Gourmet ideas for health-conscious cooks

March 06, 1991|By Charlotte Balcomb Lane | Charlotte Balcomb Lane,Orlando Sentinel

From ancient times, the Chinese have endowed some foods with symbolism. Broccoli and other dark green vegetables are among these foods because their rich, verdant color is thought to represent youth, good health and the lucky stone, jade.

Today, health conscious eaters are discovering the link between good health and food to be much more that Chinese folk lore. Broccoli is high in fiber, carbohydrates and vitamins C and A. It also contains a fair amount of calcium, potassium and other valuable nutrients.

Most of the calories in the following recipe for Ham and Jade With Oyster-Flavored Sauce come from complex carbohydrates like rice and lightly cooked onions, carrots and broccoli. The Cantonese-inspired sauce makes use of low-fat flavors such as rice wine, soy, ginger and Chinese oyster sauce, a dark brown condiment that imparts a richness to dishes without overpowering their natural flavor. Ham and walnuts satisfy a craving for protein but don't load down the dish with fat.

Preparation of this substantial meal is also easy on busy American cooks because the vegetables can be lightly precooked in a microwave oven. Just before serving, all the ingredients are stir-fried together in a wok or large, non-stick skillet. Clean up is simple too because the number of dishes is kept to a minimum.

Ham and Jade with Oyster-Flavored Sauce


2 tablespoons oyster sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry

1 tablespoon rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon ketchup

1 clove garlic, crushed through a press

Ham and jade:

1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil

1 medium onion, peeled and sliced lengthwise into thin strips (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons ginger, minced

2 cups broccoli florets

1 carrot, peeled and sliced diagonally

4 ounces lean ham, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts.

In a measuring bowl, combine all the ingredients for the sauce. Stir well to blend; set aside.

Lightly precook the broccoli by washing it and placing the damp florets in a microwave-safe container. Cook on high (100 percent) power for three minutes, stirring after one minute. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Lightly precook the carrot slices in the microwave oven for one minute on high (100 percent) power. Allow to cool.

Assemble all ingredients near the stove. Heat the oil in a wok or large non-stick skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, add the onion slices. Cook, stirring for about four minutes, until onions are soft and lightly browned. Sprinkle with sugar and ginger and cook for one minute longer. Add the broccoli, carrots and ham and cook, stirring constantly for two to three minutes, until broccoli is tender but still has some crunchiness.

Stir in the sauce and walnuts and bring mixture to a boil. Cook for one minute longer, until fragrant. Remove from heat. Serve immediately over rice, recipe below.

Makes four servings.

Test kitchen notes: Rice wine, rice vinegar and oyster sauce are RTC available in Oriental markets and in many supermarkets in the Oriental or ethnic foods section. Oyster sauce, a staple in Cantonese cooking, tastes like salty ketchup and is made from oysters, water, caramel and cornstarch. It keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator.

Serves four. Each serving has 168 calories; 9.1 grams fat; 9.3 grams carbohydrate; 26 milligrams cholesterol and 431 milligrams sodium.

Gingered Rice

1 cup short-grain rice

1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon peanut or canola oil

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt.

Rinse the rice under running water in a sieve or colander; drain.

In a saucepan, heat the oil and fry the ginger over medium-high heat until fragrant, about one to two minutes. Stir in the rice. Add the water and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until water is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir once and allow to stand until ready to serve.

Serves four.

Test kitchen notes: Sauteed ginger adds a different dimension to white rice. However, plain white or brown rice cooked without the oil, may be substituted. Omitting the oil from the recipe saves about ten grams of fat or 90 calories.

Serves four. Each serving has 137 calories, less than one gram fat, 28.6 grams carbohydrate; 0 cholesterol and 171 milligrams sodium.

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