‘Cool Beans’ gives some respect to the lowly legume

“Cool Beans” by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed, $30)

In times of stress, losing myself in the pages of a good cookbook is one of the most soothing forms of escapism I know. Even if I’m not up for serious cooking, a well-written recipe, accompanied by evocative narrative and a luscious-looking photo, engages all my senses in imagining a brighter future at my very own table.

I wasn’t expecting a book about beans to have this kind of effect. But then, I wasn’t expecting to find myself suddenly rethinking life as I know it in the midst of a global health crisis.

“Cool Beans” (Ten Speed, $30), Joe Yonan’s epic tribute to the lowly legume, is helping me see the light.

Beans, he writes, have been pulling people from all parts of the world through poverty since the beginning of civilization. And as interest in plant-based cooking grows, even the wealthy are developing new enthusiasm for this ultra-cheap protein source.

>> RELATED: AJC's recipes for hummus include one from "Cool Beans" for Black Chickpea Hummus with Black Garlic and Preserved Lemon

As the longtime food editor of The Washington Post, Yonan attributes his own bean awakening to a story his section ran about the heirloom beans sold by Steve Sando’s Rancho Gordo in Napa, California. As he cooked through the different varieties — some completely new to him — he became enamored by their complex flavors, inspiring him to dig deeper. Over the decade since, Yonan has transitioned to a vegetarian diet and credits those beans for paving the way.

“Cool Beans” guides the rest of us in taking advantage of the wide world of pulses (the dried seeds of legumes) currently flying off shelves. The recipes are largely inspired by his many contacts in the food industry, with influences from around the world.

My husband and I are still enjoying the leftovers of his Chinese-Style Noodles with Black Beans and Shiitakes. I’m ready to stash my freezer with Curried Red Lentil Stew with Lime and Harissa, and Texas-Style Bowl O’ Red Beans.

And I’m determined to try his trick of using aquafaba — the liquid from canned chickpeas — as an egg replacement in a vegan version of Julia Child’s Deep, Dark Chocolate Mousse. Maybe to celebrate a return to normalcy with friends. I can taste it already.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.


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