Edamame means "beans on a branch" in Japanese, but in American kitchens the word refers to immature soybeans. You can't eat the fuzzy pods, but the beans inside are tender and flavorful. Use a light hand when you prepare edamame; overcooking makes it tough.
Rarely available fresh in the U.S., edamame is more often sold frozen, with or without the shell. Frozen edamame has been parboiled to preserve its freshness, so it's already partially cooked. You can thaw it in the refrigerator or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds before you eat it. Toss shelled edamame directly in soups and salads, where they'll thaw quickly.
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Edamame, unlike other dry beans that need long periods of soaking, is soft, tender and easy to digest. Because of this, you can safely thaw and eat it without further cooking. However, if you want to cook edamame, place it in a steamer or a saucepan with a bit of water and simmer the pods for five to 10 minutes. For even faster results, heat edamame in the microwave on the high setting for one to two minutes. Add a bit of water to a microwave-safe bowl and cover the bowl with a microwave-safe lid or plate. After cooking the edamame, drain the water and enjoy.
Edamame is available frozen in a variety of packaging, from bulk bags of pods to convenient microwaveable bags. Toss one of these bags in the microwave for a minute to heat it, or thaw the bags in the fridge or at room temperature. Regardless of your preparation method, edamame is ready in less than five minutes.
Whether you thaw edamame or cook it before serving, the tender, fuzzy pods need little embellishment. Toss the pods with salt or sprinkle them with soy sauce. Clasp the pods between your teeth to squeeze the beans out. Add the shelled beans to almost any green salad, but in particular, edamame is delicious in an Asian-inspired green salad. Toss soy-seasoned salmon with baby greens, edamame, chopped pecans, strawberries and red pepper and drizzle with a soy or ginger-based dressing.