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THE LOST ITALIAN: Tony's edamame salad wins weekend pick

Edamame Salad Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO --  While we're still formulating our summer menu, one of our newer favorites has already made the cut, and that honor goes to Tony's Edamame Salad.

Tony developed this recipe last summer for the inaugural Banquet in a Field, a dinner event celebrating North Dakota's rich agricultural crops, which includes soybeans, one of the state's top cash crops.

Edamame (pronounced ed-ah-MAH-may) are the beans harvested from immature soybean plants and are commonly found in the various cuisines of Eastern Asia.

While most of us are familiar with the use of soy in food products like vegetable oil, margarine, frozen yogurt and soy sauce, we don't often think of it as an edible food on its own. In fact, prior to last year's banquet, neither Tony nor I had ever tasted edamame, and were only familiar with it as a dry-roasted healthy snack. Once we determined that an edamame dish would represent the soybean crop, we started researching this new ingredient.

We discovered that edamame is considered a "superfood" -- in other words, it's a rock star in the world of legumes and is loaded with vital nutrients, minerals and vitamins. One single half-cup of edamame beans is loaded with healthy benefits, including protein, antioxidants like vitamins A and C, iron and even a walloping 9 grams of fiber (that's equal to four slices of whole wheat bread). Edamame had grabbed our attention with its over-the-top healthy credentials, but was this strange green bean tasty enough to keep it?

We visited our local grocery store and found a package of edamame beans in the frozen foods section, still in their pods. The beans need to be thawed and peeled before using, and this is a step that can be done a day in advance of making the salad. To accelerate the thawing process Tony blanched the pods in a pot of simmering water for about 3 minutes before removing their shell, but you can defrost them overnight in the refrigerator, too.

Out of their shell, edamame beans are about the size of a thumbnail. They have a lovely, bright-green color and charming round shape, with a crisp, garden-fresh flavor and crunchy texture. The soybean plant is native to Asia, and after tasting the edamame beans Tony focused on Asian flavors to create this recipe.

This dish is what I like to call a "bulk" salad, in that it is made in a large batch and served family-style. In addition to the edamame, this salad also features fresh corn, red pepper, red and green onions, sesame seeds, toasted cashews or almonds and a flavorful Asian Soy Dressing. All of the ingredients can be prepared a day in advance and tossed together just before serving to keep  the veggies fresh.

Tony recommends toasting the nuts before adding them to the salad, as this extra step really enhances their flavor. The dressing calls for fresh ginger and sesame oil, which are essential for this recipe. Both are inexpensive and easy to keep; the ginger can be stored in the fridge for about a month, and the sesame oil will last for at least a year in the pantry.

Tony's Edamame Salad makes a great side dish with chicken or fish, and any leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for about three days, until the beans begin to soften.

Tony's Edamame Salad

Ingredients
2 pounds edamame beans, shelled
1½ cups fresh corn kernels
1 cup red bell pepper, small diced
½ cup red onion, small diced
½ cup green onions, sliced on the bias (diagonally)
¼ cup black and white sesame seeds, optional
¼ to ½ cup cashews, toasted and rough-chopped
Asian Soy Dressing (recipe below)

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing until coated. Serve and enjoy.

Asian Soy Dressing

Ingredients
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Directions
Whisk all ingredients together in a mixing bowl; taste and adjust with salt and pepper as desired. Use entire amount for Tony's Edamame Salad. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Tony's Tips

  • The edamame must be thawed before removing from shell. To accelerate this process, you can blanch the pods in a pot of gently simmering water for about 3 minutes.
  •  For an attractive presentation, cut the red pepper and red onion into small dices, about the size of a pinky nail. Keep them smaller than the edamame beans, which are the star of the recipe.
  • For added elegance, cut the green onions on a bias, or diagonally.
  •  Be creative and add different vegetables like carrots, broccoli and yellow or orange bell peppers.

"Home With the Lost Italian" is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo. Readers can reach them at dine//thelostitalian.areavoices.com.

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