When good health means great taste Yummy: Forget basic brown rice and vegetables. New cookbooks show the way to healthful dishes that make your mouth water.

August 26, 1998|By Kim Pierce | Kim Pierce,UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE

The new wave of healthy cookbooks contains something startling: mouthwatering recipes.

Consider dishes such as Asian Barbecued Pork Tenderloin, Gnocchi Florentine, Summer Vegetables in a Creamy Chili Cheese Sauce (Calabacitas con Queso) and Hazelnut Plum Tart, for starters.

It's as if the health foodies have figured it out: Food that is only good for you is about as much fun as watching someone's vacation slides.

Two books that take this fresh approach are "The Strang Cookbook for Cancer Prevention" (Rodale Press, $29.95) - get past the name - and "Prevention's Health Guaranteed Cookbook" (Dutton, $29.95).

The "Prevention" book, a spinoff of Prevention magazine, is like "Nutrition 101," says editor David Joachim. "We tried to keep the science easy to understand."

So the first 37 pages are a relatively breezy romp through basic nutrition with a strong hands-on slant that includes how to shop, tricks for low-fat cooking and how to eat smart in restaurants.

It also includes daily menus, Joachim says, because "I think people don't know what a healthy diet looks like." The aim is to show overall daily patterns rather than to focus on a dish or a meal.

The book was put together with the University Hospitals Synergy Culinary School, part of a healthy lifestyle clinic in Cleveland. Plus, the recipes were tested and in some cases streamlined in the Prevention test kitchen, Joachim says.

The result is a wonderful collection of menus and recipes that walk you through the seasons with imagination and flair. A spring menu features Strawberry Scones for breakfast, Parmesan Chicken Strips with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and sliced tomatoes for lunch and Black Bean Burritos With Verde Sauce and baked tortilla chips for dinner. Snacks are a Granny Smith apple and strawberries.

A few of the menus come from celebrity chefs such as Graham Kerr, Lora Brody and Wolfgang Puck. But the staunchest anti-health-foodie will have a tough time pushing away any of these dishes.

As for the "Strang" book, its weighty science section covers 100-plus pages with detailed, up-to-the-minute information on foods and habits that are believed to cut cancer risk, and substantially so. The cookbook comes from the Strang Cancer Preven-tion Center, which is affiliated with the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

"We've written this book for a very wide audience," says Laura Pensiero, a registered dietitian and one of the authors of the book. "One in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in a lifetime."

If this is overload for some readers, they will be relieved to learn that Pensiero also is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, and her deft touch in the kitchen shows.

She has gathered and adapted recipes from many of the country's top chefs - including Dallas' Dean Fearing; Jacques Pepin, who wrote the foreword; Daniel Boulud (Restaurant Daniel, New York); Zarela Martinez (Zarela's, New York); and RoxSand Scocos (RoxSand's Restaurant & Bar, Phoenix).

And although there are some simple recipes, such as Peach and Blueberry Crisp and Sauteed Spinach With Garlic, many are more ambitious, along the lines of Herb-and-Spice-Crusted Mahi-Mahi With Watermelon Salsa, Portobello Mushroom-Stuffed Chilies Rellenos and Middle Eastern Chicken Breasts With Smoky Lentils.

The point is, neither book is basic brown rice and steamed vegetables. And aren't we glad!

Peach and Blueberry Crisp

Makes 6 servings

nonstick cooking spray

6 medium peaches, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

2 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon

topping (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, combine fruit, flour, sugar and lemon juice. Toss with your hands to thoroughly combine. Spread fruit out in baking pan.

In a separate bowl, prepare topping. Evenly spread topping over fruit and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling and the topping is slightly browned. Remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

TOPPING: In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter, then rub topping between your hands until it resembles a coarse meal.

Per serving: 212 calories (12 percent fat); 3 grams fat (1 gram saturated); 3 grams fiber; 5 milligrams cholesterol; 26 milligrams sodium; 46 grams carbohydrates; 23 milligrams calcium

From "The Strang Cookbook for Cancer Prevention"

Canadian Bacon and Poasted Pepper Sandwiches

Makes 4 sandwiches

4 English muffins, halved

4 very thin slices Canadian bacon

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, or to taste

4 large basil leaves

1/2 cup sliced, roasted sweet red peppers

pinch of ground black pepper

4 square slices reduced-fat Swiss cheese

Warm a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot.

Add English muffins in a single layer, cut sides down, and toast for 1 minute, or until crispy and brown.

Divide Canadian bacon among 4 of the muffin halves. Spread with the mustard, top with red peppers and sprinkle with black pepper. Top with basil leaves, Swiss cheese and remaining muffin halves.

Place sandwiches in the skillet and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes per side, or until cheese is melted.

Per serving: 276 calories (27 percent fat); 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated); 2 grams fiber; 33 milligrams cholesterol; 747 milligrams sodium; 30 grams carbohydrates; 513 milligrams calcium

From "Prevention's Health Guaranteed Cookbook"

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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