3 new ways to pop edamame into meals

LOS ANGELES "You can do so many things with it. It doesn't need to be just steamed and served in the pod like they do in sushi restaurants," said Todd Allison, the executive chef of Checkers Downtown. "You can take them, you can puree them and make a pesto out of them, you can take them, toss them in oil and garlic and char them on the grill in a wire basket."

The almighty soybean is a nutritional powerhouse, offering complex carbohydrate and protein that contains the amino acids a body needs, along with a nice source of vitamin A and fiber, to name a few good things.

At Checkers Downtown, Allison made three edamame dishes.

"I took a roasted Portabello mushroom, sliced it nice and thin, took edamame and pureed them with a little roasted garlic, olive oil and pine nuts, and took a little burrata mozzarella, place that on top," Allison said.

The dish is nicely married with a nice little arugula and radish salad

If you feel like going gourmet, Allison offers another unique dish.

"Grilled lobster and just steamed edamame, which is also tossed with blood orange pomegranate syrup and frisee and watercress," Allison said.

The chef says it is easy to swap shrimp for lobster if lobster is too pricey or time consuming.

For his third dish, Allison charred the edamame, rather than use it pureed or boiled, a nice complement to his calamari salad.

"Tossed them in a little olive oil," he said. "Put them in a wire basket or pasta basket, and the natural oils will start to flame up and get that nice charred texture."

If you haven't tried using them before, you'll find them in the freezer section available in both pod or shelled. Either way put them in salted boiling water for five minutes and they'll be done.

Calorie-wise, a quarter-cup shelled is a cholesterol-lowering snack for under 100 calories. They're also crunchy and fun when dry roasted.

Allison will be offering his edamame specialties for $4/dish between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 22. He also posts tips and recipes on his Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/CheckersDowntown.

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