Books

Cool Beans by Joe Yonan Book Review

A fresh, modern look at the diverse world of beans, chickpeas, lentils, pulses, and more–featuring 125 recipes for globally inspired vegetarian mains, snacks, soups, and desserts, from a James Beard Award-winning food writer

Beans are emerging from their hippie roots to be embraced for what they truly are: a delicious, versatile, and environmentally friendly form of protein. With heirloom varieties now widely available across the United States, this nutritious and hearty staple is poised to take over your diet.

Enter Joe Yonan, food editor of The Washington Post, who provides a master base recipe for cooking any sort of bean in any sort of appliance–Instant Pot®, slow cooker, or stovetop–as well as 125 recipes for using them in daily life, from Harissa-Roasted Carrot and White Bean Dip to Crunchy Spiced Chickpeas to Smoky Black Bean and Plantain Chili. Drawing on the culinary traditions of the Middle East, the Mediterranean, South America, and the American South, and with beautiful photography throughout, this book has recipes for everyone. With fresh flavors, vibrant spices, and clever techniques, Yonan shows how beans can save you from boring dinners, lunches, breakfasts–and even desserts!

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Introduction

“We’re just here for the beans.”

That’s what we told the waiter at Maximo Bistrot in Mexico City, where my husband, Carl, and I were honeymooning.

We had considered a handful of destinations, but CDMX was at the top of our list for several reasons: we had scored cheap nonstop flights from Washington, DC; Carl had never been and I was eager to show him just what he had been missing; and what he had been missing, more than anything else, was the food.

For me, the appeal goes even deeper: Mexico City is not just the capital of our vibrant, fascinating neighbor to the south. It’s the seat of a culinary culture ruled by three kings: corn, chiles, and beans. And as a longtime vegetarian who reveres beans as the most important plant-based protein in the world and as someone who grew up in West Texas, immersed in Mexican-American culture, I consider Mexico the bean-all and end-all. Every Mexican chef I’ve ever met has waxed poetic about them: scoops of frijoles borrachos (drunken beans) nestled in fresh corn tortillas; complex stews made from slowly cooked black beans, fresh and dried chiles and the pungent herb epazote; and smoke-kissed purees slathered on fried masa boats, topped with lime-dressed greens. It’s one of the many reasons I’ve always felt at home there.

This time, I knew that on and among our visits to the floating gardens of Xochimilco, Frida Kahlo’s and Diego Rivera’s homes and museums, street food tours, art galleries, and markets, I would be on a mission to taste as many bean dishes as I could find. And in my research, one chef emerged as the bean whisperer: Maximo owner Eduardo “Lalo” Garcia. I had heard that he was passionate, with a fascinating background, and that he served a spectacular bean soup at his tasting-menu restaurant.

We got to Maximo an hour before our reservation, just so we could talk to Garcia about beans, which, no surprise, are one of his favorite subjects. In addition to his history lessons about them, Mexican cooking, and the impact of NAFTA on his country’s culture, he described his “very, very old-fashioned” soup, made with beans he gets from the state of Hidalgo. They’re called cacahuate, because they resemble peanuts when raw, but . . . he was fresh out.