Mar 20, 2011

Heirloom bean and mushroom stew

When I was in San Francisco over the holidays, one of my first stops was at the Rancho Gordo stand at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. I was eyeing the beautiful Christmas lima beans and the woman from RG said, “Those are really great with mushrooms.” Hmmm. I’m not sure why, but I’d never paired beans and mushrooms before, so I just knew I had to try it.

With no recipe to go on, I winged it. Which I’m proud to say, I’m getting pretty damn good at! This impromptu stew features the plump Christmas limas, portobello and shiitake mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and fresh herbs. It’s hard to believe something so simple could be so incredibly good – my dinner guests were still raving about it the next day. I served it on soft polenta, but it would also be delicious on its own with just some crusty whole wheat bread.

If your only impression of lima beans is those boring little green things your parents forced you to eat as a kid, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Christmas limas are a whole different animal – they’re huge and taste a bit like chestnuts. But if you can’t get your hands on any, don’t fret. This stew would also be good with gigante beans (giant Greek white beans), or even cannellini or cranberry beans.

This is my entry into My Legume Love Affair, a popular recurring event organized by Susan Wolfe from The Well Seasoned Cook, and being hosted this time by Ammalu’s Kitchen. I’ll be hosting the event myself in September, so start working on your bean recipes, everyone!

Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Stew

1 pound large beans (Christmas limas, gigantes, etc.), soaked overnight
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
6 ounces portobello mushrooms, chopped
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, thickly sliced
3 springs fresh thyme
1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes in puree
1/2 cup red or white wine
1/2 cup reserved bean cooking liquid, or additional wine
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the beans in a large pot and cover with water by about two inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender (mine took nearly two hours; smaller beans will take significantly less time.) Drain, reserving a half-cup of cooking liquid.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in another dutch oven or very deep skillet. Add the onions and garlic, and saute for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme, raise the heat to medium-high and cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes including the puree, crushing the tomatoes with your hands and discarding the hard stem ends. Add the wine, bean cooking liquid, parsley, salt and pepper. Gently stir in the beans. Simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes.

Please comment, tweet, “Like” and share this post using the buttons below. Plus, check out some other bean stew recipes that you might enjoy:

Cranberry bean and escarole stew
Cannellini bean stew with fresh herbs
Pasta with beans, greens and vegetarian sausage

See more recipes: Beans & legumes, Entrees, Gluten-free, Vegan


  • Yum! I’ve eyed the Rancho Gordo Christmas lima beans a few times myself. Now that I’ve got a great looking recipe for them, maybe I’ll actually buy them.

  • I have a big bag of Rancho Gordo Christmas limas. I made them once before and wasn’t crazy about them alone. Looking forward to this recipe. They had a really interesting taste, but I wasn’t able to do them justice without some help. This could be on the menu for my lunch when I get back from VA – if so I’ll bring you a taste

  • Jennifer Curatola

    Came out great!! used Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas and did simple portobellas and white & crimini mushrooms, some 47lb Rooster Cabernet & added fresh chopped sage and rosemary. Great dish served over brown rice or brown rice pasta <3 Thanks!

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Thanks, Jennifer. I wish more people would try this recipe, it really is delicious.

  • Linda Secretan

    Just had to say thanks for a great simple dinner.

    Those Christmas limas looked so beautiful at Whole Foods, I just had to bring some home. I cooked them the Russ Parson’s way — no soaking! — and they were delicious and buttery even before I gilded them with your ideas. After your treatment, they were golden!

  • Traci

    I made this recipe…it was very delicious! As there are only two of us, we had leftovers, which isn’t a bad thing. But the third time I was offering it for dinner, my husband suggested…why don’t we make a pizza, and top it with the leftover Heirloom Bean and Mushroom Stew? Brilliant! And delicious! Topped it with some grated parm and voila!

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Traci, that’s about the most awesome idea ever!

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