Make Plans To Try Some Different Recipes This Year

IN THE KITCHEN

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It's still early in the new year, so it is not too late to make resolutions. One that might be fun -- try some different recipes this year.

The following are a collection of recipes from the American Institute for Cancer Research.

East Mediterranean Sandwiches

Some fast-food fans already know shawarama, the East Mediterranean street food that begins with a tall, slowly-rotating column of roasting meat. Sliced off the spit in thin slabs, the roasted chicken, lamb, pork or beef is tucked into a pita, liberally buried in chopped salad and doused with a tangy, cool sauce.

In American cities with a Lebanese, Israeli or Syrian community, chicken or lamb shawarama seems almost as easy to find as pizza. Where there are Greek-Americans, it is called souvlaki and made with pork. Turks make the same dish using beef and call it doner kebab.

Despite all these possibilities, this warm, Middle Eastern sandwich remains unknown in many places. Because of the kind of marinated, layered meat used, and the particular kind of rotisserie required, this is not a dish to make at home, so you have to find a take-out place or casual restaurant serving shawarama or its other-named versions if you want to enjoy it.

The meat, however, could easily be replaced by the right vegetables. The most important elements are the earthy spices, the pungent flavor from grilling and the contrast of hot filling against cool sauce. The usual tahini sauce could be replaced by plain yogurt, nicely seasoned and stirred.

Use sweet bell peppers, eggplant, tomato and onion for the filling, cut to grill without burning. The marinade is a dry rub of ground spices, mixed with just enough oil to make sure the spices cling to the vegetables.

Any kind of grill works, indoors or out, but be prepared if using a stove-top grill to have the house smell of smoke. Open the windows wide, and use an exhaust fan, if possible.

The final trick is quickly covering the just-cooked vegetables tightly and letting them sit so they will soften as their delicious juices blend with the spices coating them.

Grilled Vegetables Indian-Style

1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt

2 tablespoons prepared hummus

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Canola oil spray

1 large red onion, cut in 1/4-inch slices

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut in 1/4-inch strips

1 Japanese eggplant, cut diagonally in 1/4-inch slices

8 cherry tomatoes

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 pocket-style whole-wheat pita breads

Make sauce by whisking together yogurt, hummus and oregano in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Coat a grill or a ridged grill-pan with cooking spray. Heat until very hot.

Put vegetables on skewers, one type of vegetable per skewer.

In a bowl whisk together garlic, cumin, cinnamon, pepper flakes and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a flat pan big enough to hold the skewered vegetables. Place vegetables in the pan, turning to coat all sides, using a pastry brush, if desired, to coat surfaces.

Grill vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender, checking frequently. (Tomatoes will cook the fastest; the other vegetables will take varying amounts of time.) Remove each when done. Slide vegetables off skewers and into a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap for 10 minutes so vegetables release juices and soften. Meanwhile, heat pita bread until warm and soft.

Tuck one-fourth of the vegetables into the pocket of each pita. Top with a quarter of the sauce and serve.

Makes four servings with 288 calories per serving.

We rarely eat a lemon or use the entire fruit in pies, chutneys, or salt-pickled as they are for North African dishes. Yet we use lemons all the time, often several times a day, to enliven both savory and sweet dishes, sauces, dressings and beverages. Mostly, we use the juice, and occasionally the aromatic, yellow outer layer of skin called the zest.

A lemon is a lemon to Americans, since the two commercially grown varieties, Lisbon and Eureka, are almost indistinguishable. Dark yellow Meyer lemons, in season from November to March, are now becoming more available, as well. A cross between a lemon and an orange, their abundant juice is sweet enough to drink straight. It makes a killer lemonade.

Fresh-squeezed lemon juice has a bright, sweet-tart taste. It is recommended over bottled juice. To extract the most juice, microwave a lemon for 30 seconds, then roll it on the counter top, pressing down firmly. Using a reamer, a good-size lemon yields as much as four tablespoons of juice.

Lemon peel has two layers, the top layer of golden zest, rich in the health-protective phytochemical called limonen and a spongy underlayer of white, bitter-tasting pith. There are two good methods for removing the first and avoiding the second. If possible, get a rasp. Chefs discovered that this wood-working tool zips zest off neatly, yields more and cleans up more easily than a grater or zester. Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler or sharp, thin paring knife to cut the zest away in strips. If any white clings to the underside, pin the peel on a flat surface, using your thumb at one end. Holding a paring knife so its blade is almost horizontal, gently slide the blade between the zest and pith, starting at the thumb-end and moving slowly down the strip. It doesn't matter if the strip tears, as you will probably be chopping it up anyway.

Served warm, this pasta salad uses both lemon zest and juice, plus an appealing combination of regular and whole-wheat pasta.

Lemon Pasta Salad with Tuna and Broccoli

3 ounces semolina fusilli pasta or other type of spiral pasta

3 ounces whole-wheat fusilli pasta or other type of spiral pasta

1 can (6-ounce) water-packed white tuna, drained

3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 cups cooked broccoli florets

1 tablespoon capers, drained

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and place pasta in a bowl. Add tuna, tomato, broccoli, capers, lemon zest and basil. Using fork, mix until the tuna is well broken up.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice and salt. Whisk in the oil. Season to taste with pepper. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat the salad.

Makes four main-dish servings with 290 calories each, or eight servings as a side dish.

Southern Indian Cooking

Grilled tandoori, puffed nan bread and creamy spinach saag are classic dishes from the north of India. Recently, though, thanks to our increasing interest in heat and spice, Americans are being attracted to the hotter food of southern India. Rather than the pounded blend of dry-roasted cinnamon sticks, cardamom, cloves and other spices called garam masala, cooking in southern India uses lots of hot chile peppers and whole mustard seeds. It also emphasizes vegetarian dishes and seafood more than the inland, meat-oriented cooking of the north.

Southern India is the subcontinent's tip, bordered by the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. Important southern Indian cities include Madras to the east, and the port of Cochin in the western state of Kerala. A fabled source of spices, like Malabar pepper, the Malabar Coast of Kerala was a magnet for ancient Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs and Marco Polo in 1294. These foreign visitors brought foods that enriched the local cooking, particularly the tomatoes and chile peppers carried by the Portuguese from the New World. When Christians, Muslims, Parsees and Jews joined the local Hindus and stayed on, Kerala became an ethnic melting pot and a community of remarkable tolerance, a place where palcharcha is the custom of sharing celebratory dishes of your own faith with friends of other religions.

At home, when you want to give shrimp or salmon sizzling Indian flavor, serve them with this chunky tomato chutney. Inspired by a recipe from Suvir Saran of Amma, a New York City restaurant, it is also splendid as an omelet filling, or served with cottage cheese.

Indian Tomato Chutney

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 1/2 pounds large plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt, to taste

Combine coriander, curry powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, pepper flakes, and turmeric in a small bowl and set aside.

Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Scoop out and discard seeds and inner flesh. Cut each half into six pieces.

Heat oil in a medium, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mustard and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds begin to pop, 1 or 2 minutes, stir in dried spices. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and salt. Cook, stirring often to prevent sticking. When skin at the edges of some of the tomatoes curls, but they are all still firm and chunky, about 4 minutes, transfer the chutney into a bowl. Serve chutney warm (not hot), or at room temperature.

Makes 2 cups, for four servings as a side dish or eight servings as a condiment. Per condiment serving: 70 calories.

These recipes were written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of "The Joy of Soy" and recipe creator for AICR's "Stopping Cancer Before It Starts."

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