Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reviews of two bean cookbooks

Guest post by Sharon Gordon.

Fagioli: The Bean Cuisine of Italy by Judith Barrett, 2004.
Barrett shares the regional diversity of bean dishes eaten during her 20 years of travel in Italy.  Whether your favorites are cannellini, borlotti, chickpeas, favas, peas, lentils or less known beans such as fagioli di lamon, recipes are provided for every course.  For example, a bean appetizer might begin a meal with an Italian spiced hummus-like spread made of white beans, onions and tomatoes.
For the salad course, Barrett provides tips on how to make a delicious lentil salad dressed with onions and parsley in a vinaigrette arranged over a bed of mixed salad greens.   She also includes a recipe for a Carona beans salad spiced with garlic and bay and then combined with celery, carrot, red onion, and parsley before being dressed with olive oil.  A number of salads feature seafood with beans and include garden vegetables like peppers and tomatoes.
A featured side dish includes swiss chard, garlic, onion, carrot, red pepper flakes, wine and broth flavor chickpeas .  For the summer, there are a couple of bean and tomato side dishes.
The Soup chapter includes several variations on minestrone that mix spring and summer vegetables.  Soup of Lentils and Swiss Chard calls for green swiss chard, and I think it would add to the appeal to add a few yellow swiss chard leaves as well.  If you have a year where your escarole does well, Soup of Escarole and Cannellini can use two bunches of it.  Other soups feature asparagus, or fennel, or a mix of fresh garden vegetables.
Pasta and Beans are such a favorite that they have their own chapter.  Some of the simplest ones are flavored with garlic and herbs.  Others feature flavored tomato sauces, or flavored greens.
Main courses include bean and grain dishes flavored with some common herbs and vegetables  along with other Italian ingredients such as: onion, parsley, and pancetta; sage, broth, and parmigiano; sage, cabbage, tomato, broth, parsley, pancetta, and parmigiano.
Polenta gets a bean and herb flavored tomato sauce.
The meat chapters features stews and braises with a variety of meats and includes dishes flavored with marjoram and broth; red onion, carrot, celery, garlic, parsley, wine, broth, tomato, and pepperoncino; celery, garlic, tomato, parsley, and broth; a parsley based salsa verde; sage, tomatoes, and zucchini. Several of the fish and bean dishes feature tomatoes.

The Great Vegan Bean Book by Kathy Hester, 2013.
Hester starts the morning with beans in the muffins, waffles, hash, pancakes, and biscuits.  Several of the recipes make good use of herbs.
Then she’s on to creamy bean spreads including one with basil and a Creamy Spinach Artichoke and White Bean Dip.
Soups feature a hearty Cream of Tomato Soup thickened with pureed white beans, and a White Bean Chowder with butternut squash, a Garden Soup with 8 vegetables and 3 herbs.  Chickpea Veggie Tagine spices things up with Indian flavors and includes carrots, sweet potato, and cauliflower.  Thai Sweet Potato Bean Stew attractively presents beans and sweet potatoes in a ginger and lemongrass infused coconut milk.
Salads feature around the world flavors from France, India, Vietnam, and Greece.
Portable bean recipes make good use of herbs.  An unusual variation on refried beans adds butternut squash to the mix.
A chapter of one dish meals features enchiladas, tarts, casseroles, pastas, and grain dishes.  Inside-out Enchilada Casserole makes good use of  abundant summer vegetables such as tomatoes and squash.  In White Bean Potato Tart, a layer of creamy smoky beans are topped with potato slices and cheese.
Adventurously, Hester includes bean dessert recipes.  If you have an abundance of summer squash, Chocolate Summer Squash Cake can make use of two cups of grated squash.  Butternut squash might be good in the same recipe in the fall.
Please tell us in the comments about your favorite bean cookbooks, or cookbooks with especially good bean chapters.

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