Don’t Forget About Adzuki Beans!

The wind is starting to whip outside, the rain is turning back to snow, and I’m hoping my dream to cross-country ski from Avenue H to Prospect Park and back will be fulfilled.  I also hope all of you on the Northeast are staying safe and sound.

I was in the mood for a hearty lunch after trekking out to Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn in the cold to teach and then doing my own practice.  I wanted something warming and flavorful… My solution was an adzuki (aka aduki and azuki) bean cassoulet kind of dish with collard greens.  (Ok – I also added some sausage from Brooklyn’s famous Los Paisanos that my husband had defrosted and needed to be used.)  Lunch was satisfying but not swell enough to blog about.  It did inspire the following thoughts, however:

  1. One day soon, I’ll make a real cassoulet.  A dish originally from the South of France, a cassoulet is a rich, slow-cooked casserole that usually contains meat, pork skin, and white haricot beans.  I’d like to invent a  vegetarian version, too.
  2. I was reminded how delicious, nutritious, and versatile adzuki beans are!  These small beans have been eaten for thousands of years.  In fact, it’s believed they were first cultivated during Japan’s Jomon period around 4000BC.  Though we are most familiar with red adzuki beans, white, black, gray, and mottled varieties also exist.

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In addition to being used in savory dishes, adzuki beans are frequently used in Asian desserts. Ever had a red bean bun? That wonderful, earthy legume paste inside is made from sweetened adzuki beans.

Sans sugar, these little legumes are great for your health.  They’re loaded with protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and folic acid. As my friend Chinese doctor Esther Hadassa told me, adzuki beans are believed to remove excessive “dampness” from the body, which is often needed during the winter months.  According to Chinese medicine, they’re a natural antibiotic and excellent to eat if you feel like you’re coming down with a cold or simply need an energetic boost.  Adzuki are also considered a good “blood builder”.

If you’re buying canned beans, it’s worth investing a little more and buying organic.  As I recently learned, it’s not unusual for conventional canned beans to contain unwanted sweeteners, preservatives, coloring agents (such as Disodium EDTA), firming agents (like calcium chloride) and high amounts of sodium.  A can of Eden Organic, BPA free adzuki beans is about $2.30-$2.50.  It’s also nice that Eden Organic’s adds a little kombu sea vegetable in the mix, which can help cut gas and bloating by breaking down culprit sugars (never a bad thing!).

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Preparing dry beans is also very easy. 

Here’s what you do:

  • Rinse beans and then soak them in water for 1 day.
  • Drain and then put in a pot and cover with fresh water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 1 ½ hours.  If you have kombu, add it.
  • Drain beans and use as you wish! They’ll keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Got a favorite adzuki bean recipe? Please share it here!

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