Lima beans are a summer staple on the ranch. Farmers have been growing these big, meaty beans on the Central Coast for generations, and we enjoy them in a variety of dishes throughout the year.
One of the reasons that lima beans grow so well here is that they can be dry farmed, a technique that involves planting seeds at the end of the rainy season, then growing them without any kind of irrigation, relying on the plants to pull residual moisture from the ground. In this way, dry farming is just like ranching—every year’s success depends on how much rain we get during the area's few wet months.
A local farmer, Chad Valla, handles the process of planting and growing the beans for us (and hay, if we have enough rain), and he plants a ton of limas every year in the fields by the Casa, the old family homestead. Once they’re ready to harvest, we eat the limas fresh for a few days, then dry the rest so we can enjoy them throughout the year.
We prepare limas in a lot of ways; at my wedding, we had them in paella. (I’ll never forget the sight of all of my bridesmaids out in the field picking beans in the hot summer sun for our guests. When you come to the ranch, we put you to work!)
This salad is a favorite. It’s super simple, but it has a little added flavor from some roasted poblano chiles, and the vinegar dressing is balanced with bits of creamy queso fresco. If you make this recipe with fresh limas instead of the dried ones I’ve called for here, you can skip the step of soaking them overnight and just go right to cooking; they should only take about 25 minutes to become tender.
Lima Bean Salad with Roasted Poblanos and Queso Fresco
- 1 pound dried lima beans
- 1 small yellow onion, halved
- 1 carrot, cut into thirds
- 1 stalk celery, cut into thirds
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 fresh poblano chiles
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese
Put the lima beans in a large bowl, fill the bowl with water until the beans are covered by at least 2 inches, and let the beans soak overnight.
When the beans are ready, drain them and put them in a large pot with the yellow onion, the carrot, and the celery, and season everything generously with salt. Add enough water to cover the beans by 4 inches, and bring everything to a simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the beans until they are tender but not falling apart, about 45 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer them to a large bowl, removing the onion, carrot, and celery.
Prepare the poblanos: Place chiles over the flame of a gas burner or on a grill, and roast them, turning them frequently with tongs, until the skins are charred on all sides, about 10 minutes. Put the chiles in a paper bag, fold the top to close the bag, and let the chiles steam for about 5 minutes, to loosen their skins. Peel the chiles and chop the flesh into 1/2 pieces (discard the stems and seeds).
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and oil. Drizzle the dressing over the beans, then add the chiles, red onion, cilantro, and tomatoes. Mix everything together gently, season the salad generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle the cheese on top.
(This recipe first appeared in a Martha Stewart Living article about me and my family in 2018)
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Photos: Lauren Ross, Josh Wand