ENCINITAS — “A day without beans just isn’t a day because you get fiber and protein in every bite,” advises Carolyn Cope, an award-winning lima bean chef and connoisseur. “Beans have little or no flavor, so what you do with it is important.”
Cope will be returning this year for The Battle of the Beans, a highlight of the fourth annual Lima Bean Faire presented by the San Dieguito Heritage Museum from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 29. She has been a top prize winner every year since the competition began in 2009.
“The first year I was going to make fudge,” Cope said. “I cooked, pulverized and blended the lima beans and chocolate but it never hardened. I decided to add sour cream, and whipped it into a fluffy dip which I served with vanilla wafers, pretzels, marshmallows and grapes.”
Cope says she got a lot of ribbing from friends as she was preparing the dish. The laughing stopped when she returned home with three, crisp $50 bills in prize money for each category she won.
In 2010, she decided to capitalize on her previous success and set out to make a fondue dip blending lima beans, Ghirardelli dark chocolate, Toll House chocolate chips, Eagle Brand condensed milk, butter and Mexican vanilla. The dip was served with graham crackers.
Last year Cope made Mexican Cherry Bombs with individually-selected lima beans she soaked for three days in tequila. Afterwards she boiled the beans until they were al dente, skewered them on a decorative toothpick with a small piece of Maraschino cherry and dipped the toothpick mixture into chocolate before serving.
“This year I went off my usual path and decided to make an appetizer, instead of dessert, and not use chocolate,” Cope hinted. She explained that she’s remaining secretive until the competition except to say that the recipe will involve at least two types of beans: lima and kidney.
This year for the first time the lima bean competition is open to other beans — garbanzo, pinto, green, mung, kidney, white, navy, great northern, black, black-eyed peas, adzuki, lentils, soy, broad, mesquite and haricot.
Cope knows something about beans, being raised in Encinitas where lima beans were dry-farmed in the pioneer days.
“My mom made lima beans with brine,” she said. “I also enjoyed refried beans at the home of a wonderful Mexican neighbor.”
To celebrate Encinitas’ agricultural history, the Battle of the Beans will offer many delicious dishes to be savored. Tickets cost $5 for three, and $15 for unlimited, tastings.
The pro-am competition features the Encinitas Café and Garcia’s Mexican Cuisine representing the professional division. Cope is hoping to prevail in the amateur events again. She’ll be competing with Evelyn Weidner, Jean Bruns, Charlie Pease and others.
Judging takes place at 2:30 p.m. and includes three categories: 1) soup/entrée, 2) salad/appetizer, and 3) anything else. A People’s Choice award will also be presented.
Winners receive a cash prize of $50 for their respective category along with a bean-shaped trophy crafted by artist Danny Salzhandler.
Festivities feature live bluegrass music by the Tail Draggers, a bake sale and kids games. Raffle prizes include an overnight stay and dinner at Harrah’s Rincon, an overnight stay and dinner at Pala Casino Spa Resort, restaurant gift certificates and plants from Weidner’s Gardens.
Executive director Will Neblett explained that money raised from the event will be used for operating funds for the museum.
“Everyone should come out and experience the delectable lima bean dishes,” he added. “Some people don’t have fond memories of lima beans mostly because they were overcooked. They will be surprised and delighted by the recipes presented and I guarantee they will be fans of lima beans afterwards.”
The San Dieguito Heritage Museum is located at 450 Quail Gardens Drive, north of the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. For more information and tickets, call (760) 632-9711 or visit SDHeritage.org.