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Mariachi cuisine.

The tempo is quick, the taste is bold, and - even though the foods sound rich - fat's out and flavor's in for these great Mexican dishes

With flavors as exciting and compelling as a throbbing blast of "Guadalajara" from a mariachi band, Mexican foods are so popular in the West that they border on being basic. In fact, items like salsa, beans and bean dips, chilies, hot and not-as-hot sauces, and tortillas already are. It seems ages since tomato salsa outstripped catsup as the nation's favorite condiment and established itself as the ideal low-fat dip, sauce, and ingredient. And tortilla chips, used to scoop up salsa, are no longer naughty: whet/baked, not fried, they are guilt-free, nutritious nibbles.

Sure, temptations like deep-fried, cheese-filled chiles rellenos and tamales full of rich pork and lard still exist - to be enjoyed now and then. But for most tastes, there's satisfaction in a leaner approach. Try Norman Fierros's Sonoran fiesta, with turkey (a native ingredient) instead of beef as the cornerstone of a bountiful carne asada (grilled meat) party menu. Savor the beautiful soups that Sunset's well-traveled senior writer Linda Anusasananan found in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the main-dish huaraches she discovered in a little Mexican restaurant in Redwood City, California. Enjoy the versatile, playful nature of typical Mexican ingredients in our collection of salads and desserts, from chicken salad in a taco shell to caramelized tortillas with a fruit sundae.

Overall, most dishes are ready to serve in less than three-quarters of an hour. Very few ingredients will challenge the supermarket shopper. And the results will keep you safely and deliciously within the boundaries of light and lean. Buen provecho.

Sonoran fiesta

From the Arizona desert, a gala party for 6 to 8

Norman Fierros's interest in Sonoran food took hold when he was a small boy cooking with his mother, And what he learned goes way back - his ancestors lived in Arizona when it was still part of Mexico. As Norman grew, other cuisines joined his repertoire. Now, as owner of a Phoenix restaurant called Norman's Arizona, he uses Chinese and French techniques to prepare Sonoran favorites, describing the dishes as nueva Mexicana.

His carne asada uses turkey breast, vegetables, and a multipurpose tangy citrus dressing. The jicama salad is much like the relish pico de gallo.

Prickly Pear Margaritas

PREP TIME: About 15 minutes

NOTES: Look for prickly pears (also called cactus pears, Indian figs, and tunas) with fresh produce in supermarkets and Latino markets. Wear heavy cotton or rubber gloves or use a thick towel to hold them when peeling.

MAKES: About 7 cups; 8 servings

1 1/4 pounds green or red prickly pear fruit 1 cup lime juice 1 cup tequila 3/4 cup orange-flavor liqueur 2 tablespoons sugar 4 cups crushed ice Thin lime slices (optional)

1. Cut ends from prickly pears. Cut a 1/8-inch-deep lengthwise slit through peel on each fruit. Pull back peel and remove from pulp; discard peel. Cut fruit pulp into 1/2-inch chunks.

2. In a blender, combine half of all these ingredients: prickly pear chunks, lime juice, tequila, orange liqueur, and sugar; whirl until smooth. Add half the ice and whirl until blended. Pour into glasses slowly, leaving seeds behind. Discard seeds.

3. Repeat step 2 with remaining pear chunks, lime juice, tequila, liqueur, sugar, and ice.

4. Garnish with lime slices.

Per serving: 176 cal., 1.5% (2.7 cal.) from fat; 0.5 g protein; 0.3 g fat (0 g sat.); 17 g carbo (0 g fiber); 7.6 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Jicama Grapefruit Salad

PREP TIME: About 20 minutes

NOTES: Jicama, onion, grapefruit, and radishes can be sliced, covered, and refrigerated up to 4 hours ahead.

MAKES: 8 servings

1 jicama (1 lb. or a l-lb. piece) 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion 2 red or pink grapefruit (1 1/4 lb. each) 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced About 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup sliced red radishes 1 firm-ripe avocado (1/2 lb.) Pepper

1. Rinse jicama. Cut off and discard skin and any tough fibers. Cut jicama into matchstick-size sticks 2 to 3 inches long.

