Best International Dishes to Make at Home

Perking up your new, healthier diet with a hint of the exotic doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, you’ll find that many exciting foreign recipes take no more effort than the fat-laden “comfort food” of the past. You’ll be surprised, too, at how easy it is to find the ingredients. Though international dishes often call for spices, vegetables, and grains not often used in American cooking, you’re still likely to find virtually all of them in today’s jumbo supermarkets. If you can’t, in most metropolitan areas, specialty stores and farmers’ markets will usually fill the gaps.

As the sampler of recipes found here will show, healthy, highly nutritious cooking definitely does not have to be boring and ordinary. On the contrary, it can open up an intriguing new world of enjoyment.

Cuisine Fusion

Experiments with dishes that you don’t normally cook and ingredients you’ve never thought to try not only adds instant variety to your menus, but also gives you a chance to judge which new spices, vegetables, and cooking techniques to add to your regular kitchen repertoire. Such culinary hybridization has become a popular trend among chefs at top restaurants around the country. Called “cuisine fusion,” the blending of two or more diverse cooking techniques or ingredients from other countries can result in such dishes as chicken fajita pitas, pizza-filled egg rolls, and croissant sandwiches. To get your creative juices flowing, here is a recipe for Oriental Stir-Fry Pizza that won first place at the 1994 Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. It is reprinted with the permission of its creator, Phillip Koenig of The Silver Spoon in Louisville, KY:

Oriental Stir-Fry Pizza

STIR-FRY MEDLEY

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. grated fresh gingerroot
1/2 cup grilled chicken
1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
1/2 cup snow peas
1/4 cup sliced celery
3 scallions, sliced
1 eight oz. jar baby corn ears, drained

PIZZA

2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1 commercially prepared prebaked pizza crust
1/4 cup commercially prepared peanut satay sauce (or see recipe below)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 Tbs. chopped honey-roasted peanuts
2 Tbs. rice noodles (or chow mein noodles)

To make medley: Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wok. Add gingerroot and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and stir-fry until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place sesame seeds in a skillet and dry-roast over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until uniformly golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Place crust on pizza pan and brush with peanut satay sauce to within 1 inch of the edge. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and top evenly with stir-fry medley. Sprinkle with cheese and peanuts. Bake until cheese is melted and topping is hot, about 8 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with rice or chow mein noodles, slice into wedges and serve.

Peanut Satay Sauce

Peanut satay sauce is a great topping for pork loin, chicken, or even pasta. It packs a lot of flavor—but also significant amounts of fat—so don’t overdo. The following recipe, also from Phillip Koenig, is more than you will need for one Oriental Stir-Fry Pizza, but it will keep in the refrigerator for several months.
6 cloves of garlic, pounded
3 shallots or small white onions
2 Tbs. cayenne pepper
1/2 lemon peel
1 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 12 oz. jar of crunchy peanut butter
15 oz. water
1/3 cup sugar
1-2 tsp. salt, or to taste

Stir-fry garlic, shallots, cayenne, and lemon peel in oil. Remove lemon peel, add lemon juice and simmer for 1 minute. Add peanut butter and water. Bring to a boil, add sugar and salt. Boil until thickened.

Dining Out in Your Own Home

No matter how dreadful a cuisine’s reputation for healthiness may be, there’s always something worthwhile to be drawn from it. (See “Improving Your Diet With International Flair,” for tips on what to adopt and what to avoid in the leading foreign cuisines.) The meal plans that follow show how, with a little judicious selection, you can bring the excitement of international dining to your own table without the calories and fat.

France

What cook could ignore the world’s most famous cuisine? To keep French cooking healthy, simply avoid heavy cream sauces, rich patés, and fat-laced casseroles, and stick with the ingredients the region is known for: fresh vegetables, herbs, and olive oil. Although dishes vary from province to province, most reflect the French obsession with fresh produce. Gardens abound in almost every backyard, window box, and terrace.

The French consider vegetables and herbs essential to every meal; and they pride themselves on their ability to use herbs and other seasonings to enhance a dish, rather than to overwhelm it. Meals usually consist of a light appetizer such as a salad, a soup, an entree, a vegetable dish, and a fruity dessert. And there is almost always wine and bread.

French menu: Artichauts Vinaigrette (artichokes with vinagrette dressing), Soup au Pistou (vegetable soup), Bar Provencal (sea bass with tomatoes), Carottes Persillees Avec Champignon (parsley carrots with mushrooms), Brioche (French rolls), and Mousse de Myrtilles (blueberry mousse).

Artichauts Vinaigrette

(Artichokes with Vinaigrette Dressing)

VINAIGRETTE DRESSING
1 tsp. capers, rinsed and chopped
1 Tbs. minced chives
1 Tbs. minced parsley
4 artichokes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbs. vinegar
Salt

Combine vinaigrette dressing with capers, chives, and parsley and blend thoroughly. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Snap stems off the artichokes and break off any small leaves at the base. Trim the bottoms so that artichokes will stand upright. With a sharp knife, cut an inch off tops and also trim points of remaining leaves using scissors. Rinse well in cold water. Rub cut leaves with lemon juice and immerse artichokes in a bath of vinegar and water until ready to cook. Bring 4-5 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan with a little salt. Drop in artichokes, cover with 2 layers of cheesecloth, and boil, uncovered, for 40-50 minutes, until leaves pull off easily. Drain upside down in colander. Serve each, warm or cold, with 1-2 Tbs. vinaigrette.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 112 Pro. 4 gm Fat. 4 gm Sod. 86 mg Carb. 15 gm.
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.
Soup au Pistou

SOUP

1-1/4 oz. sorted uncooked red kidney beans, rinsed
1 oz. sorted uncooked great northern beans, rinsed
2 quarts water
1/2 cup each, diced onion and sliced celery
6 oz. pared potato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
4 small plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, and diced
3/4 cup each, sliced carrots and zucchini
1/2 cup diagonally sliced green beans
2 Tbs. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
3 oz. uncooked small macaroni (eg, elbows)
Dash pepper

PISTOU
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2 Tbs. hot water
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese

To prepare soup: In a 4-quart saucepan combine beans; add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add onion and celery, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients for soup except macaroni and simmer until vegetables and beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add macaroni, stir, and cook for about 5 minutes.

