But they’ve only probably had the big, starchy beans you find in a bag of mixed frozen vegetables. Our small green lima beans from New Orleans might not convert everyone, but they taste delicious, especially in this salad with the best end-of-summer vegetables and the umami-rich Louisiana dried shrimp.
Chinese immigrants showed the shrimpers along the delta how to dry their catch in the sun to preserve it. By the early 1900s millions of pounds of dried shrimp were being shipped to Asia as well as the Chinatowns of San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. For decades the shrimp were cooked in sea water and dried in the sun on wooden platforms built on the barrier islands and wetlands of the Mississippi Delta. The workers built camps alongside, and families lived in the stilt houses, helping with the “shrimp dance” by walking across the drying shrimp to crack the shells.
These days the shrimp are cooked and dried indoors, but they have the same sweet, umami-rich flavor. I call them the bacon of the sea, and they’re great in anything that needs a savory boost.
Baby limas are thin and more delicate than most beans, so I like to cook them on the stovetop instead of using my no-soak oven method. It lets me watch them more closely so they don’t overcook and fall apart. That’s not always a bad thing, but for a dish like this salad I want them intact. Soak about a half pound of Camellia Green Baby Limas for a few hours or overnight, then drain and bring them gently to a boil in fresh, salted water.
Reduce the heat to simmer, add a handful of dried shrimp, and cook until they’re just tender. It usually takes about 45 minutes, but start tasting after a half hour; you want the limas tender but still intact.
Drain the beans and shrimp but save the stock for another use.
Slice the kernels from 2 or 3 ears of corn. Slice 4 or 5 green onions. Chop a sweet pepper or two (and a jalapeno or other hot pepper if you like), a few of the best tomatoes you can find, and a handful of flat-leaf parsley.
Combine the beans, shrimp, and other ingredients in a large bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of Katz Zinfandel vinegar, about 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and a good pinch of sea salt.
Like most composed salads, this gets better if it sits for an hour or so, but it’s okay if you can’t wait.