COOK THIS: Cool Beans by Joe Yonan - Modern Farmer

COOK THIS: Cool Beans by Joe Yonan

Twice a month, our writer cooks from the book and decides if these farm-to-table recipes are worth the investment.

The current buzz around plant-based diets often centers around meat substitutes: processed proteins that are formed to resemble familiar meaty items like burgers and nuggets. But the humble bean is the obvious answer for bumping up protein in a vegetarian diet, minimizing processed foods and keeping costs down. Cool Beans (Ten Speed Press; $30) by Washington Post food and dining editor Joe Yonan is an ode to the versatility of legumes, from the workaday can of kidney beans or red lentils in your pantry through to more exotic lady cream peas and gigantes you may have to seek out. The recipes are almost all vegan, with the odd dairy item (usually optional) included. Because beans have a long history in almost every international cuisine, you’ll find Ethiopian dips and Mexican tacos, along with French lentil salads and Japanese desserts. Recipes are written for cooked beans, so you can grab a can, or plan ahead and cook from scratch. For anything that uses a more exotic legume than your local supermarket carries, Yonan has helpfully offered a list of more common beans that you can sub in.

For a light supper following a big lunch, I made the Falafel Fattoush salad—the twist being that, instead of actual falafel, you include chickpeas seasoned then roasted using similar spices. Chickpeas, onions and garlic are tossed with olive oil, cumin, coriander, cayenne and salt, then roasted. Partway through, torn pita is thrown on top, scattered with sumac, and cooked until crisp. This mix is then tossed with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, parsley and pickles, and topped with a dressing of tahini, lemon juice, water, roasted garlic and salt, and served immediately—before the pita starts to soften. It had all of the flavors of falafel, but without the tedious ball-forming and deep frying.

Cool Beans is filled with proof that beans deserve a standing reservation at the dinner table, whether you’re vegan or not. Eating more legumes is a no-brainer for health, the environment, your wallet and for supporting local farmers. And with so many delicious, creative ways of using them, what’s stopping us? With recipes that are easy to follow and span the globe, Cool Beans is music to our ears.

Wendy Underwood tests out cookbooks weekly on Instagram at @kitchenvscookbook.

Excerpted from Cool Beans by Joe Yonan (Ten Speed Press). Copyright © 2020. Photos by Aubrie Pick, food styling by Lillian Kang, courtesy Ten Speed Press.


6 to 8 servings 

This bread salad reminiscent of Middle Eastern fattoush packs all the elements of a falafel sandwich—spiced chickpeas, of course, plus pita, lettuce, parsley, pickles, and tahini sauce—into a bowl. It’s best when freshly made, because the pita chips retain some crunch, so if you want to reserve some for leftovers, separate out the pita chips after roasting and save them in an airtight container at room temperature while you refrigerate the rest, until you’re ready to serve the salad. 

3 1/2 cups cooked or canned no-salt-added chickpeas (from two 15-ounce cans), drained and rinsed
1 yellow onion, cut into large chunks
5 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large pitas, split and torn into large pieces
1 tablespoon sumac 

Roasted garlic (from above)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
6 cups torn romaine lettuce leaves
1 cup lightly packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 large sour pickle spears, coarsely chopped 

Preheat the oven to 425 º F.

On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss together the chickpeas, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Roast until the onion and garlic have started to soften, 15 to 20 minutes.

Scatter the pita pieces on top, sprinkle them with sumac, and continue roasting until the pitas are crisp and the onion and garlic are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven, fish out the garlic to use in the dressing, and let everything cool to room temperature.

While the chickpea mixture is cooling, make the dressing: In a small bowl, mash the reserved roasted garlic with a fork, then whisk in the lemon juice, tahini, 1/4 cup water, and salt. Taste and add more salt if needed.

To assemble the salad, toss the chickpea mixture with the romaine, parsley, tomatoes, and pickles. Drizzle with the dressing and serve immediately. 


6 servings

If black bean brownies could be a thing—and believe me, they are a thing—then why not red bean brownies, based on the little adzuki (aka azuki) beans that are so beloved across Asia for their versatility in sweets? I started with a pretty killer gluten-free recipe from Dana Shultz’s Minimalist Baker site and set to tinkering. In went the adzuki beans, out went the black. In went aquafaba—the liquid from a can of chickpeas, not the adzukis, because the flavor is milder—and out went a flax egg. In went a little chickpea flour for extra structure. The master stroke, based on a suggestion from my friend and cookbook author Tess “The Blender Girl” Masters: rose water, which takes these from everyday-American-take-to-work good to special-occasion-Middle-Eastern great. They’re very fudgy and dense on the inside, a little chewy on the outside—and easy enough to make whenever you want.

3 tablespoons vegan or dairy butter or coconut oil, melted, plus more for greasing the muffin tin
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon chickpea flour, plus more for dusting (may substitute all-purpose flour)
1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added adzuki beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup aquafaba (the liquid from a shaken can of no-salt-added chickpeas)
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon rose water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons dairy-free or traditional semisweet chocolate chips (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pistachios (optional)
2 teaspoons crushed dried organic rose petals (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease one 6-muffin (jumbo) tin. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the butter, flour, adzuki beans, aquafaba, cocoa, salt, rose water, vanilla, sugar, and baking powder and process until very smooth, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups and smooth the tops with a spoon. If using, sprinkle on the chocolate chips, nuts, and/or rose petals.

Bake until the tops are dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 30 minutes before using a fork to remove them from the pan. They are meant to be very fudgy inside, so don’t worry if they seem too moist.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.


In my book Eat Your Vegetables, I wrote about how I don’t tend to use much mock meat, preferring to cook—and eat—vegetables. But I conceded that when it came to a Sloppy Joe, chorizo-spiced seitan was a pretty good fit. Well, now I say to my 2013 self: what were you thinking, when you’ve got lentils around, just waiting to enrich that sauce with protein and earthy goodness? Always changing, always growing. I also know what not to change, namely, the textural interest that zucchini and cherry tomatoes bring and the zing of sour pickles

 6 servings
 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground ancho chile
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 pints cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cups cooked brown lentils, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon light or dark brown sugar
6 kaiser rolls or sturdy buns, warmed but not toasted
12 sour pickle slices 

Pour the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, stir in the onion and garlic and sauté until they soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, ground chile, salt, and red pepper flakes and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. 

Stir in the cherry tomatoes and zucchini and cook until the tomatoes collapse, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the lentils and brown sugar, increase the heat to bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the squash is tender but not mushy and a thick sauce has formed. Taste and add more salt if needed. Let cool slightly. 

Divide the bottom buns among six plates. Spoon the warm filling onto the buns, top with the pickles and the top buns, and serve. 

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1 year ago

Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe.