Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes [A Cookbook]

Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes [A Cookbook]

by Joe Yonan


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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!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399581489
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 8,030
Product dimensions: 8.31(w) x 10.28(h) x 0.94(d)

About the Author

Joe Yonan is the two-time James Beard Award-winning food and dining editor of The Washington Post. He is the author of Eat Your Vegetables, which was named among the best cookbooks of 2013 by The Atlantic, The Boston Globe, and NPR's Here and Now, and Serve Yourself, which Serious Eats, David Lebovitz, and the San Francisco Chronicle named to their best-of-the-year lists. Joe was a food writer and travel section editor at The Boston Globe before moving to Washington in 2006 to edit the Post's food section. He writes the Post's "Weeknight Vegetarian" column and for five years wrote the "Cooking for One" column, both of which have won honors from the Association of Food Journalists.

Read an Excerpt


“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.

Out? I’m sorry, what? We had come all that way to see the master of beans in the world capital of beans only to be told . . . no dice, no beans. A young Los Angeles chef had visited just a day or two earlier, Garcia explained, and he had sent her home with the rest of his stash. I had a hunch: “Was it Jessica Koslow from Sqirl?” He nodded, laughed that I would, of course, know all the other American bean obsessives, and then, when he saw my face fall and recognized the depth of my disappointment, he turned serious. He started scrolling through his phone, I assumed checking emails, texts, or calendar reminders. Good news: He was scheduled for another bean delivery that weekend. He hadn’t planned it, but he’d make the soup for us—that is, as long as we would still be in town and could return.

We would, we could, and we did. A few days later, as we sat down for lunch—the only customers in the place getting just the bean soup rather than the multi-course tasting menu—the anticipation started nagging at me. How good could these beans actually be?

The waiter brought us two big bowls of soup: the beans were super-creamy and golden in color, fatter than pintos, with a broth that was so layered and deep and, well, beany, that it made me swoon. It seemed so simple—just beans and broth and pico de gallo—that I could hardly believe how much flavor I was tasting. My husband, still recovering from a bout of Montezuma’s Revenge, seemed to come back to life before my very eyes. We tore into a basket of blue corn tostadas, and I slugged a Minerva beer in between spoonfuls of the soup. We left happy and restored.

Such is the power of the humble bowl of beans.

As a category of food, beans are old, ancient even. Forward- thinking cooks have been talking about ancient grains for years now—my friend Maria Speck helped popularize the idea in her book Ancient Grains for Modern Meals—but some beans are just as old as grains. According to Ken Albala’s masterful 2007 book Beans: A History, among the first plants domesticated, some 10,000 years ago, were einkorn wheat, emmer, barley—and lentils.

Lentils are so old that people who say lentils are shaped like lenses have got it backward; the world’s first lenses got their name because they were shaped like lentils. That’s old. In fact, there’s evidence that thousands of years before they were domesticated, in 11,000 BC, people in Greece were cooking wild lentils.

Pythagoras talked about fava beans, Hippocrates about lupinis, and one particularly famous orator is even more deeply connected to chickpeas: His family took its name (Cicero) from the legume’s genus (Cicer). Ancient Indian rituals and early Sanskrit literature feature mung beans. In the New World, the remains of beans were found in a Peruvian Andean cave dated to 6000 BC. Mentions of black beans show up in the writings of ancient Mayans. A little younger is the soybean, but it has made up for lost ground by becoming, as Albala writes, “the most widely grown bean on the planet, the darling of the food industries and genetically one of the most extensively modified of all plants.”

So why do beans have, well, something of a fusty reputation, especially here in the West?

I think a couple of things are going on: first, there’s the unavoidable association with hippies, the memories of three-bean chilis stirred by pot-smoking countercultural types. But perhaps more importantly, beans worldwide have almost always been associated with poverty. (An exception is India, where the prominence of vegetarian eating ensures that beans have been appreciated by the highest castes.) America, as a relatively young country built on grand ambitions and looking for inspiration, perhaps has historically paid more attention to the cooking of the world’s elite and less to the cooking of the more resourceful lower classes.

That’s been changing, thankfully. As immigrants continue to shape American cuisine and we pay more attention to our own native traditions, we’ve started to realize just how deep the roots of bean cookery go.

