By Lisa Riznikove

This hearty vegan dish features the unique chestnut flavor and brilliant burgundy colors of the heirloom Christmas Lima Bean making it a perfect side or vegan main course for the holiday table. We've paired the nutty flavors of the Christmas Lima with deeply caramelized onions, thyme and the earthy flavor of mushrooms and chard. As colorful as it is tasty, even the biggest bean hater in the room will be asking for seconds.

The Christmas Lima Bean

An Ark of Taste all star, the Christmas Lima Bean was popular the 1840s in the Southwestern United States. Sometimes called the chestnut bean in the states because of its flavor, it's a very large bean with a starchy texture. In Italy they can be found under the name Fagioli del Papa or "Pope's beans." Despite the beans popularity, in the 20th century many crops were replaced with a few larger commercial varieties and only through the diligence of seed savers are we able to enjoy it today.

Ingredients:

1 Cup Dried Christmas Lima Beans

2 Large Onions

1 Clove Garlic

6 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

2 Cups Mushrooms (crimini, shiitake and maitake make great choices)

1 Bunch Chard, rinsed and roughly chopped with stems removed.

1 Cup Diced Tomato

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Instructions:

1. Rinse and soak the Christmas Limas in water at LEAST 24 hours but preferably 48 hours.

2. Place the soaked lima beans, now the size of golf balls, into a sauce pan and cover with an inch of water.  I use some of the soaking liquid because it will have flavor and nutrients from the beans.

3.  Peel and quarter one of the onions and place in the pot with the beans. Peel the garlic and place it and 3 sprigs of thyme in the pot with the beans. Cover and simmer for 1 - 3 hours until the beans have reached the texture you prefer. I realize this is a LONG time, but the beans are HUGE.

4. While the beans are cooking, slice the remaining onion and pace them in a sautéed pan over low to medium heat with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Slowly caramelize them until they are golden brown and soft but not falling part.

5. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside on a plate.

6. When the beans are cooked to your desired doneness, drain most of the remaining liquid and disgard the large pieces of onion, garlic and sprig of thyme.

7. Place the mushrooms with the remaining sprigs of thyme and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in the sauté pan and add a bit of olive oil if it as gotten dry. Sauté the mushrooms on medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.

8. Add the onions back into the pan. Add the diced tomatoes and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the chard, reduce the heat and cover with a lid for 2-3 minutes to wilt the chard. Add the beans to the mixture and gently fold in the beans, careful not to break them up too much. The warm beans should wilt in the chard the rest of the way but if the chard is not wilted enough you can return the lid to the pan for a few minutes. 

9. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper. Plate and add a final drizzle with a good peppery olive oil like the Seka Hills Arbequina.  

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