The first time I ate fresh soybeans was, naturally enough, at a Japanese restaurant. Known as edamame, they were served as an appetizer, in their pods, steamed and sprinkled with salt. It took a little work to suck the cooked fresh soybeans out of their pods. They were delicious, meaty and flavorful.
Soybeans boast more protein than any other legume, and they’re a great source of folate, vitamin K, calcium, iron and fiber.
Here is a recipe for a lighter version of Mexican-styled refried beans by replacing the pinto beans with edamame. The finished product is wonderfully creamy – smoother than the creamiest mashed potatoes – because the beans are pureed instead of mashed. It was a real hit with my family.
One caveat: You want to be sure to cook the fresh soybeans until they’re soft. This advice runs counter to the directions on the back of the package, which recommends boiling the beans for a mere 5 minutes. For this recipe, that short a cooking time would leave them too firm.
By the way, when I refer to fresh soybeans, I mean the frozen shelled guys. At least sometimes, of course, you’ll be able to find them fresh in the pod at the farmers’ market, and I’m sure they’re delicious. But then you’d have to shell them once you brought them home, which is pretty tedious. The great thing about frozen vegetables is that not only are they a snap to prepare, but they also taste surprisingly fresh. That’s because they’re harvested at the peak of ripeness, then briefly blanched, then quickly frozen. It might seem counter-intuitive – if it’s frozen, how can it be fresh? – but it turns out to be a great way to lock in their goodness.