The Great Bean Book is a collaboration between Florence Fabricant, a food writer for The New York Times, Elizabeth Berry, a farmer near Santa Fe, NM, who grows hundreds of kinds of beans, and Lois Ellen Frank, a photographer specializing in the culinary arts. Deceptively slim as a string bean, this book is crammed with information, color photos, and dishes that stick with you like a rich cassoulet. Informative and intriguing, it is vivid with the colorful history of legumes and with photographs of 35 varieties of beans, from ivory white emergos, still nested in their verdant pod, to black runners, bright as polished onyx.
Fabricant provides the story of beans, starting with the emergence of legumes in Paleolithic times. She describes the three great families of beans, soy from Asia, haricots from the New World, and favas from the Old, where their cultivation began in 4,800 BC or earlier. Her description of "the tantalizingly subtle, smoky flavor that hints of coriander" in the Mark Bean, handsomely dappled in maroon over warm beige, and followed by chef Mark Miller's recipe for stewing these beans with anise, coriander and hot chipotle chiles, demonstrates the romance and gustatory pleasure that are possible with legumes.
Many of the 53 recipes in The Great Bean Book were contributed by well-known chefs. They range from the bold simplicity of Mediterranean Chickpea and Feta Salad with Olives to Larry Forgione's sophisticated Seared Red Snapper with White Aztec Beans and Chanterelles, where the lush beans compliment the lean fish, and both are enhanced by the flavors of the silky mushrooms, mellow Sherry, and earthy rosemary.
Flip through The Great Bean Book and never again will legumes seem dull-looking or monotonously bland and boring. Note: while some dishes are meatless, many include meat, poultry, or fish. --Dana Jacobi [via]