To prepare pistou: While macaroni is cooking, in blender container combine all ingredients for pistou except cheese; process until smooth, scraping down sides of container as necessary. Transfer to small bowl and stir in cheese.

To serve: Remove and discard bay leaves from soup. Into each of 8 soup bowls, spoon 1/8 of the pistou, then ladle 1/8 of the soup over pistou; serve immediately.

Serves 8, about 1 cup each
Per serving: Cal. 148 Pro. 6 gm Fat. 4 gm Sod. 116 mg Carb. 23 gm Chol. 3 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc; 1985.
Bar Provencal

(Sea Bass with Tomatoes)

Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. safflower oil
Dash cayenne
1-1/2 lbs. sea bass fillets or fillets of other firm white fish
1 cup chopped onions
2 green peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
Pinch fennel seeds
Pinch dried thyme
4 peppercorns
1 Tbs. fresh oregano or 1/4 Tbs. dried
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 lemon, sliced

Mix lemon juice and 2 Tbs. safflower oil with cayenne. Wash fish and pat dry. Place fish in oil/lemon mixture, cover, and refrigerate several hours. Drain, but reserve liquid. Heat 1 tsp. oil in nonstick saucepan and saute onions until soft. Then add peppers and garlic and cook 5-10 minutes. Add tomatoes, fennel seeds, thyme, peppercorns, oregano, and half the parsley and cook until all vegetables are tender. Broil fish about 4 inches from heat source, brushing with marinade and turning. Cooking time depends on thickness of fish, but fish is ready when it flakes when pierced with fork. Remove fish from broiler and place in center of a warm serving platter. Spoon vegetables alongside fish on the platter. Top with lemon. Sprinkle fish with remaining parsley.

From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.

Carottes Persillees Avec Champignons

(Parsley Carrots with Mushrooms)
1 lb. carrots, scraped, trimmed, and julienned
1 tsp. fructose
1/2 cup seltzer
1 Tbs. butter, divided
Few grinds black pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 Tbs. minced parsley

Place carrots in enamel or nonstick saucepan with fructose, seltzer, 1/2 Tbs. butter, and pepper. Bring carrots to boil, cover, and simmer 30 minutes, until tender. Add mushrooms and cook a few minutes longer. Drain off any remaining liquid. When ready to serve, add remaining butter and parsley. Heat, toss, and serve.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 89 Pro. 2 gm Fat. 3 gm Sod. 84 mg Carb. 13.5 gm
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.
Brioche

Enjoy a continental breakfast of Brioche spread with marmalade and served with coffee or tea. These delicious French rolls can be frozen, individually wrapped; just reheat when ready to use.

1 packet fast-rising active dry yeast
2 Tbs. each warm water (see yeast package directions for temperature) and granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1/3 cup plus 2 tsp. margarine, softened
Dash salt
2-1/4 cups plus 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup cake flour

Spray twelve 2-1/2-inch-diameter muffin pan cups or 12 individual brioche pans with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In mixing bowl sprinkle yeast over water; add sugar and stir to dissolve. Let stand until mixture becomes foamy, about 5 minutes. Using electric mixer at medium speed, beat in 5 eggs, 1 at a time; add margarine and salt and beat until well combined. Beat in 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour and the cake flour, beating until dough becomes smooth and sticky, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl; cover bowl with a clean damp towel or plastic wrap and let stand in warm draft-free area until dough doubles in volume, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle work surface with remaining 2 Tbs. flour and turn dough out onto floured surface; gently shape into 12-inch-long loaf. Cut off 1/4 of dough and set aside; cut remaining loaf into 12 equal portions and shape each into a smooth ball, tucking all ends under. Place dough balls, seam-side down, in sprayed pan. Cut remaining dough into 12 equal portions and shape each into a small ball. Using finger, press down center of each large dough ball, making an indentation; dip bottom of each small ball into water, then, pressing gently but firmly, press a small ball into each indentation. Lightly beat remaining egg and, using pastry brush, brush an equal amount over surface of each roll; let stand in warm draft-free area until rolls double in volume.

Serves 12, 1 Roll Each
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.
Mousse de Myrtilles

(Blueberry Mousse)
1-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup concentrated frozen apple juice
1 package unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup cold water
2 Tbs. plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 egg whites, beaten stiff

Combine blueberries and apple juice in saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and boil down to 1 cup, mashing berries against side of pan. Remove from heat and chill. Sprinkle gelatin over cold water in a cup, then place in bowl of hot water to dissolve. Stir gelatin into blueberries, setting the bowl over ice. Stir until berries thicken. Fold in yogurt and cinnamon and beat in egg whites. Pour into serving dish and place in freezer for about 1-2 hours, until firm.

Serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 50 Pro. 2.5 gm Fat. 0 gm Sod. 21 mg Carb. 10 gm
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.

China

Chinese cuisine has been in existence for at least 5,000 years. As in France, the dishes vary from province to province, and there is a focus on fresh vegetables. Semi-tropical south China, with its abundance of seafood and agricultural products, is the home of the “haute cuisine” with which most Americans are familiar: Cantonese cooking. Vegetarian dishes and rice dishes come mainly from eastern China. In the north, where wheat is grown instead of rice, you’ll find noodles, crepes, dumplings, and pancakes. Finally, Western China, a humid region where chiles were traditionally used as a means to preserve food, gave birth to fiery Szechuan and Hunan cooking.

With over a billion people to feed, Chinese farmers concentrate on growing efficient food crops such as rice, wheat, soybeans (hence, tofu), and legumes on the available land. Seasonings such as ginger, garlic, and scallions are often used for taste as well as fragrance, with no one flavor predominating. Soy sauce is to the Chinese what salt is to the West. Steaming and stir-frying, the most common cooking techniques, help vegetables retain both their crunch and their nutrients.

Meals often have a message in China. Bamboo shoots are served to wish guests good health and rice symbolizes fertility. Noodles, which represent longevity, are served whole, because it is considered bad luck to break them. As you sit down to enjoy a Chinese meal, such as this one, wish your fellow diners “ho yum ho sic” (good drinking, good eating).

