NEW CASTLE —
I was delighting that there was edamame on the salad bar when the person next to me looked at it and said, “What’s that?!”
I noticed that there was a label in front of the container, which could only mean that the kitchen also knew that an “identifier” was needed.
I took the opportunity to chime in, and with my usual enthusiasm I said, “That’s ‘ed-uh-MA-mi,’ ” articulating each syllable clearly since it’s a word you don’t hear too often. I followed up with the simpler definition, “It’s soybeans.”
She responded positively by scooping some onto her salad. Another woman on the other side of the salad bar questioned, “What’s it taste like — beans?”
I said, “Yes.”
She decided against trying it.
After building my salad of romaine lettuce, beets, edamame, cucumbers, a little onion and chick peas, I went around the salad bar to get my sunflower seeds and fat-free Italian dressing. At third woman spied the edamame.
“What is thaaat?”
Another quick discussion met a resounding “no” as she clearly stated that if it was too good for her, she didn’t want any — but I was glad to silently note that she was getting some veggies in her diet, since she was at the salad bar.
The saying “to each his own” applies.
I have come to really appreciate frozen edamame, found in the frozen vegetable section of most grocery stores. I highly recommend dry roasted soybeans, which you can find in the produce section. (I don’t like the soy nuts as much — they are a little too hard for me to chew.)
I recall a time when I was a little hesitant about edamame. I had a tiny prejudice against a perfectly good legume just because it was different. I had to learn to overcome my resistance and my attitude because I didn’t know what to do with soy beans.
This is how new tastes and habits can bloom. It comes with the willingness to learn.
Edamame looks like plumper, brighter and greener lima beans. They are less grainy in texture than lima beans, though, and have a sweet, nutty taste. They can be put in soups and stews. They are great eaten as finger food for snacking or in salads. Soy is the only “vegetable” that is considered a complete protein.
Soy production as an industry began in America in the early 20th century and was grown mostly for cattle feed.
Recently, soy has gotten a spotlight for its health benefits impacting cardiovascular health due to its ability to lower bad cholesterol levels. The FDA daily recommendation is 25 grams (6.5 grams of soy protein per serving) for lowering LDL cholesterol.
Soybeans are most common in our culture in the dairy aisle next to milk. Soy milk is becoming an alternative to traditional cow’s milk. Tofu is another transformation of soybeans into a bean curd that is used to replace meat products for dietary protein.
If you grow soybean pods, or buy them fresh, they should be boiled while they are still bright green when they are at their peak of sweetness. Cook by dropping pods into salted, boiling water. Boil 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to colander and run cool water over the pods. Then shell them like peas to use in recipes, or eat them right out of the pods.
- 3 cups frozen shelled edamame, thawed (1 to 1 1/2 10-ounce bags)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, or mint
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt sparingly to taste
Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Add edamame and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes according to package directions. Drain.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook, covered, until the onions are starting to brown, about another 3 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer and cook until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the edamame and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in cilantro (or mint) and lemon juice.
Serve over cooked brown rice or with whole wheat pita bread.