First, some butter bean information. I knew butter beans were a southern staple, but I didn’t realize they are the same thing as lima beans. For this soup, I wanted to cook dried beans rather than use canned. I really wanted to get the best flavor possible from the beans. Sadly, I couldn’t find the right kind of dried beans. So, I got creative. When I saw giant limas, I couldn’t resist. I love the flavor of gigante beans and load up on a salad with them whenever Whole Foods includes it in their salad bar. I knew the mild, giant lima would be a good match with the fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes were included in my CSA share, and they were a gorgeous, cherry variety. They had amazing flavor, and were excellent in the soup. Great job, WCOF!
Cooking dried beans is pretty straightforward, but I followed the tips from The Zuni Café Cookbook. Judy Rodgers recommends soaking some beans but not others. Since this was my first time cooking giant limas, and they are quite big, I thought it best to soak them overnight. The next day, they were gently simmered, not boiled, and any impurities forming at the top of the pot were skimmed away repeatedly. They simmered for about two and a half hours total. Then, I added salt and let them simmer a bit longer to absorb the flavor. Rodgers also suggests storing the cooked beans in some of the cooking liquid which contains the salt. Thrilled with my supply of perfectly cooked giant limas, I immediately used some of them for a bean spread. A cup of them went into the food processor with some garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. This was fantastic smeared on toasted sourdough that had been rubbed with garlic.
Back to the soup: It was a very simple soup started with a finely diced yellow onion, two and a half finely diced celery stalks, and a cup of sliced carrots. All of this was sautéed in olive oil and was seasoned with salt and pepper. Eight cups of chicken broth were added, and then I spooned in three cups or so of the cooked giant limas. I added a parmigiana reggiano rind for the last 10 minutes of cooking, and the two cups of cherry tomatoes were added five minutes before serving. Once ladled into the bowl, I topped it with freshly grated parigiana, homegrown basil, and a few drops of olive oil. Soup isn’t just for winter anymore.