2. Rinse onion slices with cool water and drain.

3. With a knife, cut off and discard grapefruit peel and membrane. Over a wide serving bowl, cut between inner grapefruit membranes and lift out fruit segments. Put fruit in bowl. Squeeze remaining membrane over bowl to collect juice.

4. Drain grapefruit segments; save 1/2 cup juice and keep the rest to drink. Combine the 1/2 cup juice with vinegar, basil, garlic, and teaspoon salt; return to grapefruit. Add jicama, radishes, and onion and mix.

5. Peel, pit, and thinly slice avocado onto jicama salad. Gently mix and add salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 73 cal., 30% (22 cal.) from fat; 1.7 g protein; 2.4 g fat (0.3 g sat.); 13 g carbo (2.1 g fiber); 75 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Grilled Turkey and Vegetable Platter

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 40 minutes

NOTES: Up to 4 hours ahead, prepare the vegetables and turkey for cooking.

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

1 boned, skinned turkey breast half (2 to 2 1/2 lb.) 3/4 cup orange juice 1/2 cup lemon juice 1 tablespoon pepper 4 cloves garlic, minced About 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 red onions (1/2 lb. each) 2 oranges (1/2 lb. each) 2 red bell peppers (1/2 lb. each) 2 zucchini (6 oz. each) 3 ears corn (each about 8 in.)

1. Rinse turkey breast and pat dry. Make a lengthwise cut about 2/3 through the thickest part of the breast. Pat out meat to make evenly thick. If still uneven, make more cuts parallel to first, through thickest parts, and again press to flatten turkey.

2. To make sauce, mix orange juice, lemon juice, pepper, garlic, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix 1/2 cup of the sauce with oil; cover and chill remaining sauce.

3. In a bowl, coat turkey with 1/4 cup of the sauce with oil.

4. Peel and cut onions crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Cut oranges crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Discard ends. Thread onions through the width of the rounds onto thin metal skewers to hold them flat. Thread oranges the same way onto more skewers.

5. Stem and seed bell peppers; cut lengthwise into quarters.

6. Trim off zucchini ends, then cut squash in halves crosswise and lengthwise. Thread pieces lengthwise onto thin metal skewers.

7. Remove and discard husks and silk from corn. With a heavy knife, tapping with a mallet if needed, cut corn crosswise into 2-inch rounds.

8. Brush all vegetables and orange slices with remaining sauce with oil.

9. Place turkey, all the vegetables, and orange slices on a barbecue grill over a solid bed of hot coals or on a gas grill over high heat (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds). Close lid on gas grill.

10. Turn vegetables and orange slices, turning as needed to brown evenly, about 5 minutes for oranges, 10 to 12 minutes for vegetables. As done, transfer to a large platter.

11. Cook turkey, turning once, just until meat is 160 [degrees] on a thermometer or white in center of thickest part (cut to test), 15 to 20 minutes.

12. Transfer turkey to platter. Cut meat into pieces and pull skewers from vegetables and oranges. Pour reserved sauce over foods on the platter; add salt to taste.

Per serving: 257 cal., 12% (30 cal.) from fat; 32 g protein; 3.3 g fat (0.6 g sat.); 27 g carbo (4.5 g fiver); 349 mg sodium; 70 mg chol.

Roasted Tomato Salsa

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 10 minutes

NOTES: Make up to 2 days ahead, cover, and chill.

MAKES: About 1 cup; 8 servings

3 firm-ripe tomatoes (6 oz. each) 2 to 3 yellow wax chilies (1/2 to 3/4 oz. total) Salt

1. Place tomatoes and chilies in a pan about 10 by 15 inches. Broil about 2 inches from heat, turning as needed, until vegetables are charred on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to touch.

