Baby Lima Bean with Spinach Gratin

Here’s a favorite recipe of mine that i usually make in the early spring. spinach was on sale at greenlife yesterday, and i remembered this dish. The beans and baking add a heavy, warm, substantial nature to the dish, balanced by the lightness of the fresh spinach greens. The caramelized onions add a natural sweetness and the vinegar gives it that ‘je ne sais quoi’ (that perfect touch of ‘I don’t know what’).

You may not be familiar with Kombu. It’s a sea vegetable, sold in the macrobiotic section of natural food stores, such as Earth Fare or Greenlife. When cooked with beans, it aids their digestibility and also adds valuable trace minerals we normally would not include in a daily diet. 100g provides 800mg of calcium, 300mg iodine, 150mg phosphorous, a whopping 5800 mg of potassium & 430 ius of vitamin A. Keep in mind that 1 strip of kombu weighs about a half a gram. After cooking the beans, pull out the Kombu and either compost it or finely chop it and mix it into your pet’s food to add the trace minerals to their diet.

This recipe comes from Peter Berley’s “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen”, on of my 2 favorite cookbooks. Cooking and clean-up time: 1 hour.

Baby Lima Bean and Spinach Gratin

1 garlic clove, peeled and halved

5T extra-virgin olive oil

1 ¼ C dried baby lima beans, rinsed and sorted and soaked for 24h

2” strip of kombu

2 lbs. Fresh spinach, remove thick stems

1 onion, diced

2t fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Sea salt (course)

Freshly milled black pepper

1 slice sourdough bread

Parmesan cheese (optional, may use freshly grated or rice Parmesan)

2t red wine vinegar

In a large pressure cooker, cook beans covered in 1” of spring water at full pressure (15 lbs.) for 25 minutes. Drain the beans (and reserve the cooking liquid for soup). Set beans aside in a medium, mixing bowl.

Wash spinach and place in a large pot with any water that clings to it. Cover and steam on high heat for 1-2 minutes, until it wilts. Drain and chill in spring water. Squeeze out spinach until almost dry (reserve excess liquid for soup). Chop spinach and add to the beans, set aside.

Heat 4T olive oil in a medium frying pan on medium heat. Add onion, thyme and salt & pepper, to taste. Sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes, until onion is lightly caramelized. Add to bean and spinach mixture and season with vinegar and additional salt and pepper, to taste.

Toast the bread until lightly browned. Remove crust and pound into crumbs in a mortar or grind in a spice grinder or food processor. Combine breadcrumbs with 1T olive oil and Parmesan cheese, to taste.

Rub the bottom and sides of a 6C gratin dish with garlic and brush lightly with olive oil. Spread the bean and spinach mixture in the dish and top with an even layer of breadcrumbs. Bake 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Alternatively, you could use smaller, individual gratin dishes for entertaining or freezing for future ‘heat and serve’ meals. Dish may be prepared in advance and refrigerated. When ready to serve, take out and let sit until room temperature before baking. Yield: 4-6 servings. KB