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(Way) Back to Nature

October 14, 1998|LEILAH BERNSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"I know of no outdoor exercise which will yield such splendid results in artistic beauty, in food production and in health and happiness, as a backyard garden. One literally revels in the closeness to the soil." So began a May 9, 1926, article on the "Care of the Body" page in the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine.

To further celebrate the virtues of working hand to spade, several recipes for vegetable stews ran alongside. One, called Vitality Stew, shows that the craze for healthful organic food began long before the '70s. It required an assortment of vegetables to be cooked in a "fireless cooker" (something like what we call a crock pot today). The 1920s, after all, was a time when vegetables became popular for the proteins and vitamins they contain.

This stew's rainbow-like blend of oranges, reds, brown and greens is an inviting reminder of the outdoors. But the flavor was a bit bland to tasters in The Times Test Kitchen. We came up with several ways to pump up the taste and incorporated them into the recipe that follows,

VITALITY STEW // LOW FAT

1 cup dried beans, preferably pink

2 quarts water

2 teaspoons minced garlic

1 bay leaf

1 onion, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup brown rice

1 large tomato, coarsely chopped

2 to 3 large carrots, coarsely chopped

1 to 2 turnips, peeled and cubed

2 small potatoes, cubed

1/2 cup chopped parsley

3 green onions, minced

Soak beans about 8 hours in water. Add garlic, bay leaf, onion, celery, brown rice, tomato, carrots, turnips and potatoes. Cook 7 hours in a crockpot on low, keeping the mixture at bare simmer. Add parsley and green onions and cook 1 hour more.

6 servings. Each serving contains:

180 calories; 41 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fat; 36 grams carbohydrates; 9 grams protein; 2.84 grams fiber.

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