on May 20, 2012
I've been going through a beans-and-grains phase for the past few months. Soaking, cooking, and freezing are pretty much part of my routine - but I tend to get into a rut in terms of recipes, once I find something I like, is easy to make in a pretty big quantity, and my family will eat. So we eat a lot of mjaddarah (with rice or bulgur) and bean/vegetable soups, or cold salads with beans and greens. I tend to flavor cooked beans with cumin/coriander, chilis, and stuff like that, and cold beans with coarse salt, a lot of lemon, and olive oil, as well as either fresh parsley, coriander, or mint. It's just the way I roll.
I ordered this book hoping to learn something about beans and to get some inspiration for new ways of cooking beans, and I find it to be a really successful book. So far I've tried quite a few of the recipes, and all of them have been just excellent. as a pretty experienced home cook, I know how to read a recipe and to adjust the quantities and seasonings in order to suit our tastes, but the first time around, I usually make the recipe as it's given. The recipes in this book are easy to follow, they mostly contain ingredients that one can get easily enough, and they turn out great. Also, the author gives a lot of variations without overwhelming the reader. In most cases, it's easy to vegetarianize or veganize the few meatist recipes according to one's habits, and I guess that omnivores can also figure out how to add bacon if they're in the mood. Incidentally, I am so happy this book focuses on simple real foods and not on highly processed faux-meat - that's one of the things that tend to be a big turn off in some popular vegan cookbooks. I plan to make my way through more recipes in the near future.
The author's writing is a pleasure to read - it's personal and funny, on the one hand, but it's never irritating, cute, or over the top. It's very knowledgable, but without being dry or didactic. To use Holden Caulfield's test, the author is someone you'd probably like to chat with on the phone (or over a coffee/tea/beer/glass of wine).
I would really recommend this book to anyone looking to get more beans and grains into their diet or to someone who is vegetarian/vegan and is not interested in basing their nutrition on french fries and pasta or on expensive processed foods. The great thing about beans is that they're cheap, healthy, and tasty - and Crescent Dragonwagon's wonderful book will go a long way in making them accessible to home cooks.
on March 9, 2012
The 175 recipes in this bean cookbook, Bean by Bean covers the foods of every continent ranging from very simple to sophisticated. The author, Dragonwagon, gives a 22-page introduction about beans and other legumes, everything you need to know from growing to cooking. The book is a medium-format trade paperback, inexpensively produced using green only for color to offset the black-and-white text. Simple, cutsie sketches using green and black break up the text. The writing is good though the frivolous humor is not to everyone's taste. The recipes are very good covering the spectrum from appetizers through hearty casseroles, even some sweets using beans. The many sidebars, some more than a page long, give useful information, facts, quotations, personal stories and even folk songs. Each recipe comes with recipe tags denoting vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and those containing meat. Many give a variation on the recipe. Ingredients are mostly readily available. Though the author promotes using dry beans, many recipes start with canned beans and, unfortunately, she doesn't give conversions. Because of uninterrupted text, recipe layout is not user-friendly forcing the cook to flip pages back and forth during cooking. The well cross-referenced index is excellent. (As appears in Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review.)
on January 18, 2013
I was in the market for a bean cookbook so requested this one from the library. The recipes looked interesting, so today I made the Vegetarian Black Bean Chili. I think there are serious problems, like maybe they put "tablespoon" where it should read "teaspoon"? She has you make the beans first and add 3 tbs of ground cumin and 2 tbs. of ground coriander and 2 tbs of salt to one pound dried beans (after they've cooked). Then after the beans have cooked a little more you mix this with sauteed onions & potatoes, and the recipe instructs you to add more tbs. of salt, coriander and cumin. Fortunately I thought no way, and didn't add any more, and I am very glad of it. Even so it is really salty. Also the directions for using dried chilies are a problem. I'd never used dried chilis before so was intriqued. She says to put them in a heavy skillet at high heat to toast and it should take about 10 min. When I followed these directions they burned terribly and filled the house with smoke as well. I then checked online and one site said use medium heat and it should take about 20 sec to toast them!.. and that seems much closer to correct. I tossed my first batch and tried again at reduced heat and just until they seemed to have gotten warm and some of the moisture removed... about like when toasting nuts. Then I blended them and added them and I think it has worked and I'm glad to have tried it. Also, the recipe called for 8 pasilla chilies AND 8 new mexico chilies. I used 3 of each because I was so leery of her quantities on cumin, coriander and salt. Maybe 8 would be good, I have no idea, but 3 seems good too. So I'm a little concerned about trying any of the other recipes after this experience. With all these modifications, it seems like the chili will be very good, but how is one to know how to modify it, and why should you have to. I tried to find an errata, but didn't. Does anyone know if there is one?
