Later today I will have the fantastic opportunity through Boston Brunchers to meet cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon. She has written seven cookbooks, teaches writing, and lives in a late-1700s farmhouse in Vermont. Her most recent cookbook is Bean by Bean. I received a copy of the just-released book and thought I’d review it prior to our Boston Brunchers gathering. I look forward to sharing more about Crescent Dragonwagon and her work later this week.
People have been cooking beans for thousands of years – since the beginning of cooking! With Bean By Bean in hand, you’ll be prepared to make over 175 recipes from around the world featuring the mighty bean.
Dragonwagon begins Bean By Bean with Bean Basics: The A, B(ean), Cs. It’s tempting to skip ahead to the delicious-sounding recipes, but starting with these easy-to-read pages will help you better understand how to find, store, and prepare beans.
Creative stories, bits of history, and other interesting anecdotes will make you want to read this book from cover to cover, rather than just skip around to a few choice recipes. If you want to cook something – which I highly recommend – recipes are divided into ten chapters for easy navigation:
- Starters include multiple types of hummus, dip, tapenade, and even a vegetarian version of chopped liver.
- Soups are organized by geographic location – Middle Eastern, African, Thai, Japanese, Indian (dahl and sambar), European, and recipes from the US (some favorites, some delicious-sounding combinations from the south that I had never heard of).
- Side salads (ranging from eleven variations of green bean salad and creative flavor combinations from around the world) and full-meal salads incorporating grains and legumes provide ample ideas for all seasons.
- The chili chapter makes me think I should try following a recipe rather than throwing unknown portions of beans, tomatoes, and spices in the crockpot. There are also two recipes for cornbread, one from the Dairy Hollow House, the inn and restaurant Dragonwagon owned with her late husband for eighteen years.
- Stews and curries encourage cooking with beans beyond chili and offer more recipes incorporating flavors from around the world.
- The baked beans and casseroles section begins with Boston Baked Beans (and Boston Brown Bread), followed by casseroles, savory potpies (something I’ve never made but am excited to try), and soy.
- Skillets and stir-fries offer recipes for falafel, patties and flatbreads, crepes made with chickpea flour, stir-fries, and more.
- Beans and grains, a complete protein when eaten together. From Mjeddrah to black-eyed peas and rice, these are filling recipes you’ll want to make again and again.
- The final chapter, ‘Sweet Beans’, reminds us just how versatile beans can be – cookies, cakes, custards, and ice cream. Red bean ice cream and anko – sweet red bean paste – are my picks.
There’s something for everyone in this book. I’m excited to add it to my collection and feature recipes on EatingPlaces. I hope you’ll check it out, too!
Bean By Bean, by Crescent Dragonwagon. Workman Publishing, 2012, $15.95.