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Ingredient Mon Sep 22 2008

Fresh Edamame - A Taste of Summer

Edamame is an oddly nostalgic food. Simple and seasonal, edamame has the evocative power to revive my childhood in rural Japan.

In muggy and mosquito-infested summer evenings, my father would drink beer with a bowl of boiled edamame as accompaniment. The chilled surface of the aluminum beer can would immediately start collecting droplets in the humidity of summer, and my mother would give him a hairy eyeball if he didn't use a coaster. Japanese professional baseball would be on TV. An old electric fan sent languid breezes around the living room, as it steadily rotated its head back and forth, back and forth. Scent of mosquito coil wafted in the air, and chirps of crickets and katydids rose and fell in the backyard, as if synchronizing with the roaring cheer of the baseball fans.

Edamame

Of course, it being nostalgia, there's some question about the veracity of what edamame evokes in me. If unchecked, my fingers might type that I would sit in my father's lap as we ate the edamame from the same bowl; that would be a beautiful little picture of a father-daughter intimacy, nicely tied to an ethnic food item. (It might even earn me a place in the ethnic writers' guild of the day!) Only that I didn't really sit in his lap--for one thing, it would have been unbearably hot and sticky in the height of Japanese summer, and for another, I didn't like my father's drinking habits.

Nonetheless, edamame and cold beer remain a great combination for summer evenings. (Throw in a sport game if you like.) I have been delighted this summer to see several farms selling fresh edamame in farmers markets. (Henry's Farm in Evanston Farmers Market is one; there is another farm in Evanston that sells fresh edamame, but I can't recall its name. I'm sure they are available in other markets, too.) Fresh edamame has more flavor than the frozen ones, and the fun of gently nudging the beans out of the salted shell with your front teeth just adds so much to the pleasure. One rule of thumb when boiling edamame is never to overcook them.

Perfect Edamame-Boiling

  1. Boil 1 quart of water for every 1/2 pound of fresh edamame. When it's vigorously bubbling, throw in 2 tablespoon of salt.
  2. Add edamame and cook for 4 minutes. When cooked for more than 5 minutes, edamame quickly loses its amino acids, which are the source of its savory flavor.
  3. Transfer edamame onto a colander. Cool the edamame briefly by fanning at them with whatever is handy (I use uchiwa, a Japanese traditional hand fan, but an issue of Red Eye would do in a pinch.) Never run water on cooked edamame--you'd be washing out all the tastiness!

You can sprinkle more salt before serving if you like. There are tricks to make the salt to penetrate deeper into the shell to get to the beans (like making slits in the shell before boiling and letting the edamame sit for a while, covered in salt, before boiling), but in my experience, boiling them in well-salted water--sort of like boiling pasta--seems to be tasty enough. Enjoy!

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

The State of Food Writing

By Brandy Gonsoulin

In 2009, food blogging, social media and Yelp were gaining popularity, and America's revered gastronomic magazine Gourmet shuttered after 68 years in business. Former Cook's Illustrated editor-in-chief Chris Kimball followed with an editorial, stating that "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds...
Read this feature »

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Drive-Thru is the food and drink section of Gapers Block, covering the city's vibrant dining, drinking and cooking scene. More...
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