Chinese menu: Chinese Cold Noodles in Sesame Sauce, Stir-Fried Vegetables, Lemon Chicken, and Yang Tao (kiwifruit).

Chinese Cold Noodles in Sesame Sauce

3 Tbs. fresh blueberries
2 Tbs. smooth peanut butter
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. minced pared gingerroot
1/8 tsp. minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp. Chinese sesame oil
1 cup chopped thin spaghetti, chilled
1/4 cup chopped scallions (green onions)
1/2 oz. shelled roasted peanuts, chopped
Dash ground red pepper, or to taste

In small saucepan combine broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil; remove from heat and stir in oil and pepper. Transfer to small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. In serving bowl combine spaghetti with sauce and toss to combine; sprinkle with scallions and peanuts.

Serves 2
Per serving: Cal. 222 Pro. 9 gm Fat. 12 gm Sod. 863 mg Carb. 22 gm Chol. 0 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.
Stir-Fried Vegetables

1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh gingerroot
3 cups assorted vegetables (green beans, red or green peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, etc.), cut into 1/2- inch pieces

Mix oil, soy, and ginger in wok or large nonstick skillet. Add vegetables and cook quickly, stirring with chopsticks. Vegetables should be crisp. Cook softest vegetables last. Remove from heat and serve.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 76 Pro. 4 gm Fat. 4 gm Sod. 141 mg Carb. 6 gm
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.
Lemon Chicken

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. lime juice
1-1/2 Tbs. walnut oil
1-1/2 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 lemon wedges
Dash cayenne

Combine lemon and lime juice, oil, soy, mustard, and cayenne. Marinate chicken breasts in this for 4 hours or more in a cool place. Cut chicken breasts into 4 pieces and poach in the marinade in a saucepan until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer chicken to warm platter and reduce marinade until thick. Then spoon over chicken and serve with lemon wedges.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 200 Pro. 27.5 g Fat. 8 gm Sod. 284 mg Carb. 45 gm
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.
Yang Tao

(Kiwifruit)
4 kiwifruits, peeled and sliced
1 tangerine, peeled and sectioned
1/2 tsp. peeled and finely chopped fresh gingerroot
Fresh mint (optional)

Arrange kiwifruit slices on dessert dishes. Place a few tangerine sections next to them or in center. Garnish with touch of ginger and mint sprig, if desired.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 44 Pro. 1 gm Fat. 0 Sod. 0 Carb. 10 gm
From: The International Menu Diabetic Cookbook by Betty Marks. Copyright © 1985. Used with permission of Contemporary Books, Chicago.

Italy

While the Chinese blend all flavors together in harmony, the Italians insist that each ingredient retain its own unmistakable identity. For this reason, Italian cooking is less complicated than most other types of cuisines.

Although Italy is smaller than California, it has more regional cuisines than the entire United States. Olive oil, cheese, tomatoes and pasta predominate in each section of the country, but Italian cooks insist there are distinct regional differences. In the cosmopolitan north, for instance, the cuisine reflects the prosperous economy: with fresh egg pastas and rice, meats, cheeses and mushrooms, all often heavily buttered. In the less populated areas of the south, where cheeses are most often made from sheep’s milk, and fish often replaces meat, the food is more heavily seasoned. Garlic, fresh herbs and hot peppers are used with abandon.

Traditionally, the main midday meal brings the entire family together, often for several hours. The pranzo di mezzogiorno, as it is known, sets the pace for the rest of the day. Why not serve a traditional Italian meal on a weekend or another day when all your loved ones gather? You will need several courses of equal size (Italian meals don’t build up to a main entree). Our menu plan outline provides recipes for each course except the cheese; that is up to you. Start your meal with a hearty Mangia! It means “Eat!” in Italian.

Italian menu: Primo Piatto (first course): Zuppa di Broccoli (broccoli soup with tubettini); Secondo Piatto (second course): Conchiglie con Pettine (conchiglie with scallops); Contorno (contour): Insalata di Barbabietola e Radicchio (beet and radicchio salad); Fromaggio (cheese); Dolce (dessert): Mele Infornate (stuffed baked apples).

Broccoli Soup with Tubettini

1 large bunch broccoli (about 1-1/2 lbs.)
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup minced celery, strings removed before mincing
5-1/2 cups chicken Broth, preferably homemade, or defatted low-sodium canned
1 Tbs. minced fresh sage or 1 tsp. crumbled dried sage
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup tubettini (tiny tubular pasta)
2 Tbs. freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese, for serving

Remove florets from broccoli, leaving about 1/2 inch of their stems. Cut florets into 1/2-inch pieces. Wash in cold water, drain, and set aside. Remove and discard the large coarse leaves from stems and cut off about 1/2 inch of the tough lower part of stalks. Wash thoroughly and peel stalks with vegetable peeler. Cut stalks in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch pieces. In a heavy 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and celery and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are limp, about 3 minutes. (If vegetables start to stick to bottom of pan, stir in 2 tablespoons broth to prevent scorching.) Add broccoli stems, broth, sage, salt, and pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and add tubettini. Cook, uncovered, over medium-high heat until the pasta is barely al dente, about 7 minutes. Add florets and continue cooking until pasta and florets are cooked, about 5 minutes. Transfer to bowls, sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Makes 9 cups, serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 142 Fat. 4 gm Sod. 228 mg Chol. 2 mg
From: Lean Italian Cooking, by Anne Casale. Copyright © 1994 by Anne Casale. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

 

Olive Oils Are Not All Created Equal

Italians judge olive oils the way the French weigh the merits of wines, and there is actually good reason to do so. Soil quality, weather conditions, the type of olive, and the preparation technique combine to create vast differences in the oils:

Extra-virgin, cold pressed or first pressed olive oil

This designation means the finest olives were hand picked and then pressed—only once!—by hand or with a small machine. The low-acid oil has a strong, fruity flavor and aroma, and it may appear cloudy or slightly greenish in color. Use it raw, in salad dressings or bread toppings for example. Because it has a low smoking point, it does not make a good cooking oil.

Virgin olive oil

Better for cooking because it stands up to heat, but higher in acid content, Virgin olive oil comes from riper and lower grade olives than extra-virgin. Although it is pressed the same way, it usually tastes blander and has a yellowish color.

