Cooking Aduki Beans for a Healthy Salad Bowl.
I had never heard of an aduki bean until I was living in my first apartment on Jane Street in the West Village. It was the year of the movie, Last Tango in Paris, 1972. How I came to live on Jane Street and eventually discover that tiny red bean called an aduki, is a bit of a tale. I had graduated college in 1971, and my parents certainly did not want me living at home anymore. My mother and I always had a tempestuous relationship, characterized by a lot of slamming doors on my part during our frequent fights. Ironically, I was to become my mother's caretaker in the years after my father died. She became dependent and ultimately alzheimer's took her mind. Taking care of her in those end years, I learned how to love her in a way I never had.
After college, I had no money. Outside of some very little babysitting, and a seasonal Christmas job at Macys, let's just say that I did not have a clue about the working life. Therefore, I initially did move back home, to live with my parents, Harold and Ann.
Growing up in the early 50's and 60's before feminism, the message was to become a secretary, get married, have kids, and all that goes with that package of life. The joke at the time, went that women went to college to graduate with a "Mrs" degree. I, in fact, graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in graphic design. I chose this major by default, after the college did away with their painting major. I had little idea what graphic design was, but was soon enlightened during my first semester in that major. I was eons behind one of the boys in my class, whose father had been a graphic designer. My own father had gone to farm school to become a chicken farmer. My mother married him upon his graduation, and they started life together on their farm in Southern N.J.
No "Mrs." degree for me. In the 70's I became part of the feminist generation. During that era, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millett, Germaine Greer, and others were spokeswomen for the movement. Ms. Magazine was born, and everyone I knew belonged to consciousness raising groups, myself included.
Having by default moved home after college, I set about to find a job. I began climbing the ladder. My goal was to work my way up to a job as a graphic designer, and I hoped to have a career in that field. I went around showing possible employers a ridiculous art portfolio, with all my projects from college. There was no comparison to the work of other recent graduates from the top art schools like Pratt, or The School of Visual Arts. Luckily, the husband of one of my mom's Mah-jongg friends set me up for an interview at CBS for a job as a photographer's assistant. Even then, networking was the best way to find a job. Although at that time, there would be pages and pages of job offerings in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. There were also seedy employment agencies throughout the city to help you get interviews and place you in a job. These things no longer exist. Job hunting today is all through the internet, networking and being "Linked In."
My interviewer at CBS was kind, and obviously was willing to do a favor for his friend who recommended me. Much to my surprise, I was hired. I got my first real job. Just as easily, like the game of chutes and ladders, I figuratively slid down a chute, and was let go at the end of that summer. The photographer with whom I worked was used to his last assistant, a buddy for hanging out after work. They would haunt bars and go club hopping together. I was too green, not hip enough, and did not have the right personality for being his work and after work buddy. Despite the incompatibility of our personalities, it was quite a summer. At that time they actually still had a stable of sketch artists working at CBS in the same studio as the photography darkroom. The sketch artists were real old timers, and told lots of stories about the television trade. I loved hanging out with them, watching them sketch pictures of soap opera stars, and hearing what they had to say about life.
I then went on to find my fortune, working as a paste-up artist at Bristol Meyers. I had graduated college with a BS in graphic design, and was trying to "work my way up." At that point, with a few shekels in my pocket, I started to look for an apartment. Today, when I walk the streets of the Greenwich Village, Thompson Street, Sullivan Street, and such, I still remember that breathless, nervous anticipation of starting a new life, without having any life skills. I would go to a realtor by myself, and amazingly, they would write the address of the apartment on a scrap of paper, hand you a set of keys on a key ring with instructions about how to open any quirky locks, and send you off on your own to check out the apartment. This was pre-gentrification, and the apartments were dirty, dingy places, with noise in the hallways, cracked walls, and smells of ethnic food being cooked behind the closed doors. I would climb flight after flight of stairs, making my way up to what was inevitably the top floor apartment, at least 4 flights up. Sometimes, there would even be a bathtub in the kitchen.
