The Christmas Lima: (or in Which I Confirm my Love of Rancho Gordo)

As promised, here is a photo-heavy documentation of my first encounter with Rancho Gordo beans. And let me tell you, they are worth the hype. I am known to read cookbooks like novels, and in this particular book (Heirloom Beans), Steve Sando states that he often lovingly refers to people like me as "bean freaks". Last week while perusing his blog, he mentioned that there are people on flickr posting photos of shipments of beans! Yes, I had to look. My favorite was a shot of a girl with a pound of beans on her head; one of the comments read, "And, um, you have beans. On your head. Isn't there a pool for that or something?"

Head over there and take a look, I'm not joking.

All obsessiveness aside, I received a pretty high accolade from my non-foodie Husband when he said that this was one of my top meals (actually, he added here, "EXCEPT for the BEANS", which I did see him eat some of, and he did go on to say the broth was excellent. I smugly noted that the broth would not taste like it did if not for the beans, so I'm counting it as a win.)

Since the recipe, as far as my short Google search is concerned, is not posted on the Internet and the recipe is actually gifted from Farm Restaurant at Carneros Inn in Napa, I don't feel entirely confident in recording it here. Instead, I'll urge you to purchase the book, either directly from Rancho Gordo or at Amazon. If the following photos look good to you, the book will most certainly be a welcome addition to your kitchen.

Now, on with the dinner!

Carneros Inn's Christmas Lima with Pork Chops, Cabbage and Asian Pear Relish

Yesterday morning, I actually got up when it was still dark, too excited to go and soak my beans that I couldn't go back to sleep. Bean Freak? Yes, I think so. I washed them thoroughly, and soaked them for about 6 hours. Meanwhile, I went to the last South Shore Farmer's Market of the season. While my beans were not local, most of the other ingredients were: Just look at this cipollini onion!

I've never seen one larger than about a shallot, let alone the size of my hand! I love this farm, Highcross Farms from nearby Cambellsport, WI. I have to say that consistently they have the nicest and most reasonably price organic produce I've ever seen. I'm hoping to see them at the Winter Farm Market, and may even get a CSA share from them next year, and be done fretting about my sunless gardening efforts. I stocked up on the sweetest yellow carrots (which I roasted whole last week, and my Husband ate them and liked them!) as well. There was a carrot in the ragout.

I cannot remember the varietal of cabbage I got, I loved it though. The recipe called for Savoy, and this is related to the Chinese cabbage I think. I may braise the rest, since GOP did that the other day - and I was jealous, even though she though it made her house smell like a tenement building...

The easiest ever pear relish: chop one Bosc or Asian pear into 1/8 inch dice, add 1/2 t. lemon juice and some salt and pepper and chopped chives. I actually forgot to put in on top of our meals until after a couple of bites, and I was glad I remembered. It added a nice sweet dimension, and intensified the chestnuttiness of the Lima's.

It reminded me of one of my favorite appetizers this summer, when I was at Sasa's for dinner. She cut slices of ripe pear, and served them with Pecorino cheese. There happened to be a bag of Kettle Salt and Black Pepper chips on the table, and we ate them topped with the pears and cheese. Delicious!

When I threw the pork chops on the grill, I added the cabbage so it could wilt. I love the color of the bean broth, a deep chestnut red-brown.

A side note about the bread: Today is day 4 of this loaf, and it is still amazingly good. I really think that King Arthur mix I used on a whim is going to become a staple. It has got the nicest, deep grainy flavor, without being overly chewy. That is a good thing for a 3 year old, of whom I worry about choking hazards with. I was running errands the day I left it to rise, and it got enormous. Though it looks like it may weigh 5 lbs, it really was as light as a feather.

Very excited now, as the cabbage wilted and I added a bit more salt and pepper. Also, couldn't be more pleased with my gas grill which makes such an easy task of outdoor cookery. The last time I tried to use my charcoal grill, I was trying to light the silly thing for 90 minutes. That is not an exaggeration. I ended up cooking the food inside.

The finished dinner. Both of our plates were suspiciously clean after mopping up all of the juices with the bread. Jeff just had about 10 beans left in his bowl. I figure the nutrition was gleaned out of them, however.

And today for lunch I had the meat free version as promised to myself (though technically, there was a little bacon in the bean pot...) I scooped on a healthy amount of the pear relish, and I think it may have even improved overnight. I often think this is the case with beans, and they are really at their best at days 3-5 of their refrigerated residence. In fact, next time, I may even make the ragout one day prior, and just grill the meat the day of. Or, just eat it as a soup.

May you all be as inspired to eat beans, be they Rancho Gordo or not! I know that this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg for me concerning dear RG...with a whole new book full of inspiration. I forgot to mention that the book is published by Chronicle Books, one of my favorite publishers. They have the nicest photography and layouts, and those two things work well with cookbooks. Recent Chronicle cookbook favorites include The New Whole Grains Cookbook and Cupcakes!

I am so fortunate that this whole beany obsession hit just now when we are really in a cold Autumnal mood. What better way to take me through the winter than slow cooking. I love to press my hands to the top of the red Le Creuset as I pass by to warm up. Winter is the best time of year for us Kitchen Types!