Pure olive oil

To make this oil, the residual pulp of the olives used for virgin olive oil is re-pressed using heat. Hydraulic machines do this work in large factories. Pure olive oil is ideal for cooking because it is the least expensive, but it tastes blander than virgin oil and has a paler color.

Switching to olive oil from butter is a definite plus for your health; but you still need to use a little moderation. Although the fat in olive oil is not the harmful saturated variety, it still amounts to 14 grams per tablespoon. Each tablespoon also contributes 120 calories to your diet.

 

Conchiglie with Scallops

1 lb. sea or bay scallops
2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs made from cubed Italian or French bread, including crust, coarsely ground in food processor or blender
2 Tbs. minced Italian parsley leaves
1 Tbs. minced garlic
6 large ripe plum tomatoes (1 lb.), blanched, peeled, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
12 oz. conchiglie (medium-size shell pasta)

Wash scallops several times in cold water to remove sand. Blot dry with paper towel. If using bay scallops, leave whole, if using sea scallops, cut horizontally into 1/2-inch slices; set aside. In a small nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp. oil over medium heat. Add bread crumbs and toast until golden, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in minced parsley. In a 12-inch skillet, heat remaining 2 Tbs. oil over medium heat. Add garlic, turn heat to low, and cook until very lightly golden. Add the tomatoes and simmer, mashing down the tomato pulp with a wooden spoon. Cook until sauce comes to a slow boil, about 1 minute. Stir in scallops and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper flakes. Remove from heat. Cook pasta in 6 quarts boiling water with 2 teaspoons coarse salt until al dente. Drain pasta and transfer to 4 serving bowls. Spoon sauce over each portion. Sprinkle each serving with toasted bread crumbs and serve.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 538 Fat. 11 gm Sod. 708 mg Chol. 37 mg
From: Lean Italian Cooking, by Anne Casale. Copyright © 1994 by Anne Casale. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Beet and Radicchio Salad

1 small red onion (2 oz.), peeled and sliced paper-thin
1-1/4 lbs. (5 or 6) medium-size beets
1 medium head radicchio (about 6 oz.), halved, cored, leaves separated, washed, spun dry, and cut into thin julienne strips
1-1/2 Tbs. minced fresh mint leaves
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2-1/2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Place sliced onions in a small bowl with 3 ice cubes and cover with cold water. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Soaking the onion will ensure crispness.) Wash and trim beets, leaving 2 inches of the stems and the root ends intact to prevent color from oozing out during boiling. Place in a medium-size pot and cover with water; cover pot and bring to a boil. Cook beets, partially covered, over high heat until tender when pierced with a metal cake tester, about 20 to 40 minutes. Drain in colander and let cool until you can slip off the skins; slice off the stems. Quarter beets and cut into 1/2-inch wedges. Drain onion, blot dry with paper towel, and combine with beets. Arrange in center of serving platter and surround with julienned strips of radicchio. In a small bowl, combine mint, salt, pepper, and vinegar; stir with fork or small whisk to combine. Add oil, a little at a time, whisking until dressing is well combined. Spoon dressing over salad and serve.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 129 Fat. 9 gm Sod. 256 mg Chol. 0 mg
From: Lean Italian Cooking, by Anne Casale. Copyright © 1994 by Anne Casale. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Stuffed Baked Apples

6 medium-size baking apples, preferably Rome (about 2-1/2 lbs.)
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 Tbs. dark rum or brandy
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
1-1/2 cups cups unsweetened apple juice

Adjust oven rack to center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Using a melon baller, core apples from stem end without cutting through to bottom. Using a vegetable peeler, peel off skin about halfway down each apple. In a small bowl, combine raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon, and rum. Fill cavity of each apple with raisin mixture. Place apples in a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl, combine dark corn syrup with vanilla. Spoon mixture over apples; sprinkle each with nutmeg. Pour apple juice into bottom of baking dish. Place in oven and bake apples for 20 minutes. Using a bulb-type baster, baste apples with pan juices. Continue baking and basting every 10 minutes until apples are extremely tender when tested with a cake tester, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and keep basting with pan juices every 5 minutes until apples are well coated with glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with a little glaze over each.

Serves 6
Per serving: Cal. 218 Fat. 0.6 gm Sod. 31 mg Chol. 0 mg
From: Lean Italian Cooking, by Anne Casale. Copyright © 1994 by Anne Casale. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

India

The subcontinent of India stretches some 2,000 miles from east to west and north to south, accounting for the rich diversity of its cuisine. In the south and east, heavy rainfall encourages cultivation of rice; but in the dry north, wheat and barley are staples and the people eat bread with their meals. Many kinds of fruits are grown in the mountainous inland regions, and seafood is popular along the coasts.

More important than any type of food in India, though, are the spices. Most renowned is curry, typically a blend of cardamom, coriander, turmeric, cumin, and ginger, but subject to variation from one household to the next. Curry dishes are usually served with chutney or a cooling raita, a salad-like combination of ingredients with a yogurt base.

Vegetarian meals are also popular in India. The concept of ahimsa—nonviolence toward, and reverence for all life—is widespread. Some Indians refuse to eat eggs, for fear of disturbing embryonic life; and some would rather forego root vegetables than disturb the worms around them. On the other hand, many Indians eat fish, which they refer to as “fruit of the sea.”

Our menu offers you the choice of a meal with chicken and Naan (a type of bread), or a vegetarian meal with rice. You may want to serve all the courses in small bowls on individual trays, or thalis, as they do in India. Place a thali—with the rice or bread in the center, the main dishes on the right, and supporting dishes (like chutneys and raitas) on the left—on the floor beside each diner. Food is eaten with the fingers, and instead of napkins, water bowls are used to clean the hands.

Indian menu: Tandoori Chicken with Naan (buns) or Mixed Vegetable Curry with Radish Raita.