2. Pull off and discard skin of tomatoes and chilies. Coarsely dice tomatoes. Remove seeds from chilies for less heat. Finely chop chilies. Mix tomatoes and chilies; add salt to taste.

Per serving: 22 cal., 12% (2.7 cal.) from fat; 0.8 g protein; 0.3 g fat (0 g sat.); 4.9 g carbo (1.3 g fiber); 5.9 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Hibiscus Tea

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 20 minutes, plus 1 hour to steep

NOTES: Look for dried hibiscus blossoms (jamaica) in Latino markets. Or use Celestial Seasonings' hibiscus-flavor Red Zinger tea as directed on package to make 3 quarts. If making ahead, cover and chill tea up to 2 days.

MAKES: About 2 1/4 quarts; 6 to 8 servings

1 cup (1 1/2 oz.) dried hibiscus blossoms 1 cinnamon stick (about 1 in.) Ice cubes About % cup sugar

1. In a 4- to 5-quart pan on high heat, bring 3 quarts water to boiling. Add hibiscus blossoms and cinnamon stick. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Let cool about 1 hour.

2. Pour tea through a strainer, lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth, into a pitcher. Discard residue in strainer. Pour tea, hot or cold, into ice-filled glasses. Add sugar to taste.

Per serving: 32 cal., 0% (0 cal.) from fat; 0 g protein; 0 g fat; 8.4 g carbo (0 g fiber); 0.1 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.


UP TO 1 DAY AHEAD: Make tea and salsa.

UP TO 4 HOURS AHEAD: Marinate turkey and prepare vegetables for the salad and the grill.

ABOUT 45 MINUTES BEFORE SERVING: Bake yams in the oven. Grill meats and vegetables, then warm tortillas on the grill.

JUST BEFORE SERVING: Blend margaritas.

Summer soups from Oaxaca

With a palette of fresh vegetables, low-fat cooking comes naturally

A pair of brilliantly painted fantasy dogs, sculpted in wood and displayed on a friend's mantel, first stirred my curiosity about Oaxaca. This region, in the highlands of southeast Mexico, is justly famous for folk art like these pooches. And when my art interest turned into a visit, I discovered the foods of Oaxaca to be as richly imaginative.

The backbone of the cooking comes from the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures, which weave together corn, squash, and beans - the revered trinity for ancient peoples of the Americas - with seemingly infinite variety, particularly in soups. In Oaxaca's historic Hotel Stouffer Presidente, a memorable dish was starkly simple - wheels of corn on the cob and chunks of zucchini floating in broth. At the rug-filled Restaurant Tlaminalli in the nearby weaving village of Teotitlan del Valle, a soup thickened with masa flour (corn tortilla flour) and laced with golden squash blossoms, chayote squash, and corn was garden-fresh with flavor. And in a restaurant overlooking the broad plaza of the lively zocalo, a chili-infused soup studded with beans, potatoes, carrots, and tortillas left a lingering memory.

These satisfying soups are naturally light, healthful, and easy to make. In generous portions, each makes a meal, while smaller servings make a stylish first course. Accompany with soft warm tortillas or crusty bolillos (hard rolls).

Corn Wheels and Zucchini Soup

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 25 minutes

NOTES: To cut the corn, use a mallet or hammer to gently drive a heavy knife or cleaver through the cob.

MAKES: 6 or 7 servings

1/2 cup dehydrated masa flour (corn tortilla flour) 2 quarts fat-skimmed chicken or vegetable broth 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced 3/4 pound zucchini 3 ears corn (each about 6 in.) 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro Lime wedges Salt and pepper

1. In a 4- to 5-quart pan, mix masa flour with 1 cup broth until smooth. Stir over high heat until mixture boils, then reduce heat to medium-low and stir until masa is thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour onto a flat plate. Spread evenly to make a 3/4-inch-thick cake; let cool.

