“Do you ever come across on-the-package recipes that don’t work?”
People ask me this all the time. And I respond, “Yes, more often than you think!”. For the most part on-the-package recipes are wonderful hidden gems (hence, I started this blog!) but every once in a while I’ll find one that…um…isn’t. I have a special (circular) file for those and they don’t make it onto the blog.
Then there are on-the-package recipes, like this very tasty one for Lima Bean Couscous Salad that I’m sharing today, that work but the directions provided on-the-package are missing important details to make it successful. That’s another reason I write this blog – to fill in those details that brands sometimes omit due to space constraints. I ultimately found the right way to make this salad, but first let me show you what I went through to get there.
Last weekend was Labor Day and I wanted a healthy salad to round out my menu. The Lima Bean Couscous Salad on the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Large Lima Beans package, with its zesty sherry vinaigrette and confetti-like bell peppers tossed throughout, sounded like the perfect choice. The first step of the recipe: Soak beans overnight. That sounded easy enough. Well…
I woke the next morning to the disappointing mess of dry, split, skinless lima beans pictured above (that’s before I drained them, by the way). Maybe they would have still been salvageable and edible if these were going into a purée, but I was making a salad (that I was hoping to photograph!). I was so frustrated.
Countless Google search results later, I determined the dry, split, skinless bean problem likely arose from either the way I soaked the beans (clearly not enough water) or the fact that I soaked them at all (apparently it’s not even necessary). I’m hardly a novice cook, but I’ve never prepared dried lima beans before. Wouldn’t it have been helpful if the package had mentioned, “fill the pot so the water rises at least 3 inches above the beans”?
As I continued to look for lima bean soaking advice I thought to check Bob’s Red Mill’s own website. I found the Large Lima Beans on the site, and I noticed that the recipe on the back of the package in their photo was different from the bag I had in my kitchen. Moreover, the website photo didn’t say to “Soak beans overnight.” Instead, it suggested a quick soak method which I’ve come to learn is a bit more reliable when it comes to keeping the beans intact.
My husband went back out to the store for new beans and I gave this new quick soak version of the recipe a try, with much better results. The beans, for the most part, didn’t split and they came out nice and tender. My best guess is I had an older package (even though I’d just purchased it the day before) and they improved the recipe in the new packaging.
I opted to combine the beans with Israeli couscous rather than standard couscous because I prefer the look of the large pearls (NOTE: Israeli couscous is prepared slightly differently than standard couscous, so be sure to follow the specific directions for whichever type of couscous you decide to use). This is one of those salads that taste even better the next day, once the flavors of the sherry vinaigrette have had a chance to seep into the beans and couscous. All’s well that ended well!
UPDATE: I let Bob’s Red Mill know about my initial challenges with this recipe on their Facebook page – here was their kind response:
Thank you, Bob!
Lima Bean Couscous Salad
From the back of the Bob’s Red Mill Large Lima Beans Package
Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 2 hours 30 minutes | Total time: 2 hours 40 minutes (plus cooling time)
- 1/2 cup dried large lima beans
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 medium sweet red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tablespoons red onion, diced
- 1 1/4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup couscous
- To prepare beans: Pour 3 cups boiling water over the beans, cover and let sit for 1 hour. Drain, add fresh water to cover by 1 inch and simmer until tender. Start checking for doneness at 60 minutes.
- To prepare couscous: In a small saucepan heat stock with a dash of olive oil until simmering, stir in couscous, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir with a fork to break up any lumps.
- To prepare salad: Whisk together remaining oil, vinegar, cumin, black pepper, lemon zest and garlic; add red and green diced peppers and diced and onion and mix well. Mix cooled couscous with cooled and drained beans and toss with dressing and vegetable mixture.
See the Recipe Index for all the recipes on Cooking On the Side.