on January 30, 2012
With the new year, I've decided that I don't want to go totally meatless, however, I do want to add in more vegetarian meals to my week. I have dried beans, however, sometimes I don't know quite what to do with them. This book has given me ideas on how to make healthier and tastier meals with beans. The chili section not only offers different recipes for chili, it also includes recipes for cornbread to eat with your chili. My first recipe out of this book was for Boston Baked Beans (go figure)made out of my crock pot. It had very simple ingredients and came out tasting wonderfully. Much better than what you would get out of any can! This cookbook will be good for all seasons.
on March 10, 2012
I have seen other reviews of this book, and my curiosity was peaked. My family doesn't eat lot of beans, but I would like to incorporate more of them into our diet. (I like black beans, refried beans, kidney beans, white beans myself.)
This is a comprehensive book about beans. The author starts with Bean Basics, discussing the many variety of beans and the basic cooking methods for each type: what to look for in a good green bean, shell beans and how to cook them, soaking beans- whatever you need to know about beans is covered here, no more need to fear them.
The ten chapters cover such topics like Hummus & Starters, with such recipes as Gotcha-Hotcha Sweet-Smoky Cocktail Peanuts, Hillbilly Hummus (made with peanut butter!) and Greektown Dip from Chicago's Greektown.
Soulful Simmer Soups is a great chapter that covers the world of beans literally. There are Middle Eastern Bean Soups (Spicy Syrian-Style Lentil Soup), African Bean Soups (Nigerian Seed-Thickened Beef & Shrimp Soup Stew), Asian Bean Soups (Thai Hot & Sour Soups), Indian Bean Soups (Sambar), European (Hungarian Green Bean Soup), and the Americas (Day after Thanksgiving Turkey, Wild Rice & Rattlesnake Bean Soup).
Of course there are many chili recipes, curry recipes and a chapter on skillets and stir fries that contains an interesting vegetable hash recipe I want to try.The last chapter has desserts, with Julie's Peanut Butter Cup Brownies that looks good and I never would have thought I'd find in a bean cookbook!
I like that each recipe has symbols next to it that states whether it is compatible for vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free diets or has meat in it. That makes it easy for anyone with dietary restrictions or preferences to quickly see if the recipe is for them.
The only negative I have is that there are no photos of recipes in the book, but it is a substantial book, and I guess that photos would add to the heft of the book.
If you like beans or would like to add more beans to your diet, this is the cookbook to pick up. I can't imagine that there is any information about beans that I would like to know that is not in this comprehensive, 175-recipe book.
on January 26, 2012
I preordered this book after reading an article in The Salinas Californian featuring this book and a recipe. I am following the vegetarian version of a plan (The Four Hour Body)in which I get to eat beans with every meal 6-7 days a week, so I have been looking for more variety.
One might expect this book to be 100% vegetarian, as I did, based on the cover recipes being vegetarian and the author's prior works. The table of contents doesn't make the inclusion of non-vegetarian items apparent. One must read halfway through the verbose introduction or carefully examine the index to see that some recipes are not. It's not a deal breaker for me, but may be unappetizing for others.
I don't object to the book including vegan, vegetarian and "meatist" options. I just think that it should have been apparent by reading the cover. I originally rated this book at 4 stars based on reading it. Now having worked my way through a variety of recipes, I'm finding that the premise is good but the recipes are just okay.
The Black Bean Fauxjoada Vegetariana (196-197)calls for cooking the beans with a halved orange. This directly contradicts the advice an page 19-"Never-except in the case of black soybeans and large limas-should you add salt to beans until they are tender. The same goes for any acidic ingredient (vinegar, lemon juice, even tomatoes. Why? These ingredients toughen the outer coats..." The result, overly firm beans and an orange flavor more reminiscent of the pith than any other aspect of an orange. I did not expect it to be sweet, just not pithy.
CD'S Beans & Greens Pasta with Lemon, Garlic & Chile (273) was just so-so to me but my husband hated the way the cooked greens overwhelmed the rest of the dish.
The "Crisping" Marinade & Method for Oven-Baked Tofu (250) was moderately successful. I combined it with an asparagus-based stir fry.
The only clear winner in my household so far is the Huevos Rancheros (270) the recipe is a welcome short-cut to getting dinner on the table quickly. I tried it with both salsa verde and a roasted tomato salsa.
As for product recommendations in the book:
*Despite what it says on page 9, fresh liquid Beano isn't available in the US. Only tablets and meltaways are. Source: [...] Also, it says all over Amazon that this product is discontinued. "Note: Expiration date is 10/10 Beano drops are no longer made by the manufacturer. Any drops found anywhere will be expired."
