Greek Lima Bean Soup from the AICR Test Kitchen

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The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) supports research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk. They interpret the scientific literature and educate the public about those risks. Every other week, the AICR test kitchen works with renowned food blogger Dana Jacobi to publish a carefully prepared recipe for a dish designed to encourage healthier lifestyle choices among the public.

This week's dish is a Greek lima bean soup.

Fresh lima beans are still in season. To me, that is good news since I like their nutty, almost sweet taste and creamy heart. But fresh limas, sometimes also known as butter beans, are hard to find and tedious to shell, so let’s look at another way to enjoy this smart bean.

Dried beige-white lima beans taste like a sweeter version of navy beans. You will see them in two sizes, smaller dried baby lima beans and large dried giant limas. Greeks call the large ones gigantes. Look for them, stewed with olive oil and tomatoes until fat and tender, on the menu in Greek restaurants, where they are served as a meze or first course.

You have to try the soup I make using dried giant lima beans. The recipe, shared by the chef at Molyvos in New York City, one of the best Greek restaurants in the United States, includes onions, leek, baby spinach and a sprinkling of feta cheese as a savory garnish.

Supermarkets sell dried giant lima beans in a one-pound bag. You will find them on the shelf alongside the other dried beans and lentils. Inspect the beans, avoiding bags where the beans have wrinkled skin, browned edges, or are split and broken, instead choosing one with whole, smooth, creamy white beans.

The simple step of soaking the limas shortens their cooking time and helps them to deliver maximum, nutty flavor sure to please lima bean lovers and to convert the doubtful.

The result is one of the best bean soups ever.

Greek Lima Bean Soup

  • 1 cup dried giant lima beans
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 large leek, white part only, chopped
  • 2 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cold water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 4 Tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, optional for garnish

Instructions

In bowl, soak beans in cold water until skins are wrinkled and most beans have split open, 3-4 hours. Drain beans.

Place soaked beans in small Dutch oven or deep, large saucepan. Add onion, leek and broth. Pour in 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, until beans are soft, about 1 hour.

Remove pot from heat. With immersion blender, whirl until half the beans are puréed. Or pour half the soup into blender and whirl, then pour puréed soup back into pot. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. Return pot to medium heat and cook, stirring soup frequently, until almost boiling. Mix in spinach, stirring until it wilts, 3-4 minutes.

To serve, divide soup among 4 bowls. Spoon 1 tablespoon feta cheese into center of each bowl. If using, drizzle 1 teaspoon oil over soup.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 254 calories, 7 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 36 g carbohydrate, 14 g protein,10 g dietary fiber, 407 mg sodium.

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