2. Meanwhile, rinse pan and add remaining broth and garlic. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.

3. Trim and discard zucchini ends. Cut zucchini into 3/4-inch cubes. Add zucchini to pan; cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, discard husks and silks from corn. Cut corn crosswise into 1-inch-thick wheels. Also cut masa into 3/4-inch chunks. Add corn and masa chunks to broth.

5. Cover pan and return to boiling over high heat; simmer until corn is hot, about 3 minutes.

6. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges, salt, and pepper to season portions to taste.

Per serving: 118 cal., 6.9% (8.1 cal.) from fat; 12 g protein; 0.9 g fat (0.1 g sat.); 17 g carbo (2.4 g fiber); 95 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Chayote Corn Soup

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 20 minutes

NOTES: Use squash blossoms from your garden or buy them at a farmers' market. At peak season during the summer, some supermarkets carry squash blossoms. If desired, serve soup with triangles of pan-grilled corn tortilla quesadillas filled with squash blossoms and low-fat jack cheese.

MAKES: 6 servings

1 1/2 quarts fat-skimmed chicken or vegetable broth 1 dried hot red chili (3 in.), such as chile de arbol 1 chayote squash (3/4 lb.) 18 squash blossoms (about 6 oz. total; optional) 1/2 cup dehydrated masa flour (corn tortilla flour) 1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen 2 cups chopped spinach About 1/3 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese Salt and pepper

1. In a covered 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring 5 cups broth and chili to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, peel chayote and cut into -inch cubes (include edible seed). Gently rinse and drain blossoms. Leave baby squash stems (female flowers); if desired, trim off fuzzy stems (male flowers). Set aside 6 of the prettiest blossoms; chop the remainder.

3. Add chayote to boiling broth. Mix masa flour with remaining 1 cup broth and stir into pan. Stir until boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, simmer, and stir occasionally, until chayote is tender when pierced, about 10 minutes.

4. Stir corn, spinach, and chopped squash blossoms into soup, turn heat to high, and cook until corn is hot, about 2 minutes.

5. Ladle soup into bowls and lay 1 blossom in each. Add cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 146 cal., 18% (26 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 2.9 g fat (1.3 g sat.); 19 g carbo (2.5 g fiber); 222 mg sodium; 5.6 mg chol.

Red Chili Vegetable Soup

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 45 minutes

NOTES: Mild dried California or slightly hotter New Mexico chilies are ground and sold as chili powder. They are 100% chili, unlike most chili powder blends, which contain spices.

MAKES: 6 servings

1 1/2 quarts fat-skimmed chicken or vegetable broth 1 onion (1/2 lb.), chopped 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced 1 1/2 tablespoons ground dried New Mexico or California chilies, or teaspoon cayenne 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/2 pound carrots, peeled 1/2 pound thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed 1/2 pound green beans, ends trimmed About 1/3 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese About 1/2 cup nonfat or reduced-fat sour cream Crisp corn tortilla strips (see recipe below) Salt and pepper

1. In a 4- to 5-quart pan over medium-high heat, combine 1/4 cup broth, onion, and garlic. Cover and stir occasionally until onion is limp, 5 to 6 minutes.

2. Add chili, cumin, and oregano; stir about 30 seconds. Add remaining broth, cover, and bring to boiling over high heat.

3. Meanwhile, cut carrots diagonally into about 1/4-inch-thick slices. Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. Cut beans into 2-inch lengths.

4. Add carrots and potatoes to pan; cover. When boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 10 minutes.

5. Turn heat to high, uncover, add beans, and when boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until vegetables are tender to bite, 5 to 7 minutes.

6. Ladle into bowls. Add cheese, sour cream, tortilla strips, salt, and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 159 cal., 13% (21 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 2.3 g fat (1.3 g sat.); 21 g carbo (3.3 g fiber); 234 mg sodium; 7.6 mg chol.

Crisp Corn Tortilla Strips

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 15 minutes

NOTES: If making up to 2 days ahead, package cool strips airtight.

MAKES: About 2 1/2 ounces, 1 cup

1. Stack 3 corn tortillas (6 in.) and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Spread strips slightly apart on a nonstick 12- by 15-inch baking sheet.

