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GOOD COOKING

The Easy, Eclectic Picnic

May 23, 1991|ABBY MANDEL

The picnic menu that follows is easy, delicious and healthful. The East-West stir-fry pasta salad is low in fat and high in flavor. It doesn't really need bread, so I've included a glazed sesame cracker instead. Dessert is fruit and a crisp cookie. Take along a chilled Pinot Grigio or another light dry white wine in the cooler, or some iced orange tea with fresh mint.

If you want to add more food, consider crudites with a yogurt spinach dip or coleslaw made with jicama, carrots and red cabbage; both make good, healthy additions. If you feel the need for an extra dessert, try an angel food cake: It has no-cholesterol and is always delicious.

\o7 This great-tasting pasta salad sports a long list of ingredients, but don't let that daunt you. It's a wonderful low-cholesterol, one-dish pasta meal with healthy, crunchy vegetables and chicken or turkey (leftovers will work if you have them on hand). Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked (which can be done ahead), the dish takes less than 10 minutes to make. Then it's refrigerated. For the best presentation, toss the broccoli into the pasta just a few hours before serving. For at-home dining, serve the salad on sliced Romaine lettuce.

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EAST-WEST STIR-FRY PASTA SALAD

4 cups small broccoli florets

8 ounces farfalle (bow-tie) pasta

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1/4 cup slivered almonds

1 (1 1/2-inch) square ginger root, peeled and minced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 (3/4-pound) piece skinned, boned turkey breast or chicken breasts, cut in strips about 1 1/2 inches long, 1/3-inch wide

6 slim carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1 1/4 to 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

4 to 5 tablespoons soy sauce

6 to 8 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

2 sweet red peppers, diced 1/3-inch

6 large green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves

Blanch florets in boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain immediately in colander. Place in bowl of ice-cold water until completely cool. Drain well. (Can be kept up to 2 days refrigerated, covered airtight.)

Cook pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse in cold water. Drain well.

Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add almonds and stir-fry until golden brown, about 1 minute. Use slotted spoon to set aside.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in same skillet. Add ginger, garlic, turkey and sliced carrots. Stir-fry until fragrant and meat begins to turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Add 1 1/4 cups broth, 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 6 tablespoons vinegar. Simmer 2 minutes.

Add pasta. Bring to boil, stirring often. Add sweet red peppers, green onions and red pepper flakes. Add remaining broth only as necessary. Pasta should be moist but there should be very little liquid in bottom of skillet once dish is finished. Cook only to heat through, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Remove from heat. Add reserved almonds and cilantro. Stir well. Add remaining soy sauce and vinegar according to taste. Chill. (Can be made day ahead.)

Few hours before serving, add broccoli and toss to combine. Drain any excess liquid. Adjust seasonings. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Makes 4 servings.

Nicely bronzed with a sesame coating and sprinkled with chives, these crackers fill the bill for an appropriate "bread" item in an Asian menu. Although the garlic quantity looks major, it only offers a nuance of flavor once the cracker is baked.

GLAZED SESAME CRACKERS

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 hors d'oeuvre-size lahvosh crackers

2 teaspoons snipped chives

Combine garlic, sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, cayenne pepper, orange zest and salt in small saucepan or microwavable dish. Bring to boil on stove top or in microwave oven. Remove from heat.

Brush glaze on crackers. Sprinkle with chives. Arrange single layer on baking sheet. Bake in center of 375-degree oven until deeply browned but not burned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Cool on rack. (Can be baked 2 days ahead and stored in airtight container at room temperature.) Makes 12 crackers.

Rice Krispies give this cookie a crunch and a mellow butterscotch flavor without added fat. The recipe is easily doubled or tripled. When paired with berries or fresh cut-up fruit, the combination is a perfect summer dessert.

RICE KRISPY COOKIES

1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Dash salt

1 cup crisp rice cereal

Cream butter, sugar and vanilla until fluffy. On low speed, add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until well combined. Using wooden spoon, stir in cereal.

Drop cookie dough by level tablespoons onto greased baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2-inch space between each.

Bake in center of 350-degree oven until lightly browned around edges, about 8 minutes, rotating and reversing baking sheets midway if cookies are baking unevenly. Let set at room temperature 2 minutes before transferring cookies to cooling rack with metal spatula. (Can be stored in airtight container and held at room temperature up to 1 week or frozen up to 3 months, wrapped airtight.) Makes 24 (2-inch-diameter) cookies.

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