Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lighten Up

As spring approaches and the threat of summer looms, we all tend to start looking south--a lucky few seek new sun-filled vacation destinations, while the rest of us stare incredulously at what's going on below our necks, wondering how that roll got there, why things are moving, and when our pants shrunk. Obviously from my history of adding bacon to, well, everything, I am not a particularly ardent health nut, but I do think it's important to eat balanced meals that are tasty, and deal with everything in moderation. This time of year I like to take a cue from the weather and prepare for the lighter clothes of spring and summer by eating equally lighter fare that tastes great and packs serious nutritional punch. You don't have to skimp on portions or go health nut crazy, just fill your fridge with the tasty staples that happen to also be good for you, and do as little to them as possible. An easy solution is breakfast for dinner, like a veggie packed omelet cooked in olive oil (a very common light dinner in Spain). While the fat content of eggs is always up for debate, what's clear is that they are a great source of protein, excellent brain food, and are the best vehicle for lots of fresh produce. I like pairing something like that with an ultra healthy snack like edamame.

The great thing about edamame, other than the obscene health benefits, is that there's no fat at all involved in their preparation, and even the condiments are delicious and healthy. You've probably had them in restaurants as an appetizer, a smart move on their behalf, since soy beans are chock full of umami, arguably the fifth sense, which relates directly to the foods that people love. Foods like certain richly flavored red meats, fermented liquids and aged cheese (like parmesan), all involve breaking down the glutomate molecule (found in most living things), which inexplicably seems to create the addictive flavor of these varied ingredients. The result is umami, which roughly translates to "yummy" in Japanese. Soy beans don't technically have umami until they're fermented to make soy sauce, the typical dipping sauce for edamame. Together they're a nutritious snack or a quick cooking emergency appetizer or side dish. Not to mention, since they're super rich in calcium (60% more than in peas and other healthy green veggies), and an excellent source of complete protein, they're great for those days when you want to hold back on the meat and dairy. 

I like mine steamed, which is faster and less messy than blanching. This way they're not sopping wet because they haven't absorbed as much water, which means more flavor and less filler. I really like the frozen kind because they're picked at their peak and flash frozen (much like peas), so you can always have a bag or two in the fridge in case of emergency or if you're feeling snackish. I top mine with coarse sea salt while they're still hot and stack them up next to some tricked out soy sauce. Since I use double soy (it's thickened with a little bit of molasses), which is slightly sweeter than regular soy sauce, I like to add a hint of malt vinegar, a drop of siracha, and a few red pepper flakes for added flavor and heat. If you're just looking to pack a snack for work or for the kids, skip the soy and sprinkle them with salt and a drop of olive oil. Stick them in a zip-top bag, shake, and go on your merry way. Kids love pulling the beans out with their teeth and getting every last bit of flavor from their pods, so trust me when I tell you they'll want them every day after school. So grab a bag and enjoy the umami while the pounds just melt away. Here's how I eat them:

Edamame With Spicy Soy Sauce

2 cups frozen edamame (about half a bag)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 tsp siracha
1/8 tsp red pepper flake
1 tsp malt vinegar
coarse sea salt

1. Combine soy sauce, siracha, red pepper flake and malt vinegar in a bowl and set aside.

2. Steam frozen edamame until cooked through (about 2-3 minutes) and remove to a plate or bowl. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of coarse sea salt and serve hot alongside spicy soy sauce. Enjoy!


1 comment:

Marisa Starr Bardach said...

I made this for friends last night and it was a huge success! I upped the Sriracha sauce from 1/8 tsp to about 1 tsp for a nice and spicy kick. It was the perfect accompaniment to edamame, and it could have been tasty to dip sushi into, too. YUM!