2. Bake in a 400 [degrees] oven until crisp and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes.

Per 1/2 ounce: 33 cal., 11% (3.6 cal.) from fat; 0.9 g protein; 0.4 g fat (0 g sat.); 7 g carbo (0.8 g fiber); 24 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

South-of-the-border salads

Authentic, adapted, or invented, these salads take their inspiration from tacos, Caesars, and street-vendor snacks

All dressed up but traveling light, these streamlined salads tackle the fat in old favorites. A street snack turns into watermelon salad. Tradition takes a new twist with Crunchy Chicken Taco Salad - big and lavish, but as lean as can be. Mexico's flag inspires a tricolor blend of tomatoes, tomatillos, and cheese. A classic gets trimmed when Caesar trades oil-soaked croutons for oven-crisped tortilla strips. Some salads are full-fledged main dishes; others can play the game either way, as the star or in a supporting position.

Watermelon, Cucumber, and Jicama Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes

MAKES: 4 servings

2 tablespoons sweetened shredded dried coconut 1 piece seedless watermelon (about 2 3/4 lb.) 1/2 cup diced (1/8 in.) jicama cup seasoned rice vinegar 1/4 cup slivered fresh basil leaves 1 cucumber (about 1 lb.) Salt

1. In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, stir coconut until lightly toasted, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour from pan.

2. Cut 4 equal slices, each 1/2 inch thick, from watermelon piece. Lay each slice on a plate. Cut off and discard rind from remaining watermelon; cut watermelon into 1/2-inch chunks.

3. Put watermelon chunks into bowl along with jicama, vinegar, and basil. Peel cucumber, cut into 1/z-inch chunks, and add to bowl. Mix and season to taste with salt.

4. Spoon salad mixture equally onto watermelon slices; sprinkle portions with toasted coconut.

Per serving: 99 cal., 20% (20 cal.) from fat; 2 g protein; 2.2 g fat (1.2 g sat.); 20 g carbo (2.8 g fiber); 304 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Crunchy Chicken Taco Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 35 minutes

NOTES: If you don't have a V-shaped rack, bake tortillas flat on a baking sheet and top with salad.

MAKES: 2 main-dish servings

2 flour tortillas (10 in.) 2 boned, sinned chicken breast halves (5 to 7 oz. each) 3 tablespoons jalapeno jelly 1/3 cup finely crushed corn chips 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained 1/2 cup refrigerated tomato salsa 2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce About 1/4 pound firm-ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and thinly sliced Reduced-fat sour cream Salt

1. Adjust a V-shaped roasting rack so each side is at a 45 [degrees] angle to the base. Cut 2 sheets of foil, each 12 inches long. Fold each sheet lengthwise to make a strip that is about 3 inches wide. Drape 1 strip from center of the V over and down to the base of the rack. Fold foil at each end to secure to rack. Repeat to secure second piece of foil to other side of the rack. Drape each flour tortilla with its center over the highest point on one side of the rack (foil keeps tortilla from curling inward as it bakes).

2. Bake tortillas in a 450 [degrees] oven until lightly browned, about 5 minutes, then lift off racks and set aside (they continue to crisp as they cool). If making more than 1 hour or up to a day ahead, package airtight.

3. As tortillas bake, rinse chicken and pat dry. Melt 1 tablespoon jelly (in a microwave oven or in a small pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally). Brush all the melted jelly onto the smooth sides of breast halves. Put corn chips on a small plate and press jelly-coated side of chicken into chips so they stick. Set breasts, chips up, in an 8- or 9-inch square pan. Pat any remaining chips onto chicken.

4. Bake in a 450 [degrees] oven until chicken is no longer pink in thickest part (cut to test), 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix beans, salsa, and remaining jalapeno jelly.

