I created this dish of lima beans with dill specifically to go with baked salmon, wanting something creamy and mild flavored, seasoned with spring herbs, and reminiscent of mashed potatoes, without extra starch and butter. I like this dish so much, we won’t be waiting for another salmon dinner to have it again! Poor lima beans have such a bad reputation, and I just don’t understand why. They are nutritious- high in fiber, folate, protein, potassium, and vitamin B1- and serve exactly the purpose I intended, acting as a neutral vehicle for a variety of flavors, similar to how you might use potatoes, parsnips, or even rice. I noticed recently an increase in recipes for “butter beans” and “gigantes”, which are both less-stigmatized ways to say lima beans. (Would anyone care for a dried plum?) I say, from now on, call them whatever you like, but get them into your meals. Here’s an easy place to start.
To make this dish, you can begin with frozen lima beans, canned, fresh, or dried. The first two options will be easiest to find; you will probably have the option of baby lima beans in the freezer section, or the aforementioned butter beans in canned form. Fresh limas are wonderful but difficult to find; look for them in farmers’ markets in late summer or early fall. Dried lima beans have finally earned a spot in the bulk section of our grocery store, perhaps due to the popularity of other wide, flat legumes like Scarlet Runner beans and favas. In the bulk section, they are often labelled gigantes, and sometimes you can find cooked gigantes in the deli or salad bar. Again, whatever they’re called, they will work for this dish. I would avoid deli gigantes in a vinaigrette; it might not be bad… but I wouldn’t risk the possibility that the acidic marinade might overpower the delicate dill flavor and curdle the cream. If you are starting with dry beans, just soak overnight, put in fresh water, and boil for 30-40 mins. until tender. You could also use a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. You can add cooked lima beans to salads and soups if you make extra.
I wanted to take advantage of the inherent mildness of the beans to show off the flavor of fresh dill. I have been reading Scandinavian cookbooks recently, and salmon is often paired with three ingredients/flavors: fresh dill, cream, and new or mashed potatoes. Those elements were the inspirations for this dish. The lima beans have the perfect texture to seem creamy without the need for a lot of extra dairy fat. I do use cream here, but just a touch, and less than I would use for a comparable plate of mashed root vegetables. If you wanted to try something with or instead of dill, chives, sorrel, or tarragon would all be delicious. In addition to salmon, these beans would be great alongside steak or roasted chicken, or as a light vegetarian option served with cooked greens, broccoli, or asparagus.
I have written before about my ongoing challenge to incorporate legumes into our diet; finding that we really like lima beans was pretty exciting. I have so many ideas for how to use them. In addition to baked sides like this, I look forward to putting them in soups (anywhere I have used cannellini beans or chickpeas before), salads (nicoise, chop salad, or a hearty fresh kale salad), and other warm dishes like my baked Scarlet runner beans. Ignore those childhood rumors that lima beans are unworthy and give them a try!
Baked Lima Beans with Fresh Dill
- 2 c. cooked lima beans
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- generous amount of fresh cracked black pepper
- 3 – 4 T. fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced (optional)
- 2 T. finely minced chives (optional)
- 1/3 c. cream
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put the cooked beans into a 2 1/2 qt baking dish, or similar ovenproof dish. If you’re using frozen limas, defrost them completely or blanch for 1-2 mins. in boiling water. For canned beans, drain and rinse off the canning liquid. Dried beans should be cooked at least to al dente state; you can add 1-2 T. of cooking liquid with them if you like.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Bake for 25-30 mins., until the sauce is bubbling and the beans are completely heated through. Serve immediately.
Leftover beans can be reheated or served cold, and will keep in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.