Butter Bean Hummus: A Greek-style appetizer | Locavore Cooking | Indy Week

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Butter Bean Hummus: A Greek-style appetizer

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My friend and Indy colleague Victoria Bouloubasis—an excellent and inventive cook—brought to our semiannual food writers' dinner her own secretly modified version of this fresh Mediterranean appetizer. Victoria's tweaks were inspired and intuitive, drawing on her immediate family roots in that country and fed by a recent visit there. I thought it pretty cool that, given similarities in our central N.C. climate and that of Greece, the core ingredients are in season at the same time. The following is as close as I could get from what Victoria reported to me.

The star vegetable in this appetizer is the humble lima bean, known as butter beans here in the South (presumably because they are traditionally cooked and served with lots of butter, which does, I admit, enhance their texture when hot). Co-starring are local green onions and garlic and just-snipped—not dried—mint and Greek oregano. The result is an amazingly light-tasting, refreshing and low-fat appetizer that works well with Indian summer weather as a predecessor to lamb chops on the grill or packed in a picnic to carry along to one of the downtown art fests taking place over these autumn days. Limas are a locavore's friend at this time of year: a legume that cooks up quickly into side dishes, becomes a protein when paired with brown rice or corn bread and adds heft to soups and succotash. They are in season until frost, and they freeze wonderfully.

It is true, to get maximum flavor and nutrients, you need to buy limas at the farmers' markets, shell them yourself and then cook right away (as with so many vegetables) or blanch and freeze them. I know it might be tempting to use canned or commercially frozen limas, especially in a pinch on a Friday night when, pressed for time, you're getting together with friends for an after-work potluck and everybody wants you to bring the apps. But don't! Don't do it. The freshly shelled ("green") ones make all the taste difference and have fewer carbs and calories. It is possible to buy them preshelled at the stand, but do check that they've been on ice and have no brown or mushy ones in the bag. I've bought a few bad ones this way.

PHOTO © CALATEYA / DREAMSTIME.COM

Butter Bean Hummus

2 pounds green lima/butter beans in pods (2 cups shelled)
2 fat cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup sliced green onions, including pale green parts (about one bunch)
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
4 tablespoons fresh Greek oregano leaves, chopped
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup thick Greek-style plain yogurt
Sea salt and pepper to taste (at least 1/4 teaspoon each, as legumes absorb them)

Shell butter beans as you would green peas, discarding pods. Put in a small saucepan with water to cover. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes at a steady roll, adding more water if necessary. Let cool in the liquid until ready to use or refrigerate until needed, up to three days.

In a sauté pan, briefly soften garlic and onions over low heat in one tablespoon olive oil (two to three minutes). Do not brown. Drain limas and put into a food processor or blender with softened garlic and onions, lemon juice, zest, mint and oregano. Purée mixture, adding remaining olive oil slowly to incorporate. Fold in yogurt by hand. Season to taste. Turn into dip bowl, garnish with fresh mint leaves, and serve with sea-salt pita chips and fresh veggies. Serves 6 to 8 as starter. Keeps three days in fridge.

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