Dogood here. I try to eat a healthy, balanced diet, but I’ve also always tried to supplement with vitamins, since, as a vegetarian, I know I need to add more iron, B12 and omega-3s, among others, than most omnivores. I used to swallow an amazing assortment of horse-pill-sized vitamins every morning and night.
But as time went on, I found it harder and harder to swallow big pills. And I found that, without even realizing it, I’d gradually stopped taking my vitamins. Just looking at one of them made my throat close up. What to do?
Fortunately, thanks to children’s vitamins, an answer seemed to be on the horizon: candy. There are now adult gummy vitamins, M&M-style vitamins, NECCO wafer-style vitamins. You can simply eat these sweet-treat vitamins rather than having to swallow them. You can choose multivitamins, individual vitamins, or an assortment.
But do they really work? An interview with a nutritional scientist on Yahoo News this morning said yes, that they were as effective as the horse pills (or any vitamin pills and capsules). And that their sweetness wasn’t an issue, since two gummy vites had just 15 calories and 2-3 grams of sugar (compared to 40 for a 12-ounce soda). Great news for those of us who’d worried about the gummy vites rotting our teeth.
But I had one more question. As a vegetarian, I didn’t want to eat gummy vites with gelatin. Were there any vegetarian gummy vites? My local health-food store came to the rescue. Nordic Naturals Nordic Berries were made with pectin (a fruit-based thickener), not gelatin.
So now I take the Nordic multivitamin gummy vites along with wafer-like vitamin C and B12. Do I want to eat candylike vitamins, since I’d never even think of eating candy? Certainly not. Would I rather eat candylike vitamins than not take vitamins at all? You betcha. Pass the bottle, please.
‘Til next time,
Love your lima beans. August 19, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: butterbeans, cooking lima beans, lima beans
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Silence Dogood here. When I first moved North from my native Nashville, I discovered that most of my friends and colleagues hated lima beans. I was dumbfounded. How could anyone hate lima beans?! I found out soon enough when I ordered them in a restaurant and was served mushy, slimy “baby” lima beans, also the sort that I’d found in the local groceries’ freezer sections.
These nasty, slippery, tiny things bore no resemblance whatever to the big, plump, meaty butterbeans I’d grown up with, so delicious boiled and served with butter, salt, and pepper, as a side with mashed or new or baked sweet potatoes or baked potatoes or corn on the cob. (The limas were also often boiled, then sauteed in butter for a minute or two with corn just cut from the ears). Fried chicken and meaty slices of beefsteak tomato were popular accompaniments.
To this day, I don’t know if butterbeans got their name because they were invariably cooked with butter or if their taste and texture simply struck someone as buttery. But I did notice something here in scenic PA: The local Pennsylvania Dutch, including the Amish and Mennonites, weren’t buying those awful baby limas. Nor did they seem to eat lima beans fresh. Instead, they were making baked beans out of big, meaty dried limas. But when they were in season, which is now, they’d sell big, meaty limas in the pod at their farm stands or shell and sell them ready to cook.
If your farmers’ market sells big, plump lima beans in the pod or out, here’s what to keep in mind: Shelling limas is a pain. That’s because the pods are big and thick, and there are typically only two or three limas in each pod, so it takes a lot of work to get enough to eat, and you’re left with a giant mound of empty, somewhat hairy pods. (Hint: You can compost them.) That’s why, if you buy them pre-shelled, they cost so much more. You’ll be saving a lot of work and getting a lot more limas, but there’s a catch here, too: Once they’re shelled, they don’t keep too well, so you need to cook them soon or they’ll get mushy and slimy and you’ll have to compost them. I prefer to shell them just before cooking them, but there are only two of us. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest buying a bag of shelled limas and saving yourself some prep time.
If you’re cooking fresh limas, boiling is definitely the way to go, and they’ll take more time than, say, green and yellow wax beans, summer squash, asparagus, or broccoli, but less time than new potatoes. When I cook fresh limas to go with corn on the cob, I’ll bring a covered pot of water to a boil for the corn. If I were going to cook green and yellow wax beans to go with the corn, I’d prep the beans, put them in a pot, cover them with water, and bring them to a boil once I saw that the corn water was boiling. (Fresh corn on the cob takes just enough time to heat through, so you want everything else to be pretty much ready to serve before you put it in the pot.) For limas, however, I’ll put them in water and heat them the moment I start heating the water for corn. And I won’t add the corn to the boiling water until I’m sure the limas are done, when they’ve turned pale green and are tender and delicious, not hard or slimy (at which point I’ll turn them off, since I know they’ll stay hot in the water until the corn is ready).
What about frozen and canned lima beans? I’ve noticed that some of the more local brands occasionally offer frozen limas rather than the ubiquitous “baby limas.” They may not be quite as big and succulent as butterbeans, but at least they’re not tiny and slippery. If I’m craving fresh limas in the off-season, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for them. And yes, you can get big, meaty limas in cans, but they’re white, not green. I use them mixed with other canned beans in my chili; they add body and contrast, and are just great with several colors of kidney beans. I certainly wouldn’t attempt to heat them up straight out of the can on their own, though. Yecchhh!!!
What about those Mennonite baked beans? Well, they all have bacon or ham in them, even the grocery-store versions, just like most baked beans, so given that I’m a vegetarian, I’ve never tried them. (Not to mention that they involve the endless time involved rehydrating and cooking dried beans.) But they sure look good! When we want baked beans, we turn to Bush’s Grillin’ Beans, which have a variety of flavors that are vegetarian, but taste so rich and good, you’d never—and I NEVER say this—miss the meat. Paired with cornbread and coleslaw, or corn-on-the-cob and a classic wedge salad, or creamy pasta and a crunchy tossed salad, they’re heaven. And nobody’s slapping your hand if you want to have them with fried chicken or burgers or barbecue or whatever. And many of the Bush’s Grillin’ beans varieties do have meat.
So choose what you enjoy! But please, don’t ignore fresh lima beans, the big, thick, meaty ones we in the South know as butterbeans. If all you know are tiny, slimy, slippery limas, these will be a revelation.
‘Til next time,