I was intrigued to pick up a packet of edamame beans at my local Woolworths yesterday and, never having seen such a bean sold in the snowy tundras of South Africa, let alone tasted one, I bought them, chomped on them on the way home in the car, and hurried to my desk to Google them.
To my surprise, Google couldn't product a single decent description of them, until I realised I was ignorantly searching for 'endamame' with an N.
Once I'd amended my keyword to 'edamame', I learned that this beautiful jade-green beanlet is a green soybean, picked young in its pod.
The Woolworths package label told me that the beans are delicious quickly sautéed in butter, but I really liked the taste of them raw, so I made them into this salad, which has fennel for an aniseed crunch, avocado for silkiness, and a crumbling of frizzled pancetta for salty crispiness. If you can't find edamame beans, try this salad with shelled fresh peas. (And if you can't find pancetta, use streaky bacon instead.)
You can dress this salad with anything you like, but a light dressing of lemon juice and olive oil with a little garlic and a whisper of soy sauce was just right for me.
At the last minute I added a handful of young mustard greens (grown, tenderly, from seed, by my daughter in her little vegetable patch). Have you tried growing your own mustard greens? They sprout like weeds, mature quickly and have a lovely mustardy zing. The ones in the picture are the Florida Broadleaf variety.
This salad is delicious, but very filling, and very fart-producing: if you're serving this to friends, give them just a teacup each.
Spring Salad of Edamame Beans, Fennel, Avocado and Pancetta, with Lemon and Garlic Dressing
6 rashers of pancetta (or streaky bacon)
2 young bulbs of fresh fennel, plus a few of the feathery fennel leaves
1½ cups (375 ml) edamame beans (or fresh peas from the pod)
2 spring onions, white parts only, finely sliced
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 perfectly ripe, firm avocado
mustard greens [optional]
For the dressing:1 clove fresh garlic, peeled and crushed
3 Tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
100 ml olive oil
a pinch of white sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
First prepare the pancetta. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high flame. When the pan is really hot, add a lick of oil and add the pancetta or bacon strips. Allow them to fry, undisturbed, until brown on the underneath. Flip them over, and cook for another minute or so, until they are brown and crisp. Remove from the pan, drain on a piece of kitchen paper, crumble into pieces and set aside.
Now make the dressing: whisk all the dressing ingredients together and set aside while you make the salad.
For the salad: Slice the fennel bulbs away from their stalks and peel off the tough outer leaves. Slice the bulbs in half, lengthways, and chip out the fibrous core, if there is one. Slice finely, as if you are slicing a leek. Finely chop one or two of the feathery fennel fronds. Put the fennel slices and chopped leaves into a bowl and add the edamame beans, chopped spring onions and chopped parsley.
Peel the avocado, remove the pip and peel, slice into neat cubes and add to the bowl along with the mustard greens. Tip over just enough dressing to coat all the ingredients and toss gently to combine. Sprinkle over the crumbled pancetta and add the mustard greens. Check the seasoning (this salad needs more salt than you would imagine).
Serves 4, as a starter or side dish.