Have you ever cooked with fresh beans? Honestly, before coming to Ecuador, I’m not sure I had ever even laid eyes on a fresh bean. Sure, being a plant-based diet kind of girl most of my life, I ate TONS of beans but to me they were a canned convenience food, an easy way to get some precooked fiber and protein into my life. Now I live in Cuenca and I’m here to tell you that beans can be SO much better.
Fresh legumes are aplenty in Euador (and I would assume most of South America) and they are a joy to work with in the kitchen, but it all starts in the market. Sometimes I can’t resist picking up a bag just because they are so pretty. While some are vibrant in one specific color, others are muted and speckled in a variety of colors, just like buying a beautiful bag of marbles. Once you get those beauties home they can be refigerated in a paper bag for a day or 2 but I find it’s best to use them as soon as possible. From there, all that is required is a quick rinse (I usually rinse mine in a disinfecting solution) before you add them to a boiling pot of (sea) salted water. Different varieties require different cook times which can be anything from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Sometimes I prefer to cook the beans with longer cook times in a crockpot on high for 3-4 hours. No matter which way you chose, the result is a super tasty, preservative and table salt free source of plant-based energy.
The following recipe features fresh lima beans or habas (in Spanish). Their preparation includes one extra step but their cooktime is especially short. Even though you can buy habas pre-shelled, I prefer to shell them myself. The first time I set out to shell a 1 pound bag it took me a whole hour! Now I have it down to half an hour, give or take. Given the delay, I would not suggest shelling the habas while hungry for the food you are trying to make! This will probably just lead to giving up and eating granola for dinner. Instead, plan ahead and use your time wisely. You could: call someone back home for a chat, listen to a Spanish course online, dream up your next ecua-adventure or think about how in the world you are going to try to describe haba shelling in your blog. Ok, I’m going to do my best! To shell the haba, start by locating the little indented line along the top of the bean. One side of the line will bulge out more than the other. Starting at the bulge, use your thumbnail to pull back the shell, following the line. At this point the haba is shell free on the top. Now remove the shell, piece by piece, spiraling down the haba. It should come off in 3 to 4 pieces. This is the best explanation I could come up with! If these directions helped you or if you’ve found a faster way, please share in the comments.
There are so many reasons to be excited about my recipe for Warm Haba Salad! For instance, it’s colorful, it’s packed with nutrition, it’s simple, there aren’t too many ingredients and they are all easily found in Cuenca. Mine is pictured served over a bed of spinach but it is versatile enough to be served as a side, over a healthy grain or scooped up by a pita.
4 small tomatoes (about a pound)
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup carrot, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnammon
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 lb fresh habas (lima beans)
fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or butter
Start by shelling the habas. Once the habas are shelled, rinse them well. Add the habas to a medium sized pot of boiling salted water. Leave them to boil for 15 minutes. Once the habas are tender, reserve a half cup of their cooking liquid, then strain the habas and set off to the side. Now coat the bottom of a large frying pan with olive oil or butter and add the chopped onions, cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and add the carrots and garlic to the pan. Stir in the cooking liquid from the the habas and bring the heat back up to a simmer. Now add the cumin and cinammon, a healthy pinch of sea salt and pinch of crushed red pepper. Allow the carrot and onion mixture to simmer until the carrots are tender, but not too soft, about 5 minutes. Now add the tomatoes. Cook and stir the mixutre together for another 5 minutes. The tomatoes should be cooked through, but not too mushy. At this point, turn off the heat and stir the cooked habas and a squeeze of lemon juice into the mixture. Serve over salad greens, with pita bread, or over a healthy grain – the choice is yours but don’t forget to drizzle a nice healthy dose of extra virgin olive oil over top!