Dried Fruit and Lima Stew

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 1 hour with cooked, fresh, or frozen limas

With its chewy texture and bold flavor, dried fruit makes an excellent base for a stew as long as it’s not overcooked (when it is, it falls apart, which isn’t the worst thing in the world). Use oil instead of butter and skip the optional cream and you have a vegan stew.

Other dried fruit you can use: dried peaches or apples.

8 ounces dried lima beans or 1 pound fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons butter or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

2 large onions, sliced

1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup port, not-too-dry red wine, or water

1 cup chopped tomato (canned are fine; don’t bother to drain)

12 dried plums (prunes)

12 dried apricots

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

1/2 cup cream (optional)

If you’re using dried limas, cook them (see Cooking Beans, the Quick-Soak Way), a day or two in advance if you like. If they’re fresh or frozen, proceed to Step 2.

Put the butter or oil in a casserole, Dutch oven, or similar pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, at least 15 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the port, raise the heat a bit, and cook for a minute, until some of the liquid bubbles away. Add the tomato, dried fruit, salt, pepper, sugar, cayenne, and drained limas.

Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is tender, the tomato saucy, and all the flavors combined, about 15 minutes. Raise the heat and boil off any excess liquid (you want stew, not soup); taste and adjust the seasoning. (You can make the stew in advance to this point, then cool, cover, and refrigerate until you’re ready to eat; reheat and proceed.) Stir in the cream if you’re using it. Cook for another 30 seconds and serve.