Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Fennel and White Lima Beans Vinaigrette

Fennel and White Lima Beans Vinaigrette

Suffering Succotash, have I got a lima bean recipe for you! No worries, it’s not the dreaded mealy green limas and corn concoction of school lunches gone by. How many of you to this day, hate lima beans? I hear that from so many people. I was one of the few kids that loved a bowl of reheated frozen limas with salt as a snack. Yeah, I was that kind of kid. It was my dad’s favorite vegetable so I suppose it could be a DNA thing.

Good news! This recipe uses lima beans unlike any that I’ve ever eaten and probably you, unless you’ve cooked these divine specimens yourself. Rancho Gordo, a California-based bean company, has revived heirloom dried beans, indigenous to the Americas, in pursuit of varieties with flavors and textures that weren’t available in the mass-produced bean market. The brand name had popped up on my feed several times but it wasn’t until a visit to Monsieur Marcel that I saw them available in person. Chatting with a staff member, he emphatically stated that this was the best bean brand and recommended these white limas for my salad. Now, fair warning, the package is much more expensive than the dollar bag of dried beans at the local market. Are they worth it? Unquestionably. They cooked up sweet, creamy and moist with every bean as delicious as the next. When has that ever been used to describe a lima bean? If you’re up for cooking a pot of beans for this or any other salad I highly recommend using this brand. Please note that you can also use canned butter or cannellini beans for a quicker preparation.

Now for the salad. It’s a perfect blend of creamy and crunchy. Fennel is a vegetable that doesn’t get it’s fair share of recipe time. It adds a dimension in both taste, slightly anise, and texture, crisp and juicy. The mix of champagne and apple cider vinegars add a bright, slightly sweet pop of flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor of the beans. Fresh herbs are de rigueur for that herbaceous bite. Plus, good antioxidants.

Beans are often associated with hearty fall and winter foods. This side dish is light and bright and perfect for springtime meals. I do hope you’ll add this to your menu.

Chef’s Tips:

  • While the package of Rancho Gordo beans recommends a mirepoix of vegetables (onions, carrots and celery) for cooking the beans, I used onion and garlic. Simple and delicious. The alliums broke down and were absorbed in the broth, adding flavor to the beans. Pick out any veggies that might still be in pieces, before making the salad.
  • Add salt towards the end of cooking the beans or the beans will be tough.
  • Make the dressing ahead and let the flavors develop.
  • I give tips for cutting a fennel bulb at the end of the recipe. I like to use a sharp knife. If you’re comfortable using a mandolin that is fine but don’t make the slices paper thin as the crunch of the fennel adds to the salad. For those averse to anise (licorice) you can replace it with thinly sliced celery stalk. Use chopped up celery leaves in place of the fennel fronds.
  • While you can serve the salad right away, I like to let the flavors develop in the fridge at least several hours.

Fennel and White Lima Beans Vinaigrette

3.5 cups fresh cooked white lima beans* or white beans of choice**
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (how to prep fennel follows)
1/2 cup chopped mixed herbs such as fresh dill, Italian parsley and fennel fronds or herbs of choice
Vinaigrette dressing (recipe follows)

Fennel fronds and fresh cracked pepper for service

I like to marinate the beans and fennel herb mixture, separately, to keep the beans intact as follows.

In a medium sized bowl toss the beans with dressing to taste.

In a larger bowl toss the fennel and herbs with dressing to taste.

Gently fold in the beans to the fennel/herb mixture. Add more dressing/herbs if necessary.

Let the salad marinate in the fridge several hours for best results.

When ready to serve transfer to a bowl and top with fresh cracked pepper and chopped fennel fronds. Enjoy!

*I cooked the beans with half a roughly chopped onion and 2 cloves of sliced garlic. Most of the alliums melted into the mixture. I picked out any leftover pieces of onion before tossing with the dressing.
**If using canned beans use 2 -15 oz cans, drained and rinsed.

Cooked Rancho Gordo White Lima Beans

Vinaigrette Dressing:

1/3 cup mixed champagne and apple cider vinegar or vinegar of choice
1 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Big pinch of cane sugar, about 1/4 tsp
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
1 heaping tsp Dijon mustard
2/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
2 T minced shallot

Whisk the salt, sugar and pepper into the vinegars to dissolve. Add the mustard and whisk to incorporate. Slowly whisk in the oil. Stir in the shallots. Let marinate for 20-30 minutes at room temperature. Taste for seasoning and acid and adjust to your liking. It takes time for dressings to develop flavors which is why I suggest waiting to adjust. Then refrigerate until ready to use.

How to cut a fennel bulb:
You will need a sharp chef’s or Sudoku knife.
Wash and dry fennel
Cut off the stalks at the top of the bulb. Remove the fronds from the stalks, especially the baby ones at the base which are sweeter.
I love to eat the stalks like celery. Or you can use in a stock or discard.
Reserve the fronds to use in the salad and for other uses.
Cut the root end off. Just a thin slice as you don’t want to lose too much of the bulb
Cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Remove the core if it is woody.
Turn the cut size down and very thinly slice starting from the root end. If the slices are very long cut in half.

Beans, fennel and herbs for salad
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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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