6. Lift breasts from pan with a wide spatula. If desired, cut each piece crosswise into 4 or 5 equal slices.

7. Set each tortilla shell on a plate. Put half the lettuce into each shell. Top lettuce equally with the bean mixture. Use the spatula to transfer a breast onto beans in each tortilla shell. Garnish with avocado and add sour cream and salt to taste.

Per serving: 701 cal., 23% (162 cal.) from fat; 50 g protein; 18 g fat (2.8 g sat.); 85 g carbo (9.5 g fiber); 1,164 mg sodium; 82 mg chol.

Tomatillo, Tomato, and Panela Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 25 minutes

NOTES: Panela is a mild Mexican-style cheese found in many supermarkets; if you can't find it, use mozzarella cheese instead.

MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 pound tomatillos 1/4 cup orange juice 1/4 cup lime juice About 1/4 teaspoon salt About 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/2 pound firm-ripe tomatoes 1/8 pound panela cheese 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves Chili-cumin chips (see recipe below)

1. Pull off and discard the tomatillo husks. Rinse tomatillos and thinly slice into a bowl.

2. Add orange juice, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; mix gently.

3. Rinse, core, and thinly slice tomatoes. Cut cheese into very thin slices. Arrange both on a flat plate.

4. Spoon tomatillo mixture over tomatoes and cheese. Sprinkle with cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper. Accompany with chili-cumin chips.

Per serving: 160 cal., 27% (43 cal.) from fat; 6.3 g protein; 4.8 g fat (2.6 g sat.); 26 g carbo (1.7 g fiber); 492 mg sodium; 5.2 mg chol.

Chili-Cumin Chips

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 15 minutes

MAKES: 8 pieces

2 fat-free flour tortillas (10 in.) 1 tablespoon lime juice 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Brush each flour tortilla on 1 side with lime juice. Mix chili powder, ground cumin, and salt. Sprinkle seasoning mixture over lime-moistened side of tortillas. Cut tortillas into quarters.

2. Arrange quarters in a single layer, chili side up, on a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Bake in a 400 [degrees] oven until chips are crisp and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Per piece: 41 cal., 2.2% (0.9 cal.) from fat: 1.1 g protein; 0.1 g fat (0 g sat.); 8.8 g carbo (0.5 g fiber); 195 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Mexican Caesar Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes

NOTES: Use flavored or plain flour tortilla. MAKES: 6 servings

1 chili- or tomato-flavor flour tortilla (10 in.) 2/3 cup nonfat or reduced-fat sour cream 1 clove garlic, chopped 2 tablespoons lemon juice 1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro 8 cups rinsed, crisped romaine lettuce in bite-size pieces 2 tablespoons shelled, roasted pumpkin seed 3 tablespoons crumbled cotija or feta cheese

1. Cut tortilla into strips about 1/4 inch wide and 2 inches long. Arrange in single layer in pan about 10 by 15 inches.

2. Bake in a 400 [degrees] oven until strips are crisp, about 10 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, whirl the sour cream, garlic, lemon juice, anchovy paste, and cilantro until cilantro is finely chopped.

4. Place lettuce in a wide bowl, add dressing, and mix. Top with tortilla strips, pumpkin seed, and cheese. Mix to serve.

Per serving: 98 cal., 18% (18 cal.) from fat; 5.5 g protein; 2 g fat (0.6 g sat.); 14 g carbo (2.3 g fiber); 198 mg sodium; 5.1 mg chol.

Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: 35 to 40 minutes

NOTES: If making ahead, cover and chill shrimp and scallops up to 4 hours, then add dressing.

MAKES: 4 main-dish servings

1/2 pound bay scallops pound (35 to 40 per lb.) peeled, deveined shrimp 1/4 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed 2 tablespoons lime juice 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper 2 cups cold cooked white rice Salt Hot sauce 8 cups baby spinach leaves or salad mix (about 1/2 lb.), rinsed and drained

1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan over high heat, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add scallops and shrimp, cover pan, and remove from heat. Let stand until scallops and shrimp are opaque in thickest part (cut to test), about 5 minutes. Drain shellfish and pour into a bowl; nest bowl in ice water. Stir occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, coarsely chop tomatillos. In a blender or food processor, whirl tomatillos, lime juice, and cilantro until pureed. Pour over scallops and shrimp. Add onion and bell pepper. Mix occasionally until ceviche is lukewarm or cool, 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Add rice; mix and season to taste with salt and hot sauce.