Tandoori Chicken

1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1 Tbs. seeded chopped mild or hot green chili pepper
3 to 6 small garlic cloves
1 tsp. minced pared ginger root
1/8 tsp. each ground turmeric, ground cinnamon, ground cardamom, ground cloves, and ground allspice
1 chicken (3 pounds), cut into 8 pieces and skinned
2 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
Dash salt
Garnish: 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro (Chinese parsley)

In blender container combine onions, yogurt, juice, chili pepper, garlic, and seasonings; process until smooth, scraping down sides of container as necessary. Using sharp knife, cut slits in chicken but do not pierce to the bone; transfer chicken to 1-quart stainless-steel or glass bowl and add yogurt mixture, rubbing mixture into chicken parts to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. Transfer chicken to rack in roasting pan and brush with any remaining marinade; roast for 15 to 20 minutes. Brush chicken pieces with oil and continue roasting until, when chicken is pierced with a knife, juices run clear, about 10 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to serving platter and pour pan juices over chicken; serve sprinkled with cilantro leaves.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 278 Pro. 35 gm Fat. 11 gm Sod. 155 mg Carb. 8 gm Chol. 103 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.
Naan

1 packet fast-rising active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (see yeast package directions for temperature), divided
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup margarine, melted, divided
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 egg
2-1/4 cups plus
1 Tbs.
all-purpose flour, divided
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. poppy seed or sesame seed

In a cup sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup water; stir in sugar and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. In mixing bowl, using electric mixer at medium speed, combine remaining 1/2 cup water with 3 tablespoons margarine and the yogurt and egg, beating until blended; add 2-1/4 cups flour and the salt and yeast mixture and mix to form a soft sticky dough. Spray a bowl with nonstick cooking spray and transfer dough to sprayed bowl; cover with clean damp towel or plastic wrap and let stand in warm draft-free area until dough is doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Sprinkle work surface with remaining tablespoon flour; turn dough out onto floured surface, cut into 12 equal pieces, and shape each into a ball. Working on floured surface to prevent sticking, pat each ball into an oval, about 4 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. On each of 2 baking sheets arrange 6 ovals; brush each with an equal amount of remaining margarine and sprinkle with poppy (or sesame) seed. Bake until puffed and browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.

Serves 12, 1 bun each
Per serving: Cal. 138 Pro. 4 gm Fat. 5 gm Sod. 238 mg Carb. 20 gm Chol. 23 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.
Mixed Vegetable Curry

2 small hot green chili peppers, seeded and minced
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp. each ground cumin, ground coriander and ground turmeric
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. olive or vegetable oil
6 oz. diced pared potatoes
1 cup each diced onions, carrots, red bell peppers, and green bell peppers
3 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and chopped
1 tsp. salt
3/4 to 1 cup water
1 cup cooked long-grain rice (hot)
Garnish: chopped fresh cilantro
(Chinese parsley) or Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves

Using a mortar and pestle, crush together chili peppers, garlic, cumin, coriander, and turmeric to form a paste. In 12- or 14-inch skillet heat oil; add chili pepper mixture and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add potatoes, onions, carrots, bell peppers, tomatoes, and salt, stirring to combine; add enough water to just cover the vegetables and, stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. To serve, mound vegetable mixture on serving platter, mound rice alongside vegetables, and sprinkle rice and vegetables with cilantro or parsley.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 207 Pro. 5 gm Fat. 5 gm Sod. 578 mg Carb. 37 gm Chol. 0 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.
Radish Raita

1 cup grated radishes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
Dash each ground cumin and ground red pepper
Garnish: mint sprig

In colander sprinkle radishes with salt; let drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze out any excess water and transfer radishes to bowl; stir in yogurt and cumin. Serve sprinkled with red pepper and garnished with mint.

Serves 2
Per serving: Cal. 28 Pro. 2 gm Fat. 0.5 gm Sod. 577 mg Carb. 4 gm Chol. 2 mg
From: Weight Watchers New International Cookbook. New York, NY: NAL Penguin Inc.; 1985.

Middle East

At the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa lies what Westerners refer to as “the Middle East.” Technically, the region consists of only Iraq, Syria, Jordon, Lebanon, and Israel; but for many people the term encompasses all the countries of southwest Asia and northern Africa.

Known as “the cradle of civilization,” this region is thought to be the birthplace of agriculture. Three of the world’s great religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all spread outward from this central cultural pressure-cooker. Today, as through the centuries, it is an area characterized by intense political and social conflict.

Middle Eastern meat eaters usually stick to lamb; religious restrictions make pork a rarity. Indeed the cuisine of the region focuses on vegetables (eggplant, squash and tomato) that are generally stuffed or wrapped in grape leaves; dried fruits (raisins and dates); nuts and seeds (almonds, walnuts, and sesame—often made into a paste called tahini); and legumes (fava beans, lentils and chickpeas). Middle Easterners sometimes serve meats as a mezza, in which a wide array of dishes served like appetizers replace a single main entree. Guests may sample as many dishes as they like. But, in contrast to a buffet, all the dishes are placed on trays or spread on a large cloth on the floor and remain within arm’s reach of all guests throughout the meal. Diners lounge on low cushions or stools and clean their hands in water bowls. The diners linger for hours, talking, eating, and drinking strong coffee or mint tea.

Use the recipes found here for your own mezza, or choose one or two for a main entree.

Middle Eastern Mezza: Hummus bi tahini (chickpea dip) with pita bread, Imam bayaldi (stuffed eggplant), Mahasha (stuffed tomatoes), Moroccan lentils, Tabbouleh (bulgur wheat salad), Roz bil tamar (rice with dates and almonds), Borani esfanaj (spinach and yogurt salad),Ma’mounia (semolina halva dessert). Additions could include cold fish, hard-boiled eggs, a bowl of raisins and nuts, and a platter of herb sprigs such as mint, tarragon, chives, dill, and parsley.

Hummus bi Tahini

(Garbanzo/chickpea dip)

1-1/4 cups garbanzos/chickpeas, cooked (keep the water)
3 cloves garlic, crushed A little milk or retained cooking water
1 Tbs. tahini*
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

*Paste made from ground sesame seeds, available from whole-food stores.