Customer Reviews

Cool Beans: The Ultimate Guide to Cooking with the World's Most Versatile Plant-Based Protein, with 125 Recipes 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
feb7mama 12 days ago
Love this book! I've been cooking beans all winter, as a matter of fact, at least two times a week. I created a menu of southern recipes for a Fat Tuesday buffet and used the book for a dish of New Orleans Red Beans and rice. Perfectamundo! It made 8 cups so Ive got leftoversin my freezer ready to go again. For people who want to add more legumes to their vegetarian diet, this book is a great starting point with a variety of ethnic dishes to choose from.
caitisullivan 4 months ago
As a near vegetarian, I eat beans several times a week and am very pleased with the ideas and variety of the recipes in this book. After years of substituting beans into classic dishes like cassoulet, paella, and sloppy joes, it's great to finally have a road map for making these meals shine with beans, not to mention have recipes for classic bean dishes like hopping john that can be overlooked in more regional cookbooks. this book also has a great dips and snacks section that I'm excited to dig into and mix up my bean routine. Thanks for the free book, @tenspeedpress! It came at a great time to liven up my kitchen.
Hallieaking 4 months ago
This book is the “bean-all and end-all,” as the introduction quite unashamedly claims. The sprinkling of scientific research scattered amongst uniquely formulated recipes appeals equally to vegetarians, vegans and bean-loving omnivores alike. Yonan elevates pulses to the likeness of meat, dairy and even formative ingredients in desserts and drinks, a chapter that’s extra intriguing. If your mind and palate are open to fresh and innovative bean-based eats, “Cool Beans” is an essential addition to your bookshelf. Thanks for the free book, @tenspeedpress!
AtomicMommy 4 months ago
This is a speciality cookbook designed for anyone who is interested in finding out more ways to cook plant-based protein beyond bean burritos and lentil soup. Some of the recipes are a bit intimidating or use ingredients not readily available at many local markets (black lentils, adzuki beans, cactus paddle!) However, the author does a nice job of describing the items needed and providing substitutes when appropriate. Photographs are wonderful as they did the job of making me want to prepare the dish for many some recipes I might normally not make on a first go around (Falafel Fattoush anyone?). Book is divided into simple categories to make it easy to peruse when deciding what to make for a specific occasion. This also makes it easier to try new things (perhaps start with a dip or a wrap before trying a whole bean-related main course?) . Overall the book does a nice job of providing basic foundations to using, buying and cooking beans in a whole slew of classic and new recipes. Thanks for the free book @tenspeedpress. I am enjoying my foray into the world of beans!
Anonymous 4 months ago
Cool Beans is the latest cookbook from Joe Yonan, the food and dining editor of The Washington Post and it is unlike any other cookbook I have encountered. It is filled with unique, sophisticated bean recipes with nary a ham hock in sight. Every recipe is vegan and the large majority are gluten free. For those recipes that aren't gluten free, it is merely because of a bun, crust, or pasta. All things for which gluten-free alternatives can easily be found. The book is broken up into the following seven sections: Dips & Snacks Salads Soups, Stews, & Soupy Sides Burgers, Sandwiches, Wraps, Tacos, & a Pizza Casseroles, Pasta, Rice, & Hearty Main Courses Drinks & Desserts Condiment & Other Pantry Recipes I found many of the dips and snacks recipes to be hearty enough for a small meal. I also found that there was a recipe for every occasion one could imagine from the casual to the more formal. Selections such as Winter Salad with cranberry beans, squash, and pomegranate and Christmas lima, kale, and cherry tomato salad with honey-dill dressing are delicious and are beautiful enough to be included at any table. This book does not include recipes containing green beans or soybeans, but instead focuses on pulses. Mr. Yonan readily admits that a few ingredients can't be found in the average grocery store and for those he offers substitutions where he is able. Seasonings in the recipes pull from many different cultures offering something for virtually every palate. The author briefly addresses bean-related issues such as lectins and soaking and the book concludes with a nice glossary of beans and a helpful chart listing common cooking times for each bean not only for the stovetop but for the pressure cooker as well. Overall, I thought this was a wonderfully-curated and creative collection of recipes. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys beans and to those who simply wish to incorporate more meat-free dishes into their daily life. Disclosure: Many thanks to Ten Speed Press for the early review copy.
qktiles 4 months ago
I received a free copy of this book from Ten Speed Press in exchange for a free and unbiased review; when the book arrived I opened it at random, set it down again and went immediately into the kitchen to start the recipe I’d opened to (black lentil crackers). As someone who has cooked a lot of meals based on legumes, I was really excited to find a collection that contained so many new-to-me ideas that helped me out of my occasional rut (never having been quite happy with the New Year’s black-eyed peas I made, here’s a recipe for them in crispy cake version of Hoppin’ John that I can’t wait to make). The recipes here are imaginative but eminently do-able; everything can be made vegan and gluten free, but manages it without calling attention to itself. No privation here; the food is delicious. And then there are the bean-based desserts, which I am always glad to see: it’s vastly underutilized method of delivering beans into the diet. There’s even a margarita recipe, and a final chapter for making your own pantry staples. The future of protein is likely to be bean- and pea-powered; inexpensive, healthful, and delicious, legumes really ought to be in everyone’s recipe rotation. This book gives you enough recipes to make a couple of different meals every week for a year. If you’re new to the world of bean cookery, the author has you covered, with extensive cooking note, pantry notes, and substitution charts. Even if, like me, you’ve been cooking with beans for many years, I think you’ll find plenty new here to love.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Rarely do I love a cookbook to give it 5 star rating. I love everything about this book. The writer has vast knowledge on the subject yet he comes across as someone who is humble and happy to share the knowledge. Growing up in India beans and legumes have been an integral part of my diet, and its even more relevant now that I am a vegetarian. I am so excited to try recipes from different cultures using this humble and versatile ingredient. For anyone who wants to bring fiber, protein, and goodness in the kitchen, this book is an awesome guide. Some recipes like falafel, or three bean salad are kind of expected but some new ones like the khachapuri lobiani are new to me, a note on this, in India the black eyed peas are called Lobia, makes you realize that although different we are some how connected. I wanted to thank Potter/Ten Speed for the book, “I’ve received a free copy from Ten Speed Press in exchange for a free and unbiased review.”