Some fast fixings of summertime delights

July 31, 1996|By William Rice | William Rice,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Now we can devote our full attention to summer and the wonderful fresh foods that accompany it. The most significant, at my home, are vegetables and fruits. Into September my wife and I will frequent our local farmers' market and various food stores that feature produce grown in our region. We eagerly accept offers of home- grown items from friends who grow their own.

Yet, in another of the foibles that make humans human, despite the season (the so-called lazy days of summer are upon us) we want to prepare and consume this bounty in a minimum of time.

The best way to achieve this -- since eating very fast is frowned upon by nutritionists and sets a bad example for children -- is to shorten preparation time.

Therefore, Rice's first rule of quick cooking is not to cook at all. Eat as many of your fruits and vegetables as possible raw. Tender, young and crunchy, carrots, cabbage and cucumbers (and others whose names begin with letters other than c) can be sliced, chopped or grated and eaten with or without a dressing.

When cooking is necessary, cut the vegetables as small, or as thin, as possible. They will cook quickly, especially if a high-heat method such as grilling or stir-fry is used to prepare them.

Finally, with the bounty of summer, prepare more produce than you intend to eat. Once cooked, the extra vegetables can easily be recycled with pasta, in an omelet or salad or added to a soup.

The plethora of flavored oils and vinegars available today can provide enticing seasoning to lettuces and vegetables that have been cooked simply by boiling, steaming or a visit to the microwave.

The recipes that follow are examples of quick preparation. When cooking, however, don't make too much haste. There is a tremendous gap between vegetables exposed to heat that are barely cooked and still raw. The latter lack the flavor and satisfaction of the former.

Pasta with garlic and greens

Makes 2 servings

4 ounces capellini


1/4 cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

3 cups chopped arugula or young spinach

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Weigh or estimate by eye ( 1/4 of a 1-pound box) the pasta and place it near the stove. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large

pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt, stir to dissolve, then add pasta and cook at a boil until just tender, about 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saute pan, heat the olive oil with garlic and optional pepper flakes over medium heat. As soon as the garlic begins to turn golden, add the arugula and stir until it wilts. Stir in the vinegar. Stir in the bread crumbs and keep warm.

Place butter and 1/4 cup cooking water in a bowl. Drain pasta and add it to the bowl. Add garlic-arugula mixture and toss. Season with pepper and serve immediately with a simple red wine.

Mushroom and bean sprout salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons dry sherry

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, optional

1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 pound white mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 green onions, thinly sliced

1 1/2 pounds bean sprouts

Combine sugar, mustard, soy sauce, sherry, pepper sauce, hoisin sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl and place near the stove.

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the mushrooms and green onions and saute over high heat until the mushrooms begin to give off juice. Add the bean sprouts and toss until heated through, about 1 minute.

Pour contents of the bowl over the vegetables and toss for an additional 30 seconds, or until the sprouts begin to wilt. Turn out into a bowl or platter and serve.

Grated carrot and jicama salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 medium carrots, peeled

1 medium jicama (about 12 ounces), peeled

1 tablespoon lemon juice

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped walnuts

1/4 cup snipped fresh chives

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup plain, low-fat yogurt

salt to taste

endive or radicchio leaves, optional

sandwich bread, optional

Using a food processor or a four-sided grater, grate the carrots and the jicama. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add the lemon juice, walnuts, chives, pepper and yogurt and toss until ingredients are well combined. Taste and add salt, if desired.

Portion grated vegetables into optional endive leaves for snacking, into radicchio leaves to accompany a main course, or make sandwiches.

Tomato, tuna and green pepper salad

Makes 6 servings

1 pound ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut in 1-inch dice

1/2 pound green peppers, cored, seeded and cut in a 1-inch dice

1 small sweet onion, cut in slivers

2 ounces light-meat tuna, broken into small chunks

1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

salt and freshly ground pepper

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, peppers, onion and tuna. In a cup, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Fold the dressing into the vegetables and taste for salt. Chill, if time allows, and serve in small salad bowls.

Recipe from "Delicioso" by Penelope Casas (Knopf).

Pub Date: 7/31/96

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