Monday, February 8, 2010


Last week my friend, Ronnie Fein, posted a comment about her dislike of soy. Ronnie wrote that she is always trying to shed a few pounds and eat healthy, that she is in the food "biz" (an understatement from this very prolific cookbook author and food writer), and that she knows a lot about ingredients, another understatement.

And she wants me to help her get over balking about any recipe that has the word soy in it? Ronnie thinks all soy is, and I quote: "some kind of white shaky thing that reminds me of junket."

The problem is, I'm not the one to convince Ronnie. Years ago, I got on the soy bandwagon, and even went as far as making tofu chili for my family. I tried passing off the white chunks as cheese, but not one of them bought it. The chili went in the garbage. It was actually quite tasty, but even for me, it was the consistency of the tofu that turned me off. I also question why I would eat something with no taste, something that takes on the flavors of the other ingredients you pare with it. But I tried and tried because I thought it was so healthy for me, something I should be eating.

Fast forward a few years, and we begin to discover the downside to soy. It is not easy to digest, which is actually interesting since it is found in so many baby formulas. Today, I turn to "Integrative Nutrition," in which Joshua Rosenthal sums up what I have been reading in dribbles about soy the past few years. Here are some of Rosenthal's tidbits:
  • Because of soy's natural occurring isoflavones, soy can suppress thyroid function.
  • Soy products can cause allergic reactions and digestive upset because most soy products are highly processed.
  • Some research shows that genistein, a chemical found in soy, can potentially damage fertility, especially in men.
  • Soy isoflavones can also increase estrogen, and some researchers claim that eating soy during menopause can cause some negative symptoms.
  • Some research links increased estrogen levels with a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
  • This is my favorite: In Zen monasteries, men eat tofu to help reduce their sex drive so they can live celibate lives.
Rosenthal suggests adding it to your diet in moderation, but when you do, to listen to your body. I have included a recipe from his book for tofu, because I have to admit that I did make this a few weeks ago and thought it was terrific. Jack was away, because he will never let the stuff pass his lips, so I avoid making tofu when he is around. Except for edamame, which everyone in my family -- even Jack -- likes. Edamame, young whole soybeans, are harvested at the peak of ripening. We eat them as a snack. (Alton Brown's recipe below includes an easy way to fix edamame.) To eat, you run the pod through your lightly closed front teeth, sucking out the pod. A half cup of edamame has 100 calories, 3g fat (no saturated), 260mg sodium, 4g fiber, and a whopping 8g protein.

What follows are two recipes, the first from Rosenthal, the second from Brown, found at What bothers me about this post is I'm not sure I convinced anyone to give either a try! We are so fortunate to have a wealth of ingredients at hand, to make wonderful meals. Why force it just because you think you should. So Ronnie, that's my advice to you!

1 block firm tofu
2 to 3 Tblsp. olive oil
2 Tblsp. sesame oil
1 Tblsp. ginger juice (directions follow)
1/2 Tblsp. tamari soy sauce
1.2 cup brown rice vinegar
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves shredded garlic
  • Drain liquid from tofu
  • Press excess water from tofu by placing it in a strainer over a bowl.
  • Cover tofu with a plate and place a heavy object on top, pressing the tofu. Leave for 1 hour.
  • Make ginger juice: Grate about 2 inches of ginger into a piece of cheesecloth or dishtowel. Then wrap the cloth or towel around the ginger and squeeze into a bowl, and you'll get the juice.
  • Cut tofu into 1-inch squares after draining.
  • Set tofu aside and prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients.
  • Marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Heat oil and sesame oil in skillet.
  • Add tofu and quick stir-fry until tofu become golden brown.


12 oz. shelled, cooked, and cooled edamame, about 2 cups, recipe follows
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
1 large garlic clove, sliced
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
1 Tblsp. brown miso
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. red chili paste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
5 Tblsp. olive oil

  • Place the edamame, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, miso, salt, chili paste and pepper into the bowl of a food processor and process for 15 seconds. Stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl and process for another 15 to 20 seconds.
  • With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
  • Once all of the oil has been added, stop, scrape down the bowl and then process another 5 to 10 seconds. Taste and adjust seasoning, as desired. Serve with chips or crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Makes 2 cups.


1 lb edamame, fresh or frozen, in or out of shell

1/4 cup water

Kosher salt, optional

  • Place the edamame and water into a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 4 to 6 minutes. Drain any excess water and serve as is or salted. Makes 4 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting note about digestive problems with soy. You are a wealth of information.