Put the cooked garbanzos/chickpeas into a blender with the garlic, and some of the retained cooking water or milk. You may need to do this in two or three lots as the garbanzos/chickpeas are quite stiff. Add the milk or retained cooking water as necessary to make a smooth, creamy consistency. Now spoon in the tahini, add the lemon juice and salt and pepper. Whizz the mixture once more and check the flavors, adding more salt, tahini, or lemon juice as desired. Turn the hummus into a shallow bowl and pour on a little olive oil to cover the surface with a thin film, scatter the parsley over and sprinkle on the paprika. Serve with hot pita bread and chopped cucumber, carrots, fennel root, bell pepper or celery sticks.

Serves 4-6
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993.
Imam Bayaldi

(Stuffed eggplant)

4 eggplants
Oil
1 onion, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
6 tomatoes, chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 cup monterey jack or cheddar cheese, grated, or 1 cup yogurt
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. First, put the eggplants into the oven to cook for 10 minutes or so. While they are baking, heat the oil in a pan and cook the onion until it turns soft and transparent. Now add the garlic and stir for a few moments but do not let it brown. The green bell pepper goes in next, and when it has softened, put in the tomatoes. Continue to cook gently for a few minutes. Meanwhile, remove the eggplants from the oven and when they are cool enough to handle, cut off the stalk end and slice them in halves, lengthwise. Remove as much of the pulp as you can, using a teaspoon or sharp knife, without damaging the skins. Chop up the pulp and add it to the pan with the onion and other vegetables. Squeeze in some lemon juice and season. Arrange the eggplant halves in an ovenproof dish and pile the cooked mixture into them, and around them if there is some left over. Put the dish into the oven for 10 minutes, with the cheese on top if using, and cook for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted and turned golden. Remove from the oven, scatter the parsley over and serve either hot or cold, with yogurt if using.

Serves 4
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993.
Mahasha

(Stuffed tomatoes)

4 large tomatoes
Oil
2 Tbs. fresh cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2-1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 clove garlic, crushed salt
1/2 lbs. potatoes, mashed
1/3 cup peas

Heat oven to 325 degrees F. To begin, slice the tomatoes in half and carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds; keep these for later use. Then heat up some oil in a pan and when it is very hot, toss in the cilantro/coriander leaves and let them crisp up. Now add the curry powder, chili, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and garlic to the fried cilantro/coriander leaves. Mix well and sprinkle on salt as required. Cook for a minute or two before adding the mashed potato, the peas, and the tomato pulp. Stir all the ingredients well to distribute the spices. Fill the tomatoes with the mixture and place them in a shallow ovenproof dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve hot or cold.

Serves 4
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993
Moroccan Lentils

2 cups brown lentils
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups water
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. olive oil
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large bay leaf
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste

Wash and pick over the lentils and put them in a heavy 3-quart saucepan with a tight fitting lid. Add the onion to the saucepan with the water, salt, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, bay leaf, garlic, parsley, and cayenne pepper.

Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a heated serving dish and serve hot.

Serves 6
From: Herbs in the Kitchen by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, Inc.; 1992.
Tabbouleh

(Bulgur wheat salad)

1/2 cup bulgur
A few lettuce leaves
4 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbs. fresh mint, chopped
1 onion, finely sliced
4 tomatoes, chopped
4 Tbs. lemon juice
4 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper

First, soak the bulgur for 20 minutes or so in enough cold water to cover. Then drain well. Line a salad bowl with the lettuce leaves and then spoon in the bulgur. Scatter in 3 tablespoons of the parsley together with the mint, onion and tomatoes and mix them in. Now combine the lemon juice with the oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Pour this over and toss the salad to coat the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle the remaining spoonful of parsley on top.

Serves 4-6
From: The World in Your Kitchen by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993.
Roz bil Tamar

(Rice with dates and almonds)
2 Tbs. margarine
1 cup almonds
1 cup dates, pitted
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. rose water or a little grated orange rind
1 cup rice, cooked
Salt

Melt the margarine in a large pan and when it is gently bubbling, add the almonds. Fry them, stirring often, for one or two minutes. Next put in the dates and raisins, adding more margarine if necessary. Keep stirring so that nothing sticks or burns, and cook for a few minutes until the dried fruit begins to plump up. Now heap the rice on top of the fruit and nut mixture: Cover. Cook over a very gentle heat, or place in a low oven, for 10-20 minutes to let everything heat through. Just before serving, sprinkle on the rose water and garnish with additional almonds and orange peel.

 

Serves 4
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993
Borani Esfanaj

(Spinach and yogurt salad)

2 Tbs. oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound spinach, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup yogurt

Heat the oil and sauté the onion for several minutes until it is golden. Then add the garlic and after a minute or two, put in the spinach and seasoning. Cook the spinach, turning from time to time, until it has settled and softened. Transfer it to a serving dish and let it cool. When ready to serve, blend in the yogurt and mix well.

Serves 4
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993
Ma’mounia

(Semolina halva dessert)
1 Tbs. margarine
1 cup semolina
2-1/2 cups milk (or half milk, half water)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. pignoles/pine nuts (optional)

Heat the margarine in a saucepan and add the semolina. Cook it gently and stir it for about 5 minutes until it deepens in color. In a separate pan, bring the milk or milk and water to a boil with the sugar and then pour this gradually over the semolina. Stir over a low heat and cook until the mixture thickens. When it is ready, set the pan aside, covered, for 15 minutes. And then serve it, cool, with cinnamon and the pignoles/pine nuts on top.

Serves 4
From: The World in Your Kitchen, by Troth Wells. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press; 1993

Working Those Odd New Vegetables into Your Cooking

Gone are the days when turnips were the most exotic option in the produce section. Now we’re confronted by a growing assortment of weird vegetables with unpronounceable names. Browse through any large array of produce and you’ll find an odd assortment of dry, tuberous bulbs; vaguely familiar-looking spiky globes with leafy tops; and stringy sprouts that must surely have grown in a cellar. These peculiar specimens certainly look “interesting,” but what on earth do you do with them?

If you find yourself shying away from the vegetable shelves these days, stop and think again. Those pallid, misshapen roots and sprouts can actually be quite delicious. All you need to overcome “veggie-phobia” is a bit of information on what to choose and how to prepare. Once you’ve made a few experiments, you’ll find that cooking with exotic vegetables, such as jicama, kohlrabi, enoki mushrooms, and sunchokes, can add a pleasing new dimension to everyday dining.

