Christmas Lima Bean Winter Salad with Black Dino Kale • Acorn Squash • Minneola Tangelo • Rosemary Citrus Olive Oil
We harvested just under a pound of beautiful Christmas lima beans from our garden this Fall and felt compelled to create a dish championing these precious beans around the holiday that gives them their name. Visit a seasonal market in late December almost anywhere in America and you will find first crop Minneola Tangelos from the citrus farmlands, along with the ubiquitous and dependable Acorn squash. In the Pacific Northwest, Kale and its brassica relatives stay green all winter long, as does the “dew of the sea” Rosemary. It is with these seasonal ingredients that we will create a wholesomely satisfying winter salad that makes for a special meal on these shortest of days.
Christmas Lima Bean Winter Salad
serves 3 adults without accompaniment, 6 adults if served as a first or second course.
preparation time: approximately 1.5 hours (+ additional bean cooking time)
for the beans:
1 cup or more dried Christmas Lima Beans
1 large bay leaf
1 whole clove
3 whole pepper corns
1 teaspoon sea salt
for the squash:
1 average size Acorn Squash
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground Ancho Chili powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Avocado oil or other high temperature tolerant vegetable oil
for the kale:
2 bunches of Black, aka Dinosaur, aka Lacinato Kale
5 tablespoons of our prepared flavored olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
Rinse the beans and discard any bad looking ones. If you have time to soak the beans ahead of time in water for 6-8 hours it will reduce the cooking time but isn’t necessary. In a lidded pot, put the Christmas lima beans, the pepper corns, clove, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover the beans in the pot with 1.5 inches of water. Stir until the salt is dissolved and bring the pot to a rolling boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the pot. Check on the beans a couple times each hour to gauge their progress. We want a bean that is cooked through but not at all mushy. Make sure the beans are always covered with water, adding more boiling water to the pot if needed. We will not use the bean broth in this recipe, but it will have a good salty flavor and makes a good addition to soup stock and need not be wasted. After an hour take out a bean with a spoon and blow on it. Does its skin tear when you blow on it? If not, they are likely not done yet. Bite into a bean and it should be equally soft like a baked potato all the way through but hold its shape well with its spotted skin still intact. When you are satisfied that your beans are cooked nicely, turn off the heat and let them stay warm in their pot. If the beans are warm when they arrive on the salad all the better!
While the beans are cooking, prepare the oil. Squeeze the sprigs of rosemary in your fist and press them flat into the bottom of a small sauce pan. Wash and dry the minneola. Using a sharp knife, carve strips of rind from half of the minneola, making sure the rind is clean of any of the wet fruit which contains water and sugars that could cause unwanted results. Add the rind strips to the pan and cover with the 1/2 cup of olive oil. You will not need all the resulting oil for the salad but using less will likely not surround the aromatics sufficiently for good extraction of the essential oils we’re after. Heat the uncovered pot on low (~ 250 F) for 40 minutes and then remove from heat and let the oil cool to safe handling temperature. An advantage of using the large sprigs and rinds is that pouring the oil off into a tight closing glass container (like a canning jar for example) is as easy as restraining the aromatics with a kitchen fork while tipping the pan. The long heating should evaporate any moisture present and make the oil usable for a least 2 weeks in a tightly closed jar. The savory warmth of rosemary and the bitter brightness of the tangelo cooperate especially well with the green fruity flavors in a good olive oil and should complement any dish with a Mediterranean aesthetic. I incorporated some into an almond flatbread for last nights supper and it lent a unique dimension.
Preheat an oven to 450F. Prepare the acorn squash, removing the hard skin with a peeler and sharp knife. Divide in half and scoop out the seeds and strings with a spoon. Cut the squash into ~1” cubes. Toss the cubed squash pieces to heavily coat with a good high-heat oil, like avocado. Sprinkle the seasonings and salt gradually while tossing to ensure an even coating. Spread the squash out on a large baking sheet so that none are touching and roast in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. Take the pan from the oven and turn the pieces over with a spatula and return to the oven for an additional 8 minutes. The object is squash that has good browning and is soft but not overly mushy. Remove the tray from the oven to a cooling rack.
Graze the edge of a sharp knife along the length of the each side of the stem on each Kale leaf to easily separate the leaf from stem. We won’t use the stems in this recipe. Tear or chop the Kale leaf into small bite sized pieces and wash the pieces in cold water. Spin the leaf dry with a salad spinner or shake in a towel to dry. Put the dry clean leaf into a mixing bowl for we must now knead the leaf to soften and tenderize their texture. If you have a helper, dedicate one set of hands to kneading while the other person adds the oil and seasoning. Spoon in 3 tablespoons of the flavored oil, an 1/8 teaspoon of salt and massage it into the greens, strongly crushing and pressing the leaves in your hands. Knead until the volume of leaf is roughly halved in size. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and massage it some more until it feels nice and soft, about 10 minutes of kneading should do it. Let it rest at room temperature for at least a half an hour or 2 hours longer. Is the sugar really necessary? I found that a small amount of sugar helped to bring the citrus flavor forward and balance the grassy bitterness that was a tad overwhelming in the flavor of our particular Kale leaves. I have read that a frost on the Kale leaf will sweeten their flavor and soften their texture. Next time, I will try popping the bunched kale into our freezer for a few hours before preparation to see the difference.
While you have your sharp knife handy, supreme the minneola tangelo into segments. Remove the segments to a plate and squeeze the left over separated membrane and trimmings (not the rind) with a clean fist to extract the sweet juice into a cup. Supreme you say? If you are not used to using supremed citrus fruit you are in for a treat. Supreming leaves only the juicy soft fruit without any seed or chewy membrane interruptions and presents the fruit to you and your dinner guests in its most approachable form. Watch this supreme youtube video and get to it.
Once all your components are done its time to compose the plate of winter salad! In a perfect world, when served, your beans and squash are warm, the kale and minneola segments room temperature. Divide the kale into even portions onto serving plates, making a broad bed of green to distribute the cubed squash and citrus segments evenly atop. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans from their stock and settle them amply throughout each plate. Drizzle the small amount of reserved citrus juice over each salad and serve!
The bold natural flavors of these winter foods combine differently in each bite and will leave your mouth and body humming with a good satisfying feeling! I hope this preparation will contribute to your health and merry eating this winter. Bon appetite!