*The No-Bacon Bacon Salt suggested on page 112 was nearly $4 for a 2 oz. container at Nob Hill. It tastes more like those fake bacon salad sprinkles than bacon. I tried it straight and again in Crescent's Vegan Take on Ruth's Southern Country-style Green Bean Soup with Potatoes (113).
After 3 weeks or working through this book, I think I have exhausted the best options. I'm moving on to How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.
on January 23, 2012
I have been a fan of Crescent Dragonwagon's cookbooks since her "Passionate Vegetarian" became my bible through a decade of personal and culinary transformation into a vegetarian. Bean by Bean is a valuable addition to ANY recipe book collection just because of the well-researched, simple, absolutely delicious recipes. It's not all vegetarian, by the way, Crescent shares some meat adding possibilities and some Vegan options, but mostly she's a vegetarian kind of cook. Bean by Bean is also a culinary education about legumes, lessons that all plant-based diet aspirers (we should all be that, ahem) will appreciate and enjoy. Moreso and to utter delight, it is written in the honest, passionate, life-embracing voice of Crescent Dragonwagon. She knows, she cares, she'll whip you into a frenzy of loving BEANS! You will undoubtedly question how it is you became all "in a lather" over beans, so prepare yourself, lol. Crescent is the ultimate Girlfriend of all of us who love cooking. SO much more Oprah than Martha, Crescent is your friend here as well as your teacher. She's the real deal, she hasn't been invented by a cable TV mogul, she has that Sark kind of approachability and empathy, what you see and what you get is trustworthy, real, experienced, improved, shared. All this because she is not only wonderful, she's a wonderful writer. I am face down in my copy of Bean by Bean, have sent it to 3 young people I know who are taking charge of their diets by embracing Vegetarian and Vegan lifestyles. Here's the magic: In Bean by Bean you learn that you can eat the greatest comforting food on earth AS you save the earth. Bean by Bean is, more than anything else, for those of us who love delicious comfort food, care about healthy eating, and care about the earth and the animals.
on September 24, 2012
I enjoy CD's books a great deal - I have *many* of them. Her children's books started it all for me. I have several of her cookbooks and read them first like novels (and she does break the 4th wall and speak to us as we read in this one). I feel as if she and I are having a comfortable chat.
Several of her recipes can be "meatist" as she says; the other options are vegetarian and vegan - nice to have choices (and they are spelled out for beginners). I am not vegan nor totally vegetarian but I do cook vegan sometimes and vegetarian sometimes, but my sister-in-law is vegetarian and a cousin is a chicken / fish eating mostly vegetarian, so I appreciate having all options.
I love, Love, LOVE the recipes from all over and the history / story that goes with them. The recipes are easy to follow and SPECIFIC; even novice cooks can succeed.
Minestrone (p. 92), Tuesday Fava Bean & Rice Soup (p. 94), Pasta E Fagioli (p. 96), Greek Gigandes or White Bean Soup (p. 100), Black Bean Soup (p. 114) are some of my favorite soups. Beginning on p. 247 she gives marinades for tofu. I like CD's Beans & Greens Pasta (p. 273). And, I am fond her take on 7-Layer Tex-Mex Mountain (p. 41; a potluck dip for lots or a meal for several). I like many of her other recipes, too, but these are some of my absolute faves.
I regard the book so much I've purchased multiple copies as gifts and have recommended it to many people.
on May 3, 2013
A friend recommended this book and it is amazing. The spice blends used and the creativity is off of the charts. I'm a professional caterer and the mole bean recipe is amazing; I use it for clients. Do not underestimate this book; the recipes are neither simple nor predictable and they are nothing but spectacular and full of International twists. She did an amazing job on this book! All of the recipes look great.
on February 2, 2012
I've been cooking beans for 30 years because I've had to (they're cheap) and because I want to (I don't eat much meat, and I like their earthiness), and I know my way around a bean. Crescent Dragonwagon knocked me way far out of my usual orbit with her new book. Bean by Bean is full of great ideas for infusing beans with deep, satisfying, addictive flavor. I served the Syrian-Style Red Lentil Soup at an afternoon party, and a guest told me she stopped at the grocery on the way home to get the ingredients to make this soup for her family. Beans for company. Beans for both quick and slow dinners. Beans for dessert! I love this author's approach to ingredients: she grows many vegetables herself and shares information about beans as only a true gardener could. I love this author's approach with her reader: she wants to inspire, connect, and empower. After reading her thirteen (!) recipes for chili in this book, you will know for sure that she wants you to experiment beyond this book. In Bean by Bean, beans become a way to affirm how simple ingredients become a path of discovery and well-being. (Well bean! Ha!) I love this book. If you want to eat more beans, read this book. If you already eat a lot of beans, read this book! Joy!