Cool Beans by Joe Yonan

Proving that Beans are Cool!

By Naomi Bussin

Ten years ago, would you have thought that beans could be described as cool? Probably not, but in 2021 there is nothing more au courant than an inexpensive, plant-based, nutritious pantry item. As we stay at home and cook, we might as well cook beans.

Beans have long been a staple in many cuisines, but have come into favour in North America more recently. I always liked beans but I am now a bean aficionado. I fully admit that I ordered heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo in California, not once, but twice in the last number of months. I can reverse-justify my Instant Pot purchase because of all the beans I am cooking in it.

Back to the cookbook. If you like beans, this is an excellent book. Joe Yonan is food editor at the Washington Post and a James Beard award-winning food writer. This vegetarian cookbook covers beans from appetizers to desserts. The book is full of useful information and you can follow the recipes as written, or play around a little to suit your taste and what you have in the house.

I made the roasted beet hummus bowl, which was a beautifully smooth hummus made with garlic confit and topped with maple tahini, roasted beets and peanut dukkah (a blend of spices and nuts). With pita and arugula, this was a complete meal. I also liked the hummus-making tips in the recipe.

Ratatouille cassoulet was incredibly flavourful – roasted tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini cooked on a bed of white beans. It cooks in the oven for a long time, but we’re at home anyway, so no problem. The secret star ingredient was za’atar seasoning, which is not usually found in ratatouille but should be.

Chickpea and mushroom puttanesca on crispy polenta was another flavour bomb, with olives, capers and mushrooms replacing the anchovies in a traditional puttanesca. Garlicky great northern beans and broccoli rabe over toast was another good one, with a bean broth so tasty that I ate the leftovers as soup with orzo. I did not use the cloves in my stock, or broccoli rabe for that matter, but no problem.

My favourite dish, which I have made a couple of times, is Lalo’s Cacahuate Beans. Simply cooked beans with a sofrito of tomatoes, onions, garlic and chiles, topped with a pico de gallo is so delicious on its own or as a side dish with rice or tortillas and meat. You can change the beans, and change the level of spice to your liking.

I cannot finish this article without mentioning the bean-full desserts, such as deep dark chocolate mousse (with aquafaba, the liquid from a can of chickpeas), chocolate chickpea spread and cardamom, lime and white bean bundt cake, a cake filled with candied beans, pistachios and coconut. One of these days, maybe. Creative but still very useful, this book is a great addition to your cookbook library.

Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and an accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.