A little bean called edamame could be snack to good health

Of late, my inability to stop nibblinga source of guilt when the objects of my desire were peanuts and cashewshas become a source of smugness. I've actually found another addictive snack that's healthy when eaten in quantity.

It's a dapper little bean that goes by its Japanese name, edamame (pronounced "ed-ah-MAH-mee"). When translated into English, it means "green vegetable soybean." Sold fresh or frozen in the pod or shelled, edamame are available at Whole Foods markets, Trader Joe's, health food stores and supermarkets that feature organic produce.

The bright green pods are similar in color and size to pea pods, but the edamame skin is fuzzy rather than smooth. When blanched and eaten (directions follow), the bean has a medium-firm texture and a mild, nutlike flavor. The addition of seasoned salt provides flavor punch.

Soybeans, as we all should know, are valued as a weapon against high cholesterol, osteoporosis, and cancer of the breast, colon and prostate. Help yourself to them as vegetable toppings for pasta or salads where you might use peas or lima beans.

To prepare edamame for use as a nibble (think peanuts without the peanut's problems), heat water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add one tablespoon salt and one pound fresh or frozen edamame in the pod. Cook four or five minutes after water returns to a boil. Beans should be cooked but still firm. Drain into a colander and, while still warm, toss with a salt-based seasoning mix such as Cajun or lemon pepper. Eat directly from the pod, pulling the beans from the shell with your teeth.

Edamame Potato Green Bean Salad

  • 1/4 pound shelled edamame, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 pound green beans, ends snipped
  • 3/4 pound small white potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon each, minced fresh tarragon and minced Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar, sherry vinegar preferred
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Blanch edamame in simmering, salted water until cooked but still firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a colander with a slotted spoon and drain. Set aside.

    Add green beans to the water and simmer until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to the colander with a slotted spoon and drain. Cut into 2-inch pieces and set aside.

    Add water to the pan, if necessary, then add the potatoes and boil until cooked but still firm, 12 to 15 minutes. While the potatoes are cooking, combine tarragon, parsley, onion, celery seed, garlic and vinegar in a large bowl. Hard cook the egg in a small pan, cool under running water, peel and chop coarsely.

    Drain the potatoes and, while still hot, cut into slices, transfer to the bowl and toss. Season with salt and pepper, add the edamame, green beans and chopped egg. Drizzle olive oil over all and toss again. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serve on romaine lettuce leaves as a first course or as a side vegetable to a main course.

    Makes four to six servings

    Three-Bean Pasta

    4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 green onions (the whites and 2 inches of the green portions), chopped and kept separate
  • 2 small cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 small bulb fennel, tough outer branches and fronds cut away, remainder diced (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed, crushed
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1/2 cup shelled fresh or frozen edamame
  • 1/3 cup cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces pasta, spaghetti preferred
  • 2 tablespoons grated cheese, Romano preferred

    Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add half the white of green onion, garlic and fennel and cook until fennel is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the marjoram, red and black pepper, anise seed and stir. Add the tomato puree, salt and sugar and simmer until mixture thickens to a sauce-like consistency, 5 to 7 minutes.

    In a separate pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, white of onion, half of green and all the beans. Once onion wilts, add 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. (Recipe may be done ahead to this point. Reheat sauce and beans while cooking pasta.)

    Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add pasta and cook at a brisk simmer until al dente, 10 to 12 minutes. Just before pasta is done, pour contents of bean pan (including liquid) into tomato sauce. Taste and season as desired.

    Drain pasta and portion into two warm bowls. Ladle beans and sauce over the pasta, garnish with remaining onion green and sprinkle each portion with a tablespoon of cheese. Serve at once.

    Makes two servings

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