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For snacks, garnishes - fry up "shatter leaves." (recipes)

FRESH HERBS AND greens burst into brilliant color and brittle crispness in the company of hot oil.

In recent years, chefs have rediscovered this old Asian culinary trick, using pretty, translucent fried leaves to garnish contemporary dishes.

The technique is simple, although somewhat messy. You drop dry, clean leaves into hot oil; in seconds, the oil intensifies their green color and drives off moisture, making the leaves paper-brittle. They retain their fresh flavor.

If you want to avoid aromas of frying when serving these leaves, you can cook them up to three days ahead. However, the leaves must be stored airtight or, within minutes of cooking, they will absorb moisture from the air and get limp.

Fried Shatter Leaves

About 4 cups (2 oz.) fresh, unwilted green leaves (no stems) of arugula, basil, cilantro (coriander), mint, sage, sorrel, or watercress

Salad oil

Rinse leaves, drain well, and pat with towels to dry thoroughly.

In a deep 3- to 4-quart pan, heat about 1 inch oil to 370 |degrees~. Add about 1/2 cup greens at a time to oil--stand back, oil may spatter. Turn leaves until they become brighter green and are at least partly translucent, 5 to 20 seconds. With a slotted spoon, quickly lift out leaves before they darken or scorch.

Drain leaves on towels. Repeat until all the leaves are cooked. Serve, or cool completely and store in a towel-lined airtight container up to 3 days at room temperature. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Per 1/4 cup cilantro (all of these leaves are similar nutritionally): 16 cal. (96 percent from fat); 0.1 g protein; 1.7 g fat (0.2 g sat.); 0.2 g carbo.; 1.9 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Showing off with shatter leaves

Eat fried shatter leaves sprinkled with salt as a snack or use to dramatically garnish the following foods. Add leaves just at serving to preserve crispness.

Arugula. Mound onto individual cheese souffles or open-faced broiled Swiss or cheddar cheese sandwiches.

Basil. Sprinkle onto hot pesto-seasoned pasta or hot baked brie cheese served with toasted baguette slices.

Cilantro. Mound onto curried chicken salad or black bean soup; sprinkle over cooked corn kernels.

Mint. Pile on a cool tabbouleh (cracked-wheat) salad or shrimp salad; scatter over sliced pineapple.

Sage. Scatter leaves and shaved parmesan cheese over ravioli mixed with cream or butter.

Sorrel. Moisten cool soft tofu or cold poached salmon lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and top with leaves. Season to taste with lemon juice and salt.

Watercress. Sprinkle over risotto or omelets.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lipman, Karyn I.
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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