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From Garden to Dinner Table


This classic combination of tomatoes with cream and herbed bread crumbs is a quick accompaniment to steaks, lamb chops, roast chicken or fish. The tomatoes should be fork tender and the crumbs nicely browned when the dish is taken from the oven.

Lecso (pronounced LETCH-o) is a savory stew or sauce of tomatoes and Hungarian peppers. Traditionally, it's flavored with smoked bacon, but this low-fat vegetarian version gets its smokiness from mesquite cooking spray. The lecso is delicious served with the Tomato Rice.

You'll need garden-fresh tomatoes because juices from the simmering tomatoes and peppers are needed to form a rich, red, gravy-like sauce. Long, pale green Hungarian peppers are often available at supermarkets and farmers markets.

Deane's latest cookbook is "The Low-Fat Kitchen," from which the recipes for Hungarian Lecso and Tomato Rice were taken. Deane developed the recipe for Escalloped Tomatoes for this section.

Escalloped Tomatoes

Active Work Time: 20 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Any tomato ends or slices that don't fit in the pan can be diced and used in a salad.

2 beefsteak tomatoes

3 tablespoons butter, softened


Cracked black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon minced shallots

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs

1 teaspoon minced thyme

1/2 teaspoon minced marjoram

3/4 cup half-and-half

* Cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange tomato slices in single layer to cover bottom of 10-inch-round baking dish greased with 1 tablespoon butter. Season tomato slices with salt and cracked black pepper to taste.

* Heat remaining 2 tablespoons butter in small skillet over medium-low heat, and saute garlic and shallots 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let butter brown. Stir in bread crumbs and toss until evenly mixed with butter mixture. Cook, stirring, just until bread crumbs begin to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in thyme, marjoram and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

* Pour half-and-half around tomatoes. Sprinkle bread crumbs evenly over top of tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees until bread crumbs are nicely browned and tomatoes are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.

4 servings. Each serving: 302 calories; 463 mg sodium; 42 mg cholesterol; 16 grams fat; 34 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 0.66 gram fiber.

Vegetarian Hungarian Lecso

Active Work Time: 30 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour

Nonstick mesquite-flavored cooking spray

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika

2 beefsteak tomatoes, peeled and cut into wedges (about

1 1/2 pounds)

6 to 7 Hungarian peppers, seeded and cut into 1-inch strips (about 1 pound)

1 teaspoon salt

Tomato Rice

* Spray bottom of Dutch oven with cooking spray. Add oil and heat until hot. Add onion and saute over medium heat until onion turns brown around edges, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in paprika. Reduce heat to low.

* Stir in tomato wedges, pepper strips and salt. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes cook down to gravy and peppers are limp, 25 to 30 minutes. Correct seasoning if necessary. Serve with Tomato Rice.

4 servings. Each serving without Tomato Rice: 102 calories; 605 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 16 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 1.83 gram fiber.

Tomato Rice

Active Work Time: 10 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes

1 cup rice

2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

Nonstick cooking spray

1 small onion, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 beefsteak tomato, diced

* Bring rice, water and salt to boil in saucepan. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes.

* Spray skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add onion, garlic and tomato and saute over medium heat until tender. Stir into cooked rice.

4 servings. Each serving: 183 calories; 595 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 41 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams protein; 0.45 gram fiber.

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