World Chefs: New cookbook spills the beans ... on beans

Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:24am EST
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By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Award-winning cookbook author Crescent Dragonwagon knows a lot about beans -- all kinds of beans, and how to use them to create everything from soups and salads to stews and curries and even cookies and ice cream.

Her latest cookbook, "Bean by Bean," contains 175 recipes for meat and vegetarian meals, as well as the basics about different beans and their origins, and selecting, preparing, cooking and storing them.

The 59-year-old author and former restaurant owner spoke to Reuters about her passion for beans, their appeal and healthy benefits -- and how to avoid an embarrassing side effect of eating them.

Q: Why did you write a cookbook about beans?

A: "First of all there are thousands of varieties of beans. Second of all you can eat them at every phase of their lifecycle. Third of all they are the only plant that actually enriches the soil by growing as opposed to depleting it. They put nitrogen back in the soil, so they enrich the soil ... In these straightened financial times beans are the food of the 99 percent and they would be the food of the one percent if they knew what was good for them. They are healthy. They are inexpensive and they are absolutely like the perfect canvas for any picture you want to paint with them from sweet to tart to creamy to smooth to texture to spicy."

Q: How did you learn so much about beans?

A: "I tend to be a person who when I get interested in something I get obsessed by it ... What happens to me is that I will fall in love with a particular ingredient, or a particular dish ... Once I make the decision that something has intrigued me enough to draw me in there is no end to it."

Q: Beans are a popular and staple food in many countries but not as popular in others, why is that?   Continued...

Cookbook author and chef Crescent Dragonwagon is shown in a recent photo. REUTERS/Walter Fogg/ Brattleboro Food Co-Op/Handout