Lima Bean Legacy

by Evan Kleiman

Tucked off the freeway on your way to South Coast Plaza are the remaining 50 acres of what was once the 2,000 acre Segerstrom Ranch, where the highest quality lima beans were grown. Today, the Segerstrom family takes great pride in holding on to a piece of their farming heritage, as well they should.

The early success of the bean crops created a desire to acquire more land, which eventually led to the development of a regional shopping center in the midst of fields as far as the eye could see. The center, named South Coast Plaza, opened in 1967 and prospered. Over the course of 50 years it became an international destination for luxury shopping, dining and the performing arts. But still today, the fine lima beans grow, a holdout of a Southern Californian history that has been almost completely paved over.

And these beans? They are fabulous! Forget everything you think you know about limas. Eating “fresh” dried local beans is something else again. When you buy dry beans at the grocery store who knows how old they are?

But when you buy local dry beans that are at most one year old instead of tough skins and chalky interiors, you get tender limas with a smooth, velvety texture. That tenderness means you also get a bean with the ability to absorb the flavors of pairings you choose. My inspiration came by way of a Greek salad. Other lima bean recipes created for the Segerstrom crop include a lamb and lima bean cassoulet from Vaca chef Amar Santana; a sautéed lima bean with kale and bacon side dish by Water Grill’s Damon Gordon, and the Segerstrom family soup recipe.

California Lima Greek Salad

Chef Evan Kleiman

In this recipe, think of the feta as salt. Add it to taste and to offset the sweetness of late summer tomato, the crispness of cucumber and the sharpness of red onion. The choice to add the sour of red wine vinegar or lemon juice is yours and will depend on what else you’re having. Sometimes the smoothness of this salad dressed only with olive oil, seasoning and the tomato juices is welcome.

1 cup dry limas* or 2 15-oz. cans of butter beans
½ cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 Persian cucumbers, peeled, cut in half and cut into half-inch pieces
1 basket cherry tomatoes of choice, cut in half vertically
Salt to taste
4 oz. feta or goat cheese
1 tablespoon Mediterranean oregano
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice (to taste)

*1 cup of dry limas will yield about 3 cups of cooked beans

To cook dry limas put in pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil then cover and turn off heat. Let soak in the hot water for an hour. Then drain beans in a colander and rinse gently. Rinse out cooking pot and put the beans back in. Again cover with cool water by 2 inches. Bring to a gentle simmer and let cook until tender, approximately 1 hour if using “fresh” dry beans but no more than 1½ hrs. Taste after an hour. You want creamy beans that still hold their shape and do not break. If the water level starts to reach the level of the beans add more cold water and bring back to a simmer. When beans are done store with cooking liquid until ready to use. They freeze well and can stay in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To prepare the salad, start by soaking the sliced red onion in ice water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Put the cucumber and tomatoes in a bowl. Add a minimal amount of salt (remember the salty cheese) and toss together. Add the chilled and drained red onion and toss again.

Lay half the cucumber, tomato, onion mixture on a medium serving platter or flat bowl. Add the lima beans and a bit of the feta or goat cheese crumbled on top. Sprinkle with oregano and drizzle with olive oil. Repeat with the remaining vegetable mixture. Gently lift some of the limas up with two spoons to mix, being careful not to break the beans. Add additional oregano, olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice to taste and check for seasoning. Serves 6.

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Lima Beans with Kale and Bacon

Chef Damon Gordon
Water Grill

Created by King’s Seafood’s culinary director for a side dish served at a dinner commemorating South Coast Plaza’s 50th anniversary.

1 cup lima beans
½ cup blanched, chopped kale
1 teaspoon peeled, chopped garlic
2 oz. unsalted butter
¼ cup bacon, diced
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the beans for 2 hours and then drain. Place in a pot and cover with cold water and cook until tender. Once cooked allow to cool in liquid. Retain some of bean cooking liquor.

Sauté the garlic in the butter with the bacon in a large pan, cooking bacon through but not over-crisping.  Add the kale and beans. Season to taste.  Add a little of the beans cooking liquor to create a light sauce.  Serves 4 as a side dish.

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Lima Bean Soup

A recipe of the bean soup served at the topping-out ceremony in 2005 for the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.  The halfway point, where the highest beam in a project is put in place, was celebrated by guests and Henry Segerstrom, South Coast Plaza’s co-founder and the founding chairman of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

2 cups dried lima beans
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ – ¾ lb. smoked ham hock or shank
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium-sized onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh preferred)
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (brand such as Lawry’s)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery hearts, diced
½ cup chopped green cabbage (optional)
¼ cup parsley, minced

Rinse lima beans. Put in a large kettle and cover with water. Let rest four hours. Put the kettle of beans and water they were soaked in on stovetop on medium high heat. Add more water if beans are not covered. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover kettle and cook beans for half an hour.

While beans are cooking, trim as much meat from ham bone as possible with a sharp knife. Heat vegetable oil in a large sauté pan and add meat and bone. Sauté on medium high heat until crisp. Add onion, sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, sauté 3 minutes more. Add ham, bone, onions and garlic to beans. Add a teaspoon of water to sauté pan to scrape up the crusty bits. Add carrots and celery, seasoned salt, pepper, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cook uncovered for 50 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking and adding water if soup is thickening too quickly—add about ¼ to ½ cup at a time. Check to make sure beans do not get broken.  Remove and discard bone. Add cabbage (optional) the last 10 minutes. Mix in parsley before serving. Makes about 10 cups. Freezes well.

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Braised Lamb and Lima Bean Cassoulet 

Chef Amar Santana

Created for the 2016 Festival of Children Farm to Table Ranch Dinner at Segerstrom Ranch.
Recipe is complex, involving different steps, and should be read in its entirety.

2 each Colorado lamb shanks, about 2 to 2.5 lbs. (combined weight)
½ bottle good red wine
½ bottle port wine
6 each garlic cloves crushed
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and large diced
3 stalks of celery
3 sprigs of rosemary
3 sprigs of thyme
5 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1 quart low sodium veal or beef stock

Combine all ingredients in first grouping together and marinate in the red wine and vegetables overnight. Strain to remove lamb and vegetables; sear lamb in a hot pan on all sides, take out and let rest. In the same pan caramelize all the vegetables then deglaze with the wine marinade

Reduce by half, add stock, lamb and caramelized vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, cover with aluminum foil and braise in the oven until fork tender at 250-275 degrees for about 3 hours. Cool and remove the meat from the bones. Strain the remaining liquid and place in a saucepan. Reduce by half on the stove and set aside.  

For Lima Beans
1 cup dried lima beans
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
Soak beans in 2 quarts of water overnight; next day strain, rinse and cook in new water, with bay leaves and thyme at medium low heat until tender.

For Bread Crumbs
1 cup panko bread crumbs toasted
2 tablespoons garlic oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper     
Lightly toast bread crumbs; place in a bowl, add garlic oil, seasoning and gently toss.                                                                             

To Assemble The Dish
Mix cooked lima beans with picked lamb meat and reduced braising liquid, taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Place in a large baking vessel, sprinkle with panko breadcrumbs and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Serves 4 family-style.

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