4. Arrange spinach on dinner plates and top with ceviche mixture.

Per serving: 253 cal., 8% (20 cal.) from fat; 27 g protein; 2.2 g fat (0.3 g sat.); 31 g carbo (4.1 g fiber); 269 mg sodium; 105 mg chol.

Ancient Grains Salad

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 35 minutes

NOTES: Quinoa and amaranth, both native to the Americas, are sold packaged or in bulk in natural-food stores or well-stocked supermarkets. If amaranth is unavailable, use a total of 2/3 cup quinoa.

MAKES 4 servings

1 dried New Mexico or California chili (about 6 in.) 1 teaspoon salad oil 1 onion (1/2 lb.), finely chopped 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed 1/3 cup amaranth 1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen 1 cup fat-skimmed chicken broth 2 tablespoons lime juice 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro 4 large butter lettuce leaves, rinsed and crisped Salt Fresh-ground pepper

1. Wipe chili with a damp cloth. Using scissors, cut off and discard chili stem end; remove and discard seeds. Cut chili crosswise into 1/4-inch strips.

2. In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat, stir chili in oil until it smells toasted and feels slightly crisp (avoid scorching), 1 to 2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer chili pieces to towels to drain (they crisp as they cool).

3. Add onion and garlic to pan. Stir often over medium-high heat until onion is lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

4. Add amaranth and quinoa. Stir until grains are slightly toasted, about 1 minute. MIX in corn and broth. Bring to a boil over high heat; cover and simmer over medium heat until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

5. Let cool to room temperature. Or nest pan in ice water and stir occasionally with a fork until cool, about 10 minutes.

6. Mix lime juice and cilantro with grains. Spoon onto plates lined with lettuce leaves. Top salads with the crisp chili pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 213 cal., 20% (43 cal.) from fat; 9.1 g protein; 4.8 g fat (0.8 g sat.); 38 g carbo (8.5 g fiber); 43 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Hooray for huaraches

Mexico's "sole" food, main-dish tostadas take their name from a sandal

Mention huaraches, and squeaky leather sandals are the first image that pops into most heads. But Mexicans know another huarache, a special kind of tostada. It's a bountiful main-dish presentation of vegetables, meat, salsa, and cheese mounded on a thick, toasted tortilla that's shaped like the sole of a shoe. Traditionally, the tortilla is made from masa dough, whipped up in seconds from dehydrated masa flour and laden with lard. But a little baking powder used instead of lard produces lean, tender results as easily and quickly.


PREP AND COOK TIME: About 40 minutes

NOTES: If making ahead, cover and chill the masa dough up to 2 hours. If you find full-size huaraches hard to turn on the griddle, make them half as big and divide toppings equally.

MAKES: 4 servings

2 cups dehydrated masa flour (corn tortilla flour) 1 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 3/4 cups fat-skimmed chicken broth 1 can (15 oz.) refried beans Chicken, beef, pork, or mushroom topping (recipes follow) 2 cups shredded cabbage About 1/2 cup tomato or green tomatillo salsa About 1/4 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese About 1/4 cup nonfat or reduced-fat sour cream Salt and pepper

1. In a bowl, stir masa flour, baking powder, salt, and broth until dough holds together well, adding a little water if needed.

2. Divide dough into 4 equal portions. Shape each portion into a 6-inch-long log on a sheet of waxed paper. Pat each log into a 1/8-inch-thick oval, about 4 by 8 inches, (If shaped ahead, stack with waxed paper, wrap airtight, and refrigerate up to 2 hours.)

