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Sweet beans

Among their many attributes — protein and fiber, as well as versatility and affordability — legumes don't lend themselves so readily to desserts.

So cooking instructor Amy Spence paired another high-protein food — nuts — with bean dishes for a free class next week in Grants Pass.

Her demonstration will show participants how to incorporate the two oft-cited superfoods in recipes ranging from almond breakfast bars to edamame salad.

Young soybeans, edamame are most easily recognized as fuzzy pods steamed and salted for snacks in bars and sushi restaurants. But edamame's bright-green, pealike seeds — bearing a slight resemblance to lima beans with a buttery texture and delicately sweet flavor — make for a delicious and colorful addition to wintertime cooking.

Available shelled and frozen at most grocers, edamame can be prepared much like any other frozen vegetable. Salads, pasta, succotashes and other dishes are ideal vehicles for edamame in lieu of peas or fava beans.

Whether purchased frozen or canned, beans are an economical protein source, says Spence, who plans to begin the class with a short discussion of the merits of starting with dried beans.

Acknowledging that it requires some forethought for time-pressed cooks, the culinary-arts teacher at Cascade Christian High School still touts easier routes to eating beans.

One bean, however, doesn't earn her endorsement. The "distinct flavor" of chickpeas make them difficult for her to enjoy, says Spence. Despite the popularity of the Middle Eastern chickpea spread hummus, her class dispenses with the plump, beige bean in favor of black beans and white cannellini beans.

"That's why it's not on the list," says Spence. "There's other things you can do with beans besides make hummus."

See the accompanying recipes.

Reach Food Editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4487 or email slemon@mailtribune.com.

Sweet beans