Edamame Sauteed with Lemon and Thyme

So, I’m always perfectly happy to order edamame whenever I go to sushi (my preferred way of keeping up with my friend Kathryn).  The salty, rough exterior and the green beads that pop out, almost crunchy yet tender make for a satisfying appetizer while catching up and wait for the main attraction.  But that’s the only way I’ve ever eaten this legume (which is actually an unripe soybean)–and until recently I’d have been hard pressed to come up with any other way to eat it.

Edamame Sauteed with Thyme (3 of 6)

A couple of years ago I did try a slightly, ahem, unusual preparation of edamame.  I can’t say I recommend it, even if I did have it one of those chic London spots in the City.  It was a little matter of tiny white worm-like things–as slender and narrow as a filament–emerged from a bowl of bean pods that my husband and I ordered.  Of course, being me, I had already downed a good portion of my serving before I saw these.   And yes, in retrospect, I am not clear as to how whatever it was would survive the briskly boiling water edamame are blanched in.  But I’m still convinced I saw something moving, and am all to aware that I only narrowly avoided becoming a pod person myself.  Of course, I didn’t really look all that closely after the initial shriek–I may have thrown a napkin over the bowl while trying to catch the eye of one of the busy members of the waitstaff before whatever it was inched any closer.  Fortunately, this is one of those things that gets cleared away quickly, no further explanation required.

Oh, wait, this is a recipe blog.  Are you hungry yet?  Um…moving on..

Edamame Sauteed with Thyme (6 of 6)

It took me a little while, but I got over it.  After little H was born and I was looking for some protein-rich meal to keep me going through the sleep-deprivation haze, I found edamame pods heated quickly in (gasp!) the microwave to be a great snack.  And it was a nice change from all the hummus I was eating at the time, and certainly healthier than knobs of cheese I also justified to myself as a high protein, high calcium (but maybe not great for losing baby fat) snack.

Then one day I grabbed frozen pre-shelled edamame–E & H love peas and I thought I could pass this off to them as an even more exciting “giant” version of their favorite veg, but my clever kitchen cons did not impress.  So it was up to me to eat them, and rather than microwave them with a bunch of salt, I figured I’d better figure out something more interesting to do.

This recipe for edamame, sautéed with thyme and perked up with lemon, takes a bit more effort than dumping a bag of pods into a bowl and nuking them with a bit of water, but only just.  And it’s fast–from freezer to plate in 10 minutes.  Yes, the freezer–a saving grace for people like me who often forget to defrost things in advance.  You probably get better results if you do defrost, so if you are better than planning ahead than I am, please do.  But don’t panic if you forget–there’s bound to be something that slips your mind each day; let it be this.

A fast, easy, and healthy side dish that is a perfect last minute champion–that’s virtue enough, but what’s more, it’s always fun to try a familiar food in a new way.  And I promise: no, er, hidden protein.

Edamame Sauteed with Thyme (4 of 6)

Edamame Sauteed with Lemon and Thyme

  • 2T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 sprigs of fresh thyme (substitute dried).
  • 1 package of frozen edamame
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium low and add the minced garlic and thyme.  After 30 seconds, add the edamame and raise the heat to medium.  Stir frequently, until the beans are heated through and even start to brown a bit (about 5 minutes).  Invert into a serving bowl, stir in the lemon juice and zest, adjust for salt and pepper, and serve.

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Tartine’s Lemon Meringue Cake

This past little while has been a swirl of citrus and sugar. Kumquats–spiced and in marmalades.  Blood orange marmalades too, and blood orange cakes.  Candied pomelo peels, and a few birthdays.  When I think about how many 5lb bags of sugar I’ve gone through lately I can only shudder.

And the crowning glory, or perhaps the nadir, of this sugar spate, was this cake.

Tartine Lemon Meringue Cake

When I got the Tartine Bakery cookbook for Christmas (yes, the companion to one of my other favorites) my husband immediately zeroed in on this recipe. And though I was hesitant, you can’t not honor birthday requests, can you?

Making this cake is definitely a birthday-level undertaking.  And it’s as spectacular as it looks: layers of chiffon cake, moistened with lemon syrup, sandwiched together with lemon cream, burnt caramel, all enrobed in fluffy, sticky meringue, blowtorched into submission.

