Edamame: Sensational Soy
By Cheryl Forberg
The longest life spans in the world are found on the Japanese island of Okinawa. It appears they've found a few keys to longevity, and soybeans are an elemental part of their diet. Coincidence? Hardly. Soy has been an integral part of the Asian diet for centuries. Beyond its variety of forms, tastes, and textures, soy products have a multitude of healthy attributes. You don't have to resign yourself to a tofu diet to benefit from this metamorphic legume. From a sweet and frosty breakfast smoothie or a rich miso-laced broth to a crisp and tangy stir-fry or a creamy rich dessert, soy has many faces.
Now a mainstay in our pantries, it's hard to believe the ubiquitous soybean was considered another fleeting American fad in the not-so-distant past. Americans still lag behind in global consumption, despite producing more than half of the world's soybeans.
Soy also contains phytosterols, the "cholesterol clone" found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and grains. Phytosterols not only promote heart health, but they are also thought to impede cell reproduction in the large intestine, possibly preventing colon cancer. Another phytochemical, phytic acid, is thought to lower cholesterol and may provide protection against some cancers. It may also control blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Dr. Mark Messina, an internationally recognized expert on this celebrated legume, maintains that "…soyfoods are unique because they are the only foods to provide nutritionally relevant amounts of isoflavones. Consuming about two servings of soy per day provides 10 to 15 grams of soy protein and 30 to 50 milligrams of isoflavones.”
A traditional source of soy protein is the tender green pod known as edamame (ed-uh-MAH-may). The soybeans are harvested before they become mature or hard. The young beans nestle in a soft fuzzy pod and have a mild sweet taste. They're a delicious snack in their unadulterated simplicity and are as pervasive in Japan as pretzels or chips are here. Requiring little more than a sprinkling of salt, edamame takes only five minutes to steam, boil or microwave. They're eaten like an artichoke leaf by placing a pod in your mouth and then pulling it out through lightly clenched teeth. The chewy beans are left in your mouth, and the pod is tossed. Or they can be shucked and eaten like peas.
Left a little longer on the vine, mature soybeans are harvested and dried, much like other dried beans. Whole soybeans contain 40 percent protein and are an excellent source of fiber. One cup of raw edamame has a whopping 22 grams of protein, while mature soybeans boast 29 grams. In soups or stews, barbecued, or refried, prepare soybeans like other dried beans. Though they require a long soaking period and cooking time, cooked soybeans are also found in cans for a quicker fix. This is a quick and easy recipe for an Asian side dish that goes well with sushi, sashimi and miso soup.
1 (10 ounce) package Melissa’s Steamed & Shelled Edamame (1 ½ cups)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon minced green onion
½ teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons Melissa’s white miso paste
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds or Togarashi*
*Togarashi is a spice blend often found in ramen shops and Japanese restaurants. It is typically a ground blend of white or black sesame seeds, dried chili, dried orange peel, pepper, and toasted nori (seaweed).
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the edamame, green onion, and cilantro.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. There will be ½ cup of dressing.
Add ¼ cup of dressing to the edamame mixture. Mix well and transfer to serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds or Togarashi. Serve extra dressing on the side. I like to serve immediately as the vinegar can cause the bright color of the edamame to fade.