Here are some tips from the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association on the best ways to approach these unfamiliar foreign plants. The sample recipes we’ve included only hint at the many possibilities they offer.

Alfalfa Sprouts. Delicate and thread-like alfalfa sprouts have a nutty, mild taste and are high in vitamins and minerals.

Selection and Storage: Keep refrigerated.
Preparation:  Alfalfa sprouts are a great addition to sandwiches, tacos, and salads.

Artichokes. Artichokes have a subtle, sweet and somewhat nutty flavor.

Selection and Storage: Look for compact globes that feel heavy and are plump and fresh-looking. Avoid any with loose or spreading leaves. During the spring, artichokes should be bright green; during the winter they will appear bronzed. Keep them cold and somewhat damp until you’re ready to cook them; try to use them within a few days of purchase.
Preparation:  Rinse each artichoke in cold water and cut off the stem close to the base. Remove any small, loose, or discolored leaves at the bottom. Cut off about 1 inch from the top; snip the thorny tips off the remaining leaves using kitchen shears. Simmer uncovered in 2 inches of water 25 to 30 minutes. Drain upside down.

If you are unacquainted with the art of eating an artichoke, you’re not alone. Simply pull off the outer leaves, dip them into any favorite sauce, and draw the leaf end through your teeth to scrape off the edible portion. After you’ve worked your way around the artichoke, you’ll come to light-colored leaves tipped with purple. Pull these away and scrape out the prickly, fuzzy “choke.” Underneath lies the succulent heart.

Artichokes with Fresh Tomato Sauce

1 lemon, sliced
1-1/2 tsp. salt, divided
4 medium-size artichokes
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, chopped (3 cups)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried leaf basil, crushed
1/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed

In large saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to boiling; add lemon slices, 1 teaspoon salt and prepared artichokes. Cover. Simmer 25-30 minutes, until stem ends of artichokes are tender when pierced with a fork and leaves pull easily from the base. Remove from pan, drain upside down. In large skillet, heat oil; saute onion and garlic until soft. Stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer over low heat 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place artichokes on serving platter. Spoon tomato sauce around artichokes.

Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of: United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, Alexandria, Virginia.

Bean Sprouts. These low-calorie sprouts are crispy and nutty.

Selection and Storage: Select fresh, crisp sprouts with moist tips. Shorter sprouts will be the most tender. Store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use as soon as possible.
Preparation:  Raw bean sprouts add flavor to salads and can be stir-fried with other vegetables.

Bok Choy. Also called Chinese chard, this vegetable has broad white or greenish-white stalks with loose, dark green leaves. It is sweet and mild tasting.

Selection and Storage: Select firm, crisp heads. Store unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator and use within a few days.
Preparation:  Cut off the root end, separate stalks and remove any tough or wilted leaves. Cut leaves from stems and slice in 1 inch pieces. Slice stems diagonally in thick chunks. Bok choy can be stir-fried or served raw in salads.

Celeriac. Also known as celery root, celeriac is a celery-like plant with a thick edible root. The crunchy root tastes like celery with walnut overtones.

Selection and Storage: Select roots that are small; larger roots tend to be woody. Discard tops and keep the roots cold and humid.
Preparation:  Scrub and peel off brown skin. Cube or shred and dip into lemon juice to preserve the color. Add raw, shredded or julienned strips of celery root to salads and vegetable trays, or sauté or stir-fry them.

Chayote (shy-o-tay). This squash-like vegetable is also known as the vegetable pear. It is round to pear-shaped with smooth or ribbed skin and a delicate flavor.

Selection and Storage: Choose dark green, hard chayote. Store in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  You can steam, stuff, or bake chayote. Use it in any recipe calling for summer or winter squash.

Daikon. This large, white, high-calcium Japanese radish tastes hotter than the American variety.

Selection and Storage: Select daikons that are clean and free of cuts or bruises. Store in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  Serve raw in salads, pickled as a relish, or simmered in soup.

Enoki Mushrooms. Exotic and creamy white, enoki mushrooms have long slender stems and very small round caps.

Selection and Storage: Select fresh-looking mushrooms and keep them in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  Remove about 1 inch from the bottom of the stems, rinse and separate. Use raw in salads or add to stir-fry recipes at the last minute.

Fennel. This feathery-topped vegetable has a celery-like appearance and an enlarged bulb-like base. A native of the Mediterranean, fennel is often called finocchio, or anise. It has a licorice flavor.

Selection and Storage: Choose fennel with a firm, light green or white bulb. Avoid discolored or cracked bulbs. Refrigerate in plastic wrap or bags and use within a few days.
Preparation:  Wash and remove tough outer stalks. Trim the stalks to the point where they join the bulb, removing any wilted or bruised layers. To serve raw, slice lengthwise into strips; for braising, halve or quarter the bulbs; for sautés or stir-frys, cut the bulb diagonally.

Jícama (HEE-ka-ma). Jícama is a brown root with the delicate flavor and texture of a water chestnut.

Selection and Storage: Choose well-formed jicama free of bruises. Smaller ones are less woody. Refrigerate, unwashed, wrapped in plastic.
Preparation:  Serve raw, cut in strips to use with dip, or slice into salads. Because it stays crisp when cooked, jicama is great for sautéing or stir-frying.
Orange-Jícama Salad

SALAD
2 cups fresh orange sections (from about 4 oranges)
1 lb. jícama, peeled and thinly sliced into two 3-1/4 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, peeled, thinly sliced crosswise, and separated into rings
8 cups torn lettuce leaves (preferably romaine and red-leaf)
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)

DRESSING

1/3 cup orange juice (preferably fresh)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine the orange sections, jícama, and onion. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the dressing to the orange mixture, toss the ingredients gently, cover the bowl, and chill the salad until serving time.

At serving time, add the lettuce and the pine nuts (if desired), and toss the salad once more.

Serves 8
Reprinted from JANE BRODY’S GOOD FOOD GOURMET: Recipes and Menus for Delicious and Healthful Eating, with the permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Copyright © 1990 by Jane E. Brody.

Kohlrabi. A cross between cabbage (“kohl”) and turnip (“rabi”), kohlrabi has tasty leaves, stems, and roots. The leaves have an earthy, cabbage flavor, while the stems taste something like radishes.