It’s not actually that difficult of a cake, if you break it down into pieces.   It’s more the sheer quantity:  really five sub-recipes, with the main set of instructions being more of an assembly guide.  I knew if I tried to do it all at once, I would be so frustrated by the end of the process that I couldn’t bear to eat one bite.  (I’m exaggerating, obviously, but you get my point).   So I strategized.  Making this one cake was like organizing a dinner party:  What can I do ahead of time?  What piece is the trickiest (and might be wise to try and try again)?  What stands up well to freezing?  What must be done the day of ?  How much special equipment do I have to buy?  How can I keep from going insane?

Cake was made in advance (twice, in fact, given its propensity to collapse on me) and frozen, cut into layers so I didn’t have to stress about shredding the cake into crumbs on the big day.  Caramel sauce was made a week ahead–why not, since it keeps a month in the fridge?  Lemon cream–a silky, smooth, genius twist on lemon curd–two nights early.  Lemon syrup, meringue, and done.  (If you follow our Facebook page or my instagram feed at sarabclever, none of this is news to you as I posted each step).


I wasn’t sure if I was going to think all that work was worth it but, of course it was.  How could there be any question?  The clouds of meringue released an aroma of campfire marshmallows as the blue flame of the kitchen blowtorch waved across.   The intense sweet of the cake was tempered by the tart, bright citrus.  And most surprisingly, the burnt caramel sauce also proved essential: to cut the sugar, and to ensure the cake was balanced rather than cloying.  (I’ll only note in passing the absurdity of this that caramel, made from sugar, prevented the cake from being saccharine).

Lemon Meringue Cake

There’s no way I could really give you my version of this recipe.  Making the cake was enough of an enterprise for me.  If no birthday is coming up, pick up the book from your local library (though I warn you, overdue charges may start to accrue so you might cut your losses and just get your own copy from the outset).   Or check out these folks who have braved the challenge and lived to blog the tale here, here and here.


And while I am far from mastering this cake (chiffon cakes and I are still having problems), as is the case with all worthy opponents, I learned.  Here’s my collected wit and wisdom.

(1)  Do things ahead of time if you can.  When drenched in syrup, slathered with creams, and covered in icing, it doesn’t matter if the cake had a stint in the freezer.

(2)  If you need meringue and are afraid of using raw whites (say, because you have small children), do NOT use pasteurized egg whites.  Buy the powder.  I had no problem using pasteurized whites to make buttercream, but they just won’t cut it when the body of true meringue is called for.  I actually made a first attempt with pasteurized whites, and started to feel about as deflated as the meringue looked when I realized in horror that I was about to repeat the errors  Marie’s birthday cake.  Ye who do not learn from history.  Disaster was averted when I remembered I had meringue powder on hand from Christmas cookies, and victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat.   It’s nothing but counterintuitive that a powder works so beautifully while seemingly “fresher” refrigerated egg whites do not, but mine is not to question why.

(3)  Chiffon cakes are temperamental.  So many things can go wrong; in my case I think my oven was too cold.  But there’s no need to get too obsessed with chasing perfection (or so I decided after my second cake glumly sunk upon removal from the oven).  Rather than tear my hair out, I just made the best of it.  I meant to make a three layer rather than four layer cake, OK?  So what if it’s a bit denser than desired?  The thing is going to be painted with lemon syrup and slathered with lemon cream and caramel, not to mention that meringue.  Really, is anyone going to notice?  (But I admit I bought my third oven thermometer for the next time–hopefully I won’t break it this time).

(4) Equipment–Besides the kitchen torch, a new 10″ x 3″ springform pan was acquired.  (Oh right, and another oven thermometer.  It’s a problem).  The cake rises well above the rim, so it’s no good when it turns out the advertised depth is shallower if you use the base.  Besides (ahem, instead of) sending nasty messages to amazon, you can place just the ring directly onto a sheet of parchment paper laid out on a baking sheet.  You get a few extra portions of an inch, it really doesn’t leak out, and the cake won’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan.  And you can feel like a professional–bakers use cake rings rather than cake pans all the time!

(5)  Kitchen blowtorches aren’t quite as scary as they sound.  (But I’m still a little scared).

(6) Invite people to help you eat this cake.  It’s huge.

With all this, I hope you’ll understand (and forgive) the lackluster photography.  After all that effort and anticipation, when the cake was served, I was as ready to dig in as the birthday boy.

I am afraid of what he’ll request next year.