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Taking familiar foods in new directions

January 7, 2014 - 9:00am

Here you are, almost a week into this new year. Did you make any resolutions that involve food? Whether you are planning a strict diet, or just a healthier eating goal, if your choices are too austere or bland, chances are you won’t stick with your resolution. Besides, your palate deserves some special meals, especially in tough times. Familiar ingredients are comforting, so here are a few recipes that use sources of lean protein and fiber in different or unusual ways, for a delicious combination of flavor and nutrition.

Cashews and cheese

(Castanhas do caju e queijo)

Need a tasty pupu or quick meal that provides protein and fiber? Try this protein-rich, open-faced sandwich adapted from “Tasting Brazil” by Jessica B. Harris; makes 4 servings.

1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

2 tablespoons minced onion

8 slices whole grain bread

3 tablespoons chopped cashew nuts

Preheat broiler. Mix cheeses, paprika and onion together in a small bowl. Spread mixture on bread slices. Place bread slices on an ungreased cookie sheet; broil until cheese melts and is golden brown on top (watch carefully). Remove from oven, cut sandwiches into quarters and sprinkle the cashews over each piece. Serve hot.

Snapper soup with citrus

Healthy, low-fat and delicious, this soup is a variation on one using rockfish, from “Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking” by Mark Bittman. Makes 4 servings.

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup shallots, quartered

2 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces

2 medium carrots, sliced

1 medium parsnip, peeled and sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 small bulb fennel, cut into small pieces

4 cups any fish stock, warmed

1 bay leaf

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 lime

Juice of 1 orange

1 pound skinless, boneless snapper fillets, cut into chunks

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a flame-proof casserole. Add shallots, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, onion and fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to wilt. Add stock and bay leaf; bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add citrus juices, then nestle fish among the vegetables and cook just until fish is white and firm, about 5 to 8 minutes. Serve immediately.


Here is a favorite that I’ve made a few times, always impressive for a dinner party; it’s quite beautiful when sliced. “Matambre” translates to “kill hunger” and is a traditional Argentina beef roll stuffed with vegetables and hard boiled eggs. It is served hot or cold. A novel way to have meat and veggies all rolled up together. Recipe from “Latin American Cooking” by Susan Bensusan; makes 6 servings.

One 2 1/2 pound flank steak (all in one piece)

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon thyme

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup wine vinegar


1/2 pound spinach, washed and trimmed

1 1/2 cups fresh, firm textured breadcrumbs

3 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup green peas

4 slices bacon, chopped and fried until crisp

3/4 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground black pepper

4 carrots, cooked and sliced lengthwise

4 hard boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise

2 cups beef broth

1 cup water

Place steak in a glass or earthenware dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, parsley, onion and vinegar. Cover and marinate overnight. To prepare filling, spread the spinach leaves evenly over the steak. Mix breadcrumbs with milk in a bowl. Add peas, bacon, salt and pepper. Spread mixture over the spinach leaves. Arrange the slices of carrots across the width of the steak; place eggs in rows between carrots. Roll steak tightly and secure with strings tied one inch apart. Tie 2 pieces of string along the length of steak. Place in a casserole; add beef broth and water. Cover and bake in preheated 375 F oven for 1 1/4 hours or until steak is tender. Remove from oven; let rest for 10 minutes. Remove strings and cut meat into 1/4-inch slices. Serve hot, moistened with pan juices. Beef can also be chilled, then cut into thin slices and served cold.

Sauteed butternut squash with lime-coconut sauce

This good-for-you side dish has intense flavor and rich color. Recipe from “Caprial Cooks For Friends” by Caprial Pence; makes 4 servings.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into large dice

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 teaspoons peeled, chopped fresh ginger

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup vegetable stock

Two 12-ounce cans coconut milk

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon curry powder, toasted

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons chili sauce

Soy sauce

1/2 cup toasted fresh coconut, for garnish

1/2 cup fried shallots, for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a very large saute pan over high heat until smoking hot. Add squash and sear, without stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Toss and sear, without stirring, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Add garlic and ginger; saute for 1 minute. Add wine and honey; cook until reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Add stock and coconut milk, lower heat to medium, and simmer just until squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and juice, curry powder, basil and chili sauce. Season with soy sauce to taste. Serve warm, sprinkled with toasted coconut and fried shallots.