When I was growing up, fresh lima beans (or butter beans, as we called them) were often on our table during the summer. Our neighbor would bring us a “mess” of them from her garden, and my siblings and I would sit at the kitchen table and help our mother shell them. I had completely forgotten about them until a few years ago when one of my current neighbors brought me a bag of freshly shelled limas, from a local produce stand rather from her own garden.
I hadn’t had fresh lima beans in so long that I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with them. I thought I remembered how my mother had cooked them–simmered slowly with ham or bacon–so I attempted something similar, using Bacos or Liquid Smoke seasoning to replace the bacon. I was amazed at how good they were–so tender and buttery, not at all like the dried lima beans I’d been cooking with for years. I started looking for them myself at the farm stand and farmer’s market, and during the winter, when they weren’t available, I started buying frozen baby limas, a less than stellar replacement but acceptable to someone with a lima addiction.
Though my standard home-style version of lima beans is tasty, I recently wanted something a little different, a dish that would take advantage of all the fresh herbs in my garden. I chose to make a delicate soup, flavored with a mixture of fresh and dried herbs similar to herbes de Provence. The results were wonderful: light and fresh, the essence of summer!
Fresh Lima Bean and Herb Soup
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 pound fresh lima beans (may use frozen)
6 cups water or lightly flavored vegetable broth
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme (or 1 tbsp. fresh, minced)
1 tsp. dried savory
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tbsp. minced fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
3 tbsp. fresh basil leaves, sliced chiffonade or chopped
1/2 cup plain soymilk
extra water, as needed
salt to taste (optional)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a large, non-stick pot over medium-high heat, sauté the onion until it begins to brown. Add the celery and sauté for 2 more minutes.
Add the lima beans, water, thyme, rosemary, and oregano and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 50 minutes for fresh beans. As they’re cooking, add more water if they become too dry. Add the basil and soymilk and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Use an immersion blender to blend about half of the soup (you can blend it all if you want a completely smooth soup). This can also be done in a conventional blender–just a little messier. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and heat for about 5 more minutes before serving.
The soup can be reheated the next day or even served cold. It may thicken overnight, so add more water or broth as needed.
Makes 4 servings. Each (without salt) contains: 159 Calories (kcal); 1 g Total Fat; (7% calories from fat); 9 g Protein; 30 g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 49 mg Sodium; 7 g Fiber.