Normally I try to stick to one national food holiday per day, both to make it easier for me to write all of these reviews in a timely fashion, and also so your timeline isn’t bogged down by so many food holidays you don’t know what to eat next. But even though today is nationally recognized as National Pineapple Upside-Down Cake Day, I had to leave some space for the underrated and misunderstood lima bean. It’s Lima Bean Respect Day, and I completely agree with the sentiment: we don’t pay enough attention to lima beans! (I also like to prefer savory food holidays over sweet because there are just so many dessert holidays. How many cheesecake days do we actually need in a year??
Don’t answer that. The correct answer is “ALL OF THE DAYS, ARE YOU CRAZY IT’S CHEESECAKE”)
Lima beans or butter beans are a legume that has been cultivated since almost 2000 B.C. in South and Latin America. Like most other beans, they’re incredibly healthy for you, serving as both a good source of protein and fiber (not even your grass-fed organic bison tenderloin can say that), and can safely help balance blood sugar and lower cholesterol. And yet, we shun the beautiful lima bean! Many people argue that they don’t like the taste of lima beans, remembering when they were forced to clean their dinner plates as children. And yeah, I can understand kids not wanting to eat lima beans (or anything that isn’t chicken fingers or ice cream), but I hopefully speak for all of us when I say we’re adults now. Mom isn’t making us our meals anymore, and we can eat what we want, but there should also be a sense of responsibility and duty to eat the right things for our bodies, like the humble lima bean. And being in a culinary wonderland like New York City, it’s easy to find a restaurant or two that will transform what your inner child would never touch into something exotic and delicious. Don’t be afraid or repulsed by lima beans today; embrace them and respect them!
Lima beans originate from South America, and so it’s only natural that they play an integral part to many South American cuisines. If you’re ready to dive taste-buds-first into new, adventurous foods, then head to Tabaré in Williamsburg. This local favorite for authentic Uruguayan food has many dishes inspired by Spanish and Italian cuisines, which, after the colonization of America, became very popular in Uruguay and have melded into their regional cuisines. A traditional appetizer dish is caserole de pulpo–octopus casserole. (Told you you might want to be adventurous here!) Grilled octopus is seasoned with paprika and lemon and served with stewed lima beans. The smooth, mild flavor of the lima beans works well to complement the kick of the grilled octopus. Everything is cooked in traditional styles, served to the table in the original earthenware casserole dish, so you know that the flavors you get from the octopus and the lima beans is the same that they’re having in Uruguay today, and that they had hundreds of years ago. I’m actually more partial to octopus than lima beans, hahaha, but many of the patrons reviewing the dish said the same thing–and were blown away by the taste of the beans! I will definitely try this when I am in the neighborhood.
221 S 1st St (between Driggs Ave & Roebling St), Williamsburg
“Our appetizers arrived sizzling and aromatic. The grilled octopus casserole garnished with lima beans, paprika, lemon, and aioli is a Uruguayan staple, and definitely deserves its popularity. The perfect marriage of tender and crunchy, the octopus had the right amount of bite, and most importantly, we could taste the heat of the grill. The red paprika and lemon combination packed a flavorful, spice-filled punch, mediated by the lima beans.”–Inside New York
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Hello, lover! and by lover I mean the perfectly grilled octopus appetizer mingling with unctuous lima beans, creamy aioli and salty lemony goodness. This app was by FAR the highlight of our meal.”–Neha M.
“The octopus with lima beans sounds like a laughable pairing, at first. We know who’s gonna win that one. But don’t be fooled–these lima beans are so luscious, so meaty, they leave you wondering if you love them even more than that succulent, fleshy beast of a cephalopod arm swimming in sinfully garlicky butter.”–Christopher I.
But I suppose that if you’re not so adventurous to have tried (or revisited) lima beans by now, then adding octopus to the mix isn’t going to make you want to eat it any more! 😛 Then just take the quick skip over to Astoria, where the Greek haven Aegean Cove also serves up lima beans in a traditional style. You won’t find the typical Greek diner here: at Aegean Cove, traditional Greek peasant dishes are offered, the difference between stopping into an authentic rustic Italian trattoria and finding yourself at an Olive Garden. the lima beans look a little different from the ones in South America: they’re larger, much larger, and have a more distinct lima bean taste. These beans are baked in a rich tomato and dill sauce. The complementary flavors to the lima beans are a little more comforting and familiar than grilled octopus, so a nice plate of gigantes might be the best gateway dish to enjoying lima beans full time 🙂
20-01 Steinway St, Astoria
“A peasant dish of gigandes are giant lima beans slowly cooked in fresh tomato sauce and dill, rendering the beans buttery and delicious.”–Queens Gazette
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Gigantes: Giant Greek lima beans baked in fresh tomato sauce & fresh dill. While I didn’t make it to this plate, I was told the beans were delicious! These aren’t your typical lima beans, they are much bigger in size.”–Lauren L.
“Party I went with ordered a few appetizers which we shared, ordered the traditional Greek salad and as appetizers the gigantes, halloumi & saganaki. The gigantes were just right, the halloumi was grilled perfectly and so was the saganaki.”–John L.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!