Friday, January 19, 2007

Creamed Lima Beans - For Bill

Serves 4

I have a cousin, Bill, who lives in a small town in Illi
nois where I, a New York City kid, got to go for my childhood summers. It’s near the Mississippi, which really is mighty, and we spent many happy and carefree hours on that amazing river. On Sunday mornings we would head out early with a large basket filled with the fried chicken and coleslaw Aunt Rita made on Saturday night. My cousins Bill and Barbara and I would spend the day boating and swimming and picnicking. Pepsi, not Coke, was the drink of choice, and we could eat a bag of the always-forbidden-in-my-house potato chips.

The fields in the area are rolling and from the plane look like a patchwork quilt. The sky is big. The earth is black and rich and fragrant. There ar
e family-owned pig farms in the area, and the air near those farms is strong and pungent, in a pleasing way. Fried pork chop sandwiches are a regional specialty. The street is called Main, and the Post Office still had a WPA mural painted during the Franklin Roosevelt administration the last time I was there.

I hope it still is.

It is the Midwest of Carl Sandburg and Mark Twain and Abraham Li

My cousin Bill loves good food. He grew up eating fabulous
meals at home because Aunt Rita was a terrific and generous cook, and he is married to a woman, Jamie, who is a good cook as well. I don’t think he needs to learn to cook in self-defense, but I think it would be fun for him because cooking is such a pleasure and reaps so many rewards, especially when you cook for people you love. So I am encouraging him to learn to cook and am going to tag every recipe that would be good for a beginning cook “For Bill,” and when you see that tag, you will know what it means. This is the first one.

Even if you think you don’t like lima beans, try this. It goes with many things, and everyone loves it. If you make this once, I think you will make it again and again.

Maldon Salt is organic salt that is hand-harvested from the sea on the east coast of England. Instead of being in crystals, it is in beautiful flakes that you pick up and crush with your fingers over your food. I keep it in a small covered bowl on my counter because I use it all the time. I'm sure by now you've discovered Maldon, but if not, now is the time. 

This dish is excellent served with rigatoni topped with what I call Marcella's Miracle Sauce  - her justly famous tomato sauce made only with tomatoes, onion, and butter.  I usually serve them on the same large white dinner plate.  

Creamed Lima Beans

1 package frozen lima beans (Fordhook are best, but baby limas are okay too)
½ pint heavy cream
Salt for water
Maldon Salt to finish

Put the contents of the package of frozen lima beans into a 2-quart pot. Add as much water as you can, leaving room so the water doesn’t boil over. Salt the water lightly. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer until about the beans are three-quarters of the way done. Taste like you would spaghetti or green beans to check for doneness. Drain the water when there’s just a little resistance to the bite.

Put lima beans back in the pan and add the heavy cream. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook at a steady simmer until the cream thickens into a sauce.

If you keep cooking, the cream will essentially “disappear” and coat the beans like butter. Don’t go this far. You really want them creamy. Add Maldon Sea Salt to taste by picking it up in your hand and crushing it a little as you sprinkle it on the beans.

An added bonus to this dish is that leftovers (if you have any) can be made into a delicious puree.

Just heat the leftovers in the microwave for one minute to loosen slightly. Then put into a food processor, and run while adding more cream until the puree reaches the desired consistency. Then put the puree into a bowl, and heat in the microwave. I assume if you put the puree through a tamis - or strainer - it would become silken rather than just smooth, but I have never done that.

Print recipe

Lima Beans and Cream
Lima Beans with the Cream Thickening
Leftover Lima Beans in Cream Turned Into Puree

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  1. Sweet Jesus! After reading this eloquent lead-in about Midwestern summers & childhood, who could have guessed that lima beans might be so tempting? Very good, Vic. If the dish is half as good as the writing, which is a prose-poem, then we'll all be limabean freaks.
    By the way, you might hint how to get hold of the salt.

  2. I'm still traumatized from childhood succotash lima's but I think bar guy is right! I'm on it.

  3. My mother is from the south so I have no clue how I missed creamed limas. Not long ago my guy (reunited after 35 yrs) mentioned "these lima beans" that his deceased mother used to make; said she put milk in them & they were creamy. Knowing that just milk would not make a cream by itself I turned to my friend google & found many recipes but this seemed the best. I was right! I loved them, he REALLY loved them & said they were better than his mom's! (A major score for any self-respecting woman). They are now part of my arsenal of delicious & simple ~ thank you :). RIP Delores (his mother) I wish I could have known you better~

    1. Thanks so much; glad you enjoyed them. I haven't posted it yet, but if you want to know how I make grits (with cream, of course), email me, and I will send you the recipe.


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