March 24, 2010

Five ingredients enhance flavor, cut salt and fat

Citrus juice and zest, herbs, spices, fruit salsas and sugar make dishes tasty and more healthful.


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Sour-Orange Chicken With Avocado-Orange Salsa

The Washington Post

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Black and White Bean Primavera Salad

The Washington Post

Go easy: You don't want to taste sweetness, nor do you want to add much to the calorie count, although at 16 calories a teaspoonful, you have a little wiggle room here. White sugar is good for dressings, brown sugar's great in stews, and molasses or honey can be just the ticket for a barbecue sauce.

These ingredients let me ease up on the butter, oil and salt, but note that I don't eliminate them completely. Butter can be the finishing touch in a sauce that draws most of its flavor from fruit or spices. Oil can balance a dressing already well flavored with herbs and citrus. Salt can be an essential ingredient -- but not the defining one.

Consider it a delicious shift in priorities.


6 to 8 servings

To me, "primavera style" means lots of vegetables and herbs. In this salad, two kinds of beans are combined with a barely cooked mixture of carrots, onions, bell pepper, zucchini and peas, then tossed with a light dressing of sherry vinegar and olive oil. Every bite has a delicious combination of herbs, beans and vegetables.

Mix and match your own favorite vegetables. You can use any combination of herbs, but don't leave them out. They add bright flavor that completes the dish.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad can be made up to three days in advance (and, ideally, brought to room temperature before serving) and goes with grilled or broiled meats, seafood and poultry. To make it work as an entree for lunch or a light supper, add bite-size pieces of cooked chicken, shrimp or pork.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small (2 ounces) onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1/2 large red, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into small dice (1/2 cup)

1 medium (about 2 ounces) carrot, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

1 medium zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup frozen petite or small peas, defrosted

1 1/2 cups cooked, no-salt-added black beans

1 1/2 cups cooked, no-salt-added small white beans or navy beans

1/4 cup finely chopped combination of fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill and chives

3 tablespoons sherry vinegar or mild red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper; reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring so the vegetables start to soften but do not brown.

Add the carrot and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the zucchini or yellow squash and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until the zucchini or yellow squash and carrot lose their raw look and are just tender.

Then add the peas and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to incorporate and heat through. Transfer to a large bowl.

While the vegetable mixture is still warm, add the cooked beans and the herbs; mix well.

Whisk together the vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, pepper to taste, sugar and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Add the dressing to the salad and stir to combine. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Nutrition per serving: 165 calories, 7 g protein, 20 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 94 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 2 g sugar

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