Q: I keep hearing about a form of soy called edamame. What can I do with it?
A: Edamame (eh-dah-MAH-may) are fresh (not dried) green soybeans. Although smaller than lima beans, they have a buttery, nutty flavor much like baby limas. Sometimes you can get them fresh in the grocery produce section, though usually it’s easier to find them in frozen form, often with other frozen vegetables or in a natural foods section. Edamame must be cooked before serving (often by steaming or boiling about 10 minutes), but can be served in or popped out of the pod. Whether served hot or cold, when still in their pods, you put the pod to your lips and pinch, so the beans pop into your mouth. The pod is not eaten. Purchasing shelled edamame makes it easy to add them to soups, stir-fries, rice or salads. Try using them as an alternative to peas in casseroles; their texture holds up even better, they make small portions very satisfying and they can substitute for all or part of the meat you usually use. In Japan and China, edamame are popular as snacks, usually served still in the pod in one large bowl from which everyone helps themselves. While they look like vegetables, they have the nutritional content of a substitute for meat. A half-cup of cooked beans contains more than 8 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber and supplies the nutrients and phytochemicals found in all soy foods.