Tuesday, December 24, 2013

black soybean bowl with brown rice and quick-pickled vegetables

I suspect that by now, many of you are in a new place where you're going to stay for a day or two, perhaps for even longer.  Maybe there is an evergreen to dress up all sparkly, and some little ones running around underfoot.  Maybe there are some gifts yet to be wrapped (or all of them, in my case).  And almost definitely there are cookies to be eaten, or eggnog to be drunk, or gingerbread homes to be nibbled piece by piece until the little gingerpeople are totally homeless and then there's nothing to do but to eat them, too.

Or maybe, all of the above.  This is the time of year when I revel in excess, pouring a second or third glass of eggnog with a breezy cry of "tis the season!"  I don't ever count calories, but at some point my body just hits a wall and I have to dial it back—or, I slip into an eggnog-induced coma.  Whichever comes first.  (Usually, it's the coma.)

Lighter fare like this can make a welcome break from all the indulgence.  If you haven't heard by now, I created a lovely little set of recipes for the December issue of Vegetarian Times magazine—the article is about the traditions of eating beans on New Year's Day, all over the world.  We Boston yanks don't often hear about the customary black-eyed peas and collards in the south, but it's meant for good luck: the small shapes of the beans symbolize coins, while the green collards stand in for paper money.  Throw in some cornbread for gold, and you're set to attract wealth in the year to come.  You'll find similar traditions in Italy and Brazil, where lentils represent coins.  In Japan, the traditional New Year's cuisine is Osechi Ryori, a set of beautiful, varied dishes made especially for the holiday.

This black soybean bowl was a concept that I developed for that article, but we went with a different recipe instead (along with thisthis, and this).  These beans are a riff on kuromame, black soybeans cooked in a sweet syrup, which symbolize a wish for good health in the New Year.  The beans here are dressed up with garlic, ginger, and a bit of red pepper for extra flavor.

The inspiration for the rest of the bowl was another traditional dish from the Osechi Ryori, carrots and daikon radish flavored with vinegar.  The sweet-sour crunch of the vegetables works magic, freshening up the darker flavors of the beans.  And if they bring good luck or good health, well, that's just an added bonus.

Black Soybean Bowl with Brown Rice and Quick-Pickled Vegetables
Serves 4

Black soybeans can be difficult to find, but if you see a can, it's worth picking up.  Inside you'll find a nutty taste, pleasantly firm texture, and of course, high levels of protein and fiber.  You might find a can of Eden brand black soybeans at a specialty foods store, like I did, or at an Asian market.

For the vegetables:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1/2 cup sliced English or Persian cucumber
1/2 cup julienned or thinly sliced carrot

1.  Whisk the sugar and salt into the vinegar in a large bowl until completely dissolved.  Add the cabbage, cucumber, and carrots and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the vegetables marinate at room temperature while you make the black soybean bowl.

For the black soybean bowl:
1 cup brown rice
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 can black soybeans
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

1.  Put the rice and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed.  Usually this will take about 40 minutes.  Once the rice has finished cooking, let it sit off the heat, covered, for at least 5 minutes.

2.  Heat the sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat, then add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.  Add the red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.

3.  Add the black soybeans, honey, and salt, and mix well.  Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Taste, and season with salt if desired.

4.  To serve, divide the rice, black soybeans, and vegetables between 4 bowls, and sprinkle with the scallion and sesame seeds.


  1. I love the name of your blog! I think I will be needing a soybean bowl after all the bad food I've consumed during the holidays. Thanks for sharing. :-)

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