All of my life I think I have taken two steps forward and one step back again. I have a great sense of adventure, curiosity, and discovery. I will try most anything. But then, I most often will get scared, a bit overwhelmed, and back away and retreat. I have to try things multiple times before I am really comfortable with something and really get it, and am ready to take those two more steps forward. So, after viewing many apartments in what was then still considered part of Little Italy, my adventurous self backed down and became more of the Jewish Princess that I was brought up to be. My mother wanted me to live in a "safe" doorman building, and my older brother was already living in one on Jane Street. There were plenty of studio apartments in my brother's building, and thus, with a subsidy from my parents for my monthly rent, I became a new tenant at 31 Jane Street. As it is, life is not always what it appears to be on the surface. One of the "safe" doormen, Frank, was most always drunk and smelled of alcohol, and he had a fungus on all of his finger nails. I didn't really feel too safe with him. He took lascivious pleasure in noting which "gentlemen callers" took the elevator up to my studio apartment. To put it bluntly, the "safe" doorman turned my stomach a little bit every time I entered the building and had to pass by him to get to the elevator.
Back to our little aduki bean. My fledgling life in the Village resembled the lives of the characters depicted years later in the movie Next Stop Greenwich Village. One of the buildings' tenants was a young man with whom I had a few dates. He had a long-limbed best friend, a free soul wild man, who was the first vegetarian that I had ever met. Today, some children are proclaimed vegetarians at birth by their parents, but in those days, to meet a vegetarian was rare.
The three of us would hang out. We saw the first Godfather movie together, and were awed by it. The free soul owned a small private airplane and we flew to Montauk once for a picnic in the sun at the beach. On the flight there the engine conked out when we were up in the sky with the clouds. No one broke the silence of the moment as we hung suspended in the sky. Until our free soul pilot was able to flip the engine back on again, I imagined our little plane floating down, like a feather in the air, the trees would break our fall, and we would gently land. Lucky for us the engine restarted almost as quickly as it had stopped, and upon reaching our destination we magically landed right on a beach at the water's edge.
We three would often have meals together in the evening. One of those evenings involved a pressure-cooker, which I had never seen, as well as aduki beans, brown rice and veggies for cooking inside the pot. Condiments were used such as Shoyu. A new world opened up. It was the time of some early vegetarian cookbooks, such as "Diet for a Small Planet" by Frances Moore Lappe and "Macrobiotic Diet" by Michio Kushi. I wound up buying my own pressure cooker and experimenting. I had a long way to go before I became conversant with all beans, such as garbanzos, great northern white beans, and even the now commonly known kidney bean.
Recently I came across this Amy Chaplin recipe for an Aduki bean Salad. She calls it a summer salad, but I think it is good for all year round, especially when you want a lighter healthier meal. I substituted in some changes based upon what I had in my kitchen. I used toasted walnuts instead of sesame seeds, and a long cucumber, not so thickly sliced. Making this recipe allowed me to revisit the aduki bean and explore it's possibilities. Dear Reader, I hope you will be adventurous and try this recipe too. Enjoy!
Summer Aduki Bean Salad
- 1 cup aduki beans soaked overnight in 3 cups of filtered water
- 2- inch piece combo
- 1 medium Lebanese cucumber finely sliced.
- 4 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 2 tablespoons flax oil
- 1 cup chopped parsley leaves and stems
- 2 scallions finely sliced
- 1-½ tablespoons toasted brown sesame seeds
- Sliced avocado to serve optional
Drain and rinse aduki beans, and place in a medium sized pot. Add 4 cups of filtered water, comb and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and summer for 25 to 30 minutes or until beans are soft and creamy inside but not falling apart.
Remove from heat and drain (reserve the cooking liquid to drink).
Set aside to cool.
Place cucumber, 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar and salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Allow to pickle for 20 minutes or longer. Stirring every now an then.
Place cooked aduki beans in a bowl and add remaining rice vinegar, tame and flax oil; gently mix to combine. Add parsley, scallions and sesame seeds to bowl. Squeeze juice out of cucumbers (reserve the juice if using) and add the cucumbers to the bean mixture. Mix to combine and season to taste.
Serve in a bowl topped with sliced avocado and a drizzle of pickling juice if you like.