I have a really cool cousin, Bill, who lives in a small town in Illinois where I got to go for my childhood summers. It’s near the Mississippi, which really is mighty, and I spent many happy and carefree hours on that amazing river. On Saturday nights my Aunt Rita would fry chickens and make coleslaw, and on Sunday mornings we would head out early. My cousins Bill and Barbara and I would spend the day boating and swimming and picnicking. Pepsi, not Coke, was the drink of choice, and we could eat the always-forbidden-in-my-house potato chips.
The fields in the area are rolling and look like a patchwork quilt from the plane. The sky is big. The earth is black and rich and fragrant. There are family-owned pig farms in the area, and the air near those farms is strong and pungent, in a pleasing way. You can still get pork marbled with fat, succulent and juicy. It’s definitely not “the other white meat.” Fried pork chop sandwiches are a regional specialty. The street is called Main, and the Post Office still had a WPA mural painted during the Franklin Roosevelt administration the last time I was there. I hope it still is.
It is the Midwest of Carl Sandburg and Mark Twain and Abraham Lincoln.
My cousin Bill loves good food. He grew up eating fabulous meals at home because Aunt Rita was a terrific - and generous - cook, and he is married to a great woman, Jamie, who is a good cook as well. I don’t think he needs to learn to cook in self-defense, but I think it would be fun for him because cooking is such a pleasure and reaps so many rewards, especially when you cook for people you love, and he and Jamie have a beautiful teenage daughter, Jordan. So I am encouraging him to learn to cook and am going to tag every recipe that would be good for a beginning cook “For Bill,” and when you see that tag, you will know what it means. This is the first one.
Even if you think you don’t like lima beans, try this. This recipe is really delicious. It goes with many things, and everyone loves it. If you make this once, you will make it again and again.
Maldon Salt is organic salt that is hand-harvested from the sea on the east coast of England. Instead of being in crystals, it is in beautiful flakes that you pick up and crush with your fingers over your food. I keep it in a small covered bowl (a sugar bowl would work well although mine is a small white Apilco lion’s head soup bowl) on my counter because I use it all the time. I use more Maldon Salt in my house than I use sugar. If you have not discovered this wonderful – and I mean wonderful – product, you’re in for a treat. It's not hard to find. When I run out of it, I get it wherever I happen to shop next, Fairway, Whole Foods, or Zabar's.
Creamed Lima Beans
1 package frozen lima beans (Fordhook are best, but baby limas are okay too)
½ pint heavy cream
Salt for water
Maldon Salt to finish
Put the contents of the package of frozen lima beans into a 2-quart pot. Add as much water as you can, leaving room so water doesn’t boil over. Salt the water lightly. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer until about beans are three-quarters of the way done. Taste like you would spaghetti or green beans to check for doneness. Drain the water when there’s just a little resistance to the bite.
Put lima beans back in the pan and add the heavy cream.
Bring to a boil,
then lower heat and cook at a steady simmer until cream thickens into a sauce.
If you keep cooking, the cream will essentially “disappear” and coat the beans like butter. Don’t go this far. You really want them creamy. Add Maldon Sea Salt to taste by picking it up in your hand and crushing it a little as you sprinkle it on the beans.
An added bonus to this dish is that leftovers (if you have any) can be made into a delicious puree.
Just heat the leftovers in the microwave for one minute to loosen slightly. Then put into a food processor, and run while adding more cream until the puree reaches the desired consistency. Then put the puree into a bowl, and heat in the microwave. I assume if you put the puree through a tamis - or strainer - it would become silken rather than just smooth, but I have never done that.