LAST MARCH, IT seemed like the entire West Coast decided to stock up on beans at the same time, promptly followed by endless social media messages along the lines of, “How do I cook these beans I panic-purchased?”
Beans, that unglamorous global staple, deserve better treatment. It’s smart to have a few satisfying recipes you’re completely familiar with, whether your household goes for white bean soup, rajma masala, frijoles de la olla or chili mac. It’s even better to be so confident in using beans that trying new approaches adds variety to the weekly dinner plans without adding much in the way of stress.
Jackie Freeman’s “Easy Beans” — the e-book was released in March, and the paperback comes out in early November — is the book you need to achieve that kind of bean expertise.
Freeman was born and raised on the Eastside, and today her household (with three kids under 13) blends with her career as a private chef, cooking instructor and recipe developer for a book that brings a sense of joy and creativity to this sensible, dare I say stodgy, form of protein. It also retains a fundamentally practical viewpoint, as she says: “Of course, I wanted to have a breadth and depth to cooking technique, cuisine, presentation and bean variety. But I also wanted to make as many dishes as possible that the kids would actually eat.”
Concerning the basic argument of canned vs. dry beans, those practical considerations are a priority. “I choose canned lima beans hands-down over frozen or dried, and usually reach for canned chickpeas because of time restraints, and they have a better consistency,” she says. “As far as brands, I like to reach for the ‘upper shelf’ cans — no added salts or preservatives, organic if available. But I’m not going to pass up a good deal when any brand is on sale for $1 a can.”
If you’re sitting on a mountain of dried beans, she urges you to go beyond a basic soak. “It’s completely counterintuitive to how I was raised to cook beans, but absolutely brine them! Not only does soaking beans help reduce ‘the toots,’ but brining them (like a turkey) adds a ton of flavor and will not make them tough or inedible. The opposite, in fact.”
These fritters are in the Snacks and Spreads chapter, but my husband and I thought they made a terrific dinner for two — my preferred complement was a soba noodle salad; his was wings and a beer. Two small recommendations: While my frozen edamame package included salt, I still added a half-teaspoon of kosher salt to the mixture; as far as the frying oil goes, I used about two teaspoons.
Edamame Fritters with Parmesan and Mint
In order for the fritters to hold together, you need to get just the right consistency when chopping the edamame. If the pieces are too large, the fritters fall apart. If chopped too finely, they’re a mushy mess. Aim for pieces that resemble rice kernels, with a few pea-sized chunks thrown in.
Makes 8 servings
1½ cups shelled cooked edamame
½ cup dried breadcrumbs, plus additional for coating the fritters
¼ cup (about ¾ ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced shallots (from about ½ small shallot)
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 medium eggs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
High-heat oil, such as canola or safflower, for frying
1. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, pulse the edamame until not-too-finely but not-too-coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and stir in the breadcrumbs, cheese, mint, shallots, lemon zest, garlic and eggs. Season to taste with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix until blended.
2. Form into 8 patties, about ½-inch thick. Place about ½ cup breadcrumbs on a plate. Carefully roll the fritters in the breadcrumbs to coat the outside, pressing gently as needed.
3. Line a plate with paper towels. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Fry the fritters until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Eat right away.
©2020 by Jackie Freeman. Excerpted from “Easy Beans” by permission of Sasquatch Books.