Selection and Storage: Buy globes about 2 inches in diameter; if they are larger, they can taste tough and bitter. Store in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  Trim stems just before using, then wash, peel, and cut in strips for dipping or to add to stir-fry combinations. To cook the bulb, trim but don’t peel, cover in lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Steam kohlrabi the same way; it may take 5 to 10 minutes longer than boiling. Peel after cooking.

Nopales. Also called cactus leaves, nopales taste like crisp green beans.

Selection and Storage: Choose firm, fresh-looking leaves (the smaller ones are more tender). Store in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  Carefully remove thorn eyes with a vegetable peeler. Cut de-spined leaves in small pieces and boil in salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Serve with freshly chopped tomatoes and onions.

Rutabaga. Although often placed in the same category as turnips, rutabagas are very different botanically. They are orange-yellow, with a smooth, dense texture and mellow flavor.

Selection and Storage: Look for firm, smooth-skinned globes that feel heavy for their size. Store in the refrigerator up to 4 weeks.
Preparation:  Remove skin with a paring knife or vegetable peeler. Dice or slice, then cook until tender by steaming, baking, sautéing, or microwaving. They can also be added to soups or stews.

Parsnips. Cream-colored parsnips are similar to carrots and have a sweet, nutty flavor.

Selection and Storage: Look for firm, well-formed roots. Very large ones may be fibrous and taste bitter. Parsnips can be kept refrigerated in a plastic bag up to 1 month.
Preparation:  Remove skin with a peeler. Serve them raw or cooked, as you would carrots.

Salsify. Sometimes called “oyster plant” because it tastes a bit like oysters, this vegetable resembles parsnips, with heavy, grassy tops. Roots are grey-white in color, with firm, juicy flesh.

Selection and Storage: Buy medium-size, firm, clean roots. Refrigerate in a crisper for 3 to 4 days.
Preparation:  Trim, peel, and cut in 2 inch pieces. Place in boiling salted water; add one teaspoon of vinegar for each inch of water. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, drain, and season.

Spaghetti Squash. A novel vegetable prized for its golden yellow, crisp flesh, which breaks into strands after cooking. Its slightly sweet flavor and unique appearance add a distinctive accent to any meal.

Selection and Storage: Look for yellow evenly colored squash; avoid any that have a greenish tinge. Stored in a cool, dry place; they will keep for several weeks.
Preparation:  Bake, boil, steam, or microwave spaghetti squash. Be sure not to overcook it, or it will become watery and taste bland. To microwave, pierce the skin in several places. A 3 pound squash, which will serve 6 to 8 people, will cook in 12 to 15 minutes on high power. Boiling will take about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on size. The squash is done when a fork can easily pierce the skin. When it is cool enough to handle, split the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds and fibrous portion. To loosen the strands, gently run a fork over the flesh. Serve in place of pasta, tossed with flavored oils or cheese; or top the strands with a zesty vinaigrette dressing and serve cold.

Sunchokes. Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunchokes have a flavor similar to globe artichokes. They have a gnarled, knobby appearance and a nutty taste.

Selection and Storage: Look for firm, clean tubers with no soft spots. Store in the refrigerator.
Preparation:  Remove skin and serve raw in salads; they can also be broiled, sautéed, or mashed.
Jerusalem Artichokes and Peas

1/2 pound Jerusalem artichokes (sun chokes)
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
One 9-ounce package tiny frozen peas, defrosted and well drained
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper

With a vegetable peeler, remove thin outer skin from each artichoke. Thoroughly wash several times in cold water, drain, and blot dry. (Chokes will turn a light beige color after cleaning.) Slice each in half crosswise and then lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips. In a deep 3-1/2-quart saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add scallions, turn heat to low, and cook until softened but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in artichokes, cover pan, and cook just until tender-crisp, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in peas and fennel. Cook for an additional 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl and serve.

Serves 4
Per serving: Cal. 138 Fat. 7 gm Sod. 271 mg Chol. 0 mg
From: Lean Italian Cooking, by Anne Casale. Copyright © 1994 by Anne Casale. Reprinted by permission of Ballantine Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Tomatillos. Appropriately called Mexican sauce tomatoes, tomatillos add spicy flavor to sauces. They are yellowish-green, bright green, or purplish-green in color and are covered with a papery husk. The flavor is tart and similar to a green apple.

Selection and Storage: Keep in a cool, well-ventilated, dry place. Do not remove the husks.
Preparation:  Slice raw tomatillos in salads or tacos; steam in a small amount of water for 5 minutes for a sauce-like consistency; or combine chopped tomatillos, onions, peppers, and spices with low-fat or non-fat sour cream for a spicy dip to serve with tortilla chips.

Turnips. This snappy-flavored vegetable has white skin and flesh, topped with edible leaves. It is a member of the mustard family.

Selection and Storage: Find turnips that are heavy and smooth with fresh, green leaves. Store in the refrigerator. Although you can keep the root for up to a week, you should eat the greens in 2 to 4 days.
Preparation:  Remove skin with a peeler. Dice or slice and cook until tender by steaming, baking, sautéing, or microwaving. Turnips also taste delicious in soups or stews.

 

Warm Potato and Turnip Salad with Sorrel

1-1/2 lbs. new potatoes
1 pound small turnips with tops, about 2 bunches
3 oz. pancetta or salt pork
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 Tbs. olive oil
About 1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded sorrel leaves

Scrub the potatoes and turnips and cook them in water to cover by 1 inch until they are just tender. Drain them and let them stand until they are just cool enough to peel. Cut the pancetta into 1/2-inch dice. Cook it over medium-low heat until it is golden brown and there are about 2 tablespoons of rendered fat in the pan. Peel and cut the vegetables into 1-inch (2-cm) dice. Put them in the pan with the oil and sprinkle the vinegar, salt, and pepper over them. Heat the vegetables over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently. When they are heated through, transfer them to a bowl and toss with the sorrel leaves and pancetta. Serve the salad immediately.

Serves 6
From: Herbs in the Kitchen by Carolyn Dille and Susan Belsinger. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, Inc.; 1992.

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