Elegant Dishes For The Fast-Approaching Holidays



Dana Jacobi, who writes "Something Different" for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has adapted a recipe by Rick Bayless, the chef whose two Mexican restaurants in Chicago offer true, regional Mexican cooking.

She has slimmed down his velvety mole recipe by using cocoa in place of chocolate and somewhat less oil. As with other fine Mexican dishes, this one takes some time to prepare, but by making the entire dish a day ahead, she can enjoy her guests more than if she was wrestling with the traditional turkey. Try Dana's Pork Loin with Apricot Mole for a different dinner. Dana has never been fond of fruit salad as a dessert, but in 1981 she realized that fruit salad could be very exciting when a three-star restaurant in Paris served a floating salad a melange of fresh lychee, kiwi, pineapple and passion fruit, all swimming in a glass bowl in a light, barely sweet syrup. Since then she has created various versions of that recipe such as the one below. Floating Fruit Salad. She serves it in large wine glasses, garnished with sprigs of mint. The holidays are coming and holiday time means cocktail parties with finger food, served to bridge the time until dinner is served.

An idea that Dana has come up with to serve as hors d'oeuvres, for any time during the coming holiday season, is Smoked Salmon Nachos and Caviar Nachos. Generous plates of these can even be served as a light supper. AICR provides a wide range of consumer education programs that have helped millions of Americans learn to make changes for lower cancer risk.

They also support innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S. The Institute has provided more than $50 million in funding for research in diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR's Internet Web address is http://www.aicr.org

Pork Loin with Apricot Mole

3 medium tomatillos, chopped

3 Tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup sesame seeds

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2/3 cup Turkish dried apricots, chopped

1 slice white bread, darkly toasted

6 ounces dried ancho chilis, stemmed and seeded

2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin, well trimmed, and untied

6 cups fat-free chicken broth

1 Tablespoon cocoa

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground clove

4 Tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

Place the tomatillos in a cold non-stick skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned and soft, 4 minutes. Scrape them into a bowl. Wipe out the pan. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in the skillet over medium heat. Cook the almonds, sesame seeds and garlic until golden, stirring constantly, 3-4 minutes. Add to the tomatillos. Add the apricots. Break the toast into the bowl. Set aside. Tear the chilis into 1-inch pieces. Heat 1 Tablespoon of the oil in the skillet. Cook half the chilis, turning them with tongs, until they soften and their inside is a lighter color, 30 seconds. Do not let them smoke. Remove the chilis to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining chilis. Cover the chilis with hot tap water. Soak until they are soft, 20 minutes. In a large Dutch oven, heat the remaining oil. Brown the pork, turning as needed. Transfer the meat to a plate. Do not wash the pot. Puree the chilis in a blender with 2 cups water. Set a strainer over the empty soaking bowl from the chilis. Press the chili puree through the strainer. In the unwashed blender, puree the remaining ingredients with the tomatillo mixture and 3 cups of the chicken broth. Strain it back into its bowl. Cook the chili puree in the Dutch oven until it has the thickness of tomato paste, 15 minutes. Add the tomatillo puree and cook until the mole thickens again. Stir in the remaining broth. Half cover the pot, and simmer until the mole coats a spoon well, 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lay the pork in the mole, turning it once. Cover, and cook in the oven until a meat thermometer reads 150 degrees F., 30-40 minutes. The meat will feel firm and be slightly pink in the center. Let the pork rest on a plate 20 minutes. Slice and serve it with 1/4 cup mole on each plate. Each of the 10 servings contains 265 calories and 12 grams of fat.

Party-Pretty Floating Fruit Salad

2 cups sugar

6 strips lemon zest, each 2 inches by 1/2 inch

1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

1 kiwi, peeled

1 star fruit

1/2 medium banana

1 medium peach, halved

1/2 Fuji apple

1/2 bosc pear

2 passion fruit, or 2 rings fresh pineapple

1/2 cup fresh raspberries, or frozen, thawed

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)

Fresh mint for garnish

Place the sugar in a large pot. Add 5 1/2 cups water. Add the lemon zest and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Steep the syrup until it cools to room temperature. Pour the syrup through a strainer into a large glass or other serving bowl. Reserve 3 strips of the lemon zest. Discard the other solids. Cut the zest crosswise into the thinnest possible strips. Add them to the syrup. Cut the fruit as follows and add it to the bowl of liquid: Slice the kiwi crosswise as thinly as possible. Cut the ends off the star fruit. Standing it on one end, vertically cut the hard outer tip off each point. Lay the fruit down, and cut it crosswise into thin stars. Slice the banana as thinly as possible. Cut the peach halves crosswise into thin slices. Stack the slices and cut them in half crosswise. With a melon baller, scoop out the core of the apple. Slice it like the peach. Cut the neck off the pear and discard. Core with the melon baller, and slice it like the apple. Cut the passion fruits in half. Scoop out the flesh and seeds, adding them to the bowl. Or, thinly slice the pineapple rings vertically making tiny wedges. Add the raspberries and pomegranate seeds to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 6 hours. To serve, ladle 3/4 cup of the fruit and liquid into large wine glasses or clear glass bowls. Garnish each with a sprig of fresh mint. Each of the eight servings contains 243 calories and less than one gram of fat.

Smoked Salmon Nachos

1 ripe avocado

1 whole scallion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

Freshly ground pepper

1/4 pound smoked salmon

16 baked corn chips

1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

Mash the avocado in a bowl. Mash in the scallion, lime juice and pepper to taste. This may be done up to 8 hours ahead. Cut the salmon into 16 pieces, each about 2-inches long. Place a piece of the salmon on each corn chip. Dollop 1 teaspoon of the avocado mixture in the center of the nacho. Top with 1/2 teaspoon of the tomato and 1/4 teaspoon of the jalapeno pepper. Serve immediately. Each of the 16 nachos contains 40 calories and 2 grams of fat.

Caviar Nachos

8 mini-pitas

15-ounce can Great Northern Beans

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup reduced fat sour cream

Salt and pepper

2 ounces caviar

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut each pita into a large triangle. Separate each triangle into 2 pieces. Arrange the pita on 2 baking sheets, inside facing up. Spray with cooking spray. Bake until the bread curls slightly and is crisp, about 3 minutes. Set aside. This can be done up to 8 hours ahead. Drain the beans, reserving 2-3 Tablespoons of the liquid. Place the beans in a food processor. Add 3 Tablespoons of the sour cream, 1 Tablespoon of the bean liquid, and the thyme. Process to a spreadable puree. Add more liquid, if the puree is too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees. Spread 2 teaspoons of the bean puree on each pita triangle. Arrange on a baking sheet and heat the nachos in oven until warm, about 3 minutes. Spread 1 teaspoon sour cream over each nacho. Place 1/2 teaspoon caviar in the center of each nacho. Garnish with 1/2 teaspoon onion. Serve immediately. Each of the 16 nachos contains 86 calories and 2 grams of fat.

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