From The Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen

While Zel’s cookbook, The Nut Gourmet, was in the editing process, the editor suggested she include some bean spreads made with nuts. It was Reuben who came up with the idea of putting a dark bean recipe and a light bean recipe together to form the yin yang symbol.

That very afternoon the kitchen was buzzing with the food processor in full gear as the recipe began to take shape. Because this appetizer can be prepared a day ahead and simply brought to the table without further prep, it’s an ideal recipe to have in the repertoire for a potluck, an appetizer party, or just as a tasty starter before dinner. It makes a terrific conversation piece, too!

If you’re a bit intimidated by the artistic aspect, set that fear aside and simply enjoy two separate spreads that make delicious party food. Both recipes can serve as a sandwich filling, an endive filled appetizer, stuffing for a mushroom appetizer, or just a succulent spread over whole grain bread, pita, bagels, or crackers.

Nutritionally, you can’t beat beans for their wonderful high protein, high fiber, and generous soluble fiber that helps to lower cholesterol. Besides, they’re downright satisfying.

With the addition of nuts, you’ve got an even better nutrition boost. Macadamias contain the highest level of monounsaturated fats of all the nuts. That’s the good fat that helps to lower cholesterol. And walnuts are king of the omega 3 essential fatty acids that help to reduce inflammation in the arteries and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.

Now, what’s with the yin yang treatment? The symbol has Taoist origins. The circular form represents the universe, while the dark and light colors suggest opposites in the universe. And since nothing in this world is all black or all white, a small white dot appears in the dark portion and a small black dot accents the light section.

The macadamia-filled Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread sings a masculine hot, light, and active yang song while the Walnutty Black Bean Spread balances with a feminine, cool, dark, and passive yin song.

While famous sculptors used a hammer and chisel to create their artistic form, Zel’s tool of choice is nothing more than the simple spoon. Here’s to delicious starter and a touch of creative joy!

Yin-Yang Nutty Bean Spread

Yield: about 4 cups

Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread

3/4 cup raw macadamia nuts

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained

2 teaspoons seasoned rice vinegar

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed


  1. Place the macadamia nuts into the food processor and process briefly to break the nuts into smaller chunks.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor and process until thick and slightly chunky. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
  3. If you prefer a smoother spread, first process the macadamia nuts into a paste in the food processor. Then add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
  4. Transfer to one side of a serving dish and set it aside. Wash and dry the processor work bowl and blade.

Walnutty Black Bean Spread

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup raw walnuts

1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar *

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dried onion flakes


  1. Combine the beans, walnuts, vinegar, water, cumin, chili powder, and salt in the food processor and process until smooth. Stop the machine occasionally to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.
  2. Add the onion flakes and pulse until they are incorporated. Transfer to the serving dish beside the Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread, and work with the back of a spoon to form the two spreads into the yin-yang symbol. Begin by forming the Chunky Cannellini Mac Spread first. Then, the Walnutty Black Bean Spread will fall right into place. Covered with plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator, leftover Yin-Yang Nutty Bean Spread will keep for about one week.

*Umeboshi plum vinegar is a unique vinegar made from the brine used to salt and pickle ume plums used in macrobiotic cooking. The vinegar has a tangy, salty, and delicately sweet flavor and is used sparingly as a seasoning. You can find this item in natural food markets but can easily substitute with seasoned rice vinegar.

* Recipe and image courtesy of Zel and Reuben Allen, of Vegetarians in Paradise.*