1. In a food processor, mix the shrimp, onion, garlic, corn masa dough and eggs until well blended. Add three-fourths cup cilantro, salt and pepper and pulse briefly.
2. Lightly oil your hands and form small (three-fourths-inch) meatballs with the shrimp mixture.
3. Drop the meatballs into the sauce and cook at low heat without stirring until the meatballs are firm, about 5 minutes. If the sauce thickens too much, add more stock.
4. To serve, place three albondigas with sauce in each ramekin or small bowl and sprinkle with cilantro.
Each serving: 158 calories; 18 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 3 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 175 mg. cholesterol; 672 mg. sodium.
Yum takrai (lemon grass with dried shrimp and cashews)
Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: 4 appetizer servings
Note: Barbara Hansen tasted this dish at A-Roy Thai restaurant in Singapore and obtained the recipe for her April article about lemon grass. You may substitute one-third cup unsweetened toasted coconut (available in Asian markets) for the fresh coconut.
Meat from about 1/4 of a fresh coconut
1/3 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
3 tablespoons sugar
8 to 10 stalks lemon grass
2 green onions
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup raw cashews
3 tablespoons dried shrimp
2 Thai chiles, cut into small pieces
1. Crack the coconut and cut away pieces of the meat, then use a vegetable peeler to make thin (1-inch) strips until you have about one-third cup of thin strips. Toast the coconut strips on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 15 to 17 minutes until golden. Remove, cool and set aside.
2. Combine the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and let stand while preparing the salad. Taste and add more sugar, if desired.
3. Cut off the root end of the lemon grass stalks and discard. Use 6 inches of the lower part for the salad. Discard the rest, or save for another use. Remove the coarse outer layers of each stalk. With a very sharp knife, slice the lemon grass stalks crosswise as fine as possible. There should be about 1 1/2 cups sliced lemon grass.
4. Peel the shallots; quarter them lengthwise, then slice thinly. Trim the root end of the green onions and cut off part of the green end, leaving 1 inch of the green part. Cut the onions in half lengthwise, then slice thinly.
5. Heat the oil in a small skillet. Fry the cashews until golden, about 50 seconds. Drain on paper towels. Fry the dried shrimp until crisp, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
6. In a bowl, combine the cashews, shrimp, lemon grass, shallots and green onions. Just before serving, add the small pieces of Thai chile to the lime juice-fish sauce dressing, pour over the salad and toss well.
7. Place a large romaine leaf on a serving plate. Spoon the salad onto the leaf. Sprinkle on the coconut strips. Prepare a plate of tender romaine leaves (or the top halves of romaine leaves, center ribs removed).To eat, use your hands to shape a piece of lettuce into a little cup, spoon salad into the lettuce, wrap and eat.
Each serving: 334 calories; 6 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 23 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 8 mg. cholesterol; 1,063 mg. sodium.
Total time: 90 minutes
Servings: 12 or more
Note: Desserts were a very competitive recipe category this year -- in fact, some Food section staffers advocated a 10-best list made up entirely of desserts. This hands-down favorite from Regina Schrambling is a dream for lemon lovers.
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups sugar, divided
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Grated zest of 5 large lemons, divided
1 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch tube pan. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and stir to blend. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add 1 cup of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
3. Beat in one-fourth cup lemon juice and the zest of 3 lemons. Stir in the flour mixture and sour cream alternately, mixing with a rubber spatula until completely blended. Scrape into the prepared pan.
4. Bake 60 to 70 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a serving plate.
5. Combine the remaining lemon juice and the remaining two-thirds cup sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the remaining lemon zest.
6. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer. Spoon and brush the glaze over the top and all sides of the cake. Cool completely before slicing.
Each of 12 servings: 439 calories; 6 grams protein; 57 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 21 grams fat; 13 grams saturated fat; 121 mg. cholesterol; 296 mg. sodium.
Fig and almond tart