3. Place a griddle or 2 frying pans (10 to 12 in.) over medium-high heat. When pan is hot, flip masa dough onto pan and peel off paper. Cook until bottom of masa is light brown, about 3 minutes. Use a wide spatula to turn huaraches over.

4. Spread about 1/4 of the beans over each huarache. Cover beans with 1/4 of the chicken topping. Cook until huarache bottoms are lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. With a wide spatula, transfer to plates.

5. Top huaraches equally with shredded cabbage, salsa, cheese, sour cream, salt, and pepper to taste.

Per huarache without topping: 392 cal., 11% (42 cal.) from fat; 19 g protein; 4.7 g fat (1.6 g sat.); 72 g carbo (5.1 g fiber); 1,040 mg sodium; 5.5 mg chol.

CILANTRO CHICKEN TOPPING. Mix 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast, 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion, and 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro. Use warm or cool. Makes 2 cups.

Per 1/2 cup: 120 cal., 19% (23 cal.) from fat; 22 g protein; 2.5 g fat (0.7 g sat.); 0.6 g carbo (0.2 g fiber); 54 mg sodium; 60 mg chol.

BEEF AND CHILI TOPPING. Lay 3 fresh poblano (also called pasilla) chilies (9 oz. total) and 3/4-pound piece boned, fat-trimmed top round or top sirloin beef (about 1 in. thick) on a barbecue grill over a solid bed of hot coals or on a gas grill over high heat (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Turn chilies as needed to brown and blister all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Cook beef, turning once, until browned and rare in center of thickest part (cut to test), 8 to 10 minutes, longer for medium or well done. Pull stems, seeds, and skins off chilies and discard. Coarsely chop beef and chilies, and mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use warm or cool. Makes 2 cups.

Per 1/2 cup: 133 cal., 22% (29 cal.) from fat; 21 g protein; 3.2 g fat (1.1 g sat.); 4.4 g carbo (0.7 g fiber); 42 mg sodium; 53 mg chol.

CHILI PORK TOPPING. Thinly slice 1/2 pound fat-trimmed pork tenderloin or boned pork loin into strips about 1/4 by 2 inches. Thinly slice 1 onion (1/2 lb.). Mince 3 cloves garlic. In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat, stir-fry pork until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Pour into a bowl. Add onion and garlic to pan; stir-fry until onion begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seed, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, and pork. Stir-fry until meat is hot and coated with spices, about 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use warm. Makes 2 cups.

Per 1/2 cup: 97 cal., 21% (20 cal.) from fat; 13 g protein; 2.2 g fat (0.7 g sat.); 6.3 g carbo (1.3 g fiber); 40 mg sodium; 37 mg chol.

MUSHROOM TOPPING. Rinse and drain 1 pound mushrooms (1 1/2 in. wide) and cut into quarters. Thinly slice 1 onion (6 oz.). In a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat, frequently stir mushrooms, onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano until mushrooms brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use warm. Makes 2 cups.

Per 1/2 cup: 47 cal., 9.6% (4.5 cal.) from fat; 3 g protein; 0.5 g fat (0.1 g sat.); 9.5 g carbo (2.2 g fiber); 6.1 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Frutas fantasticas

Dramatic, easy, and refreshingly simple desserts

Desserts are as light as a summer breeze when you put sweet, ripe fruit to work. And in these Mexican-inspired creations, color and design are bonuses.

Usually, a cloud cake is swathed in whipped cream; our version is unadorned, but the soft-baked meringue base is as velvety as cream and it's drenched with peaches and raspberries. Papaya and pineapple are flamed with a tequila syrup; a crisp caramelized glazed tortilla goes with mangoes and melons; the sweet sangria is full of fruit; and grapes get a low-fat topping of cream and brown sugar.

Peach and Raspberry Cloud Cake

PREP AND GOOK "rIME: About 30 minutes, plus at least 1 hour and 35 minutes to bake and cool

NOTES: Use a flat-bottomed glass to crush anise seed.

MAKES: 6 to 8 servings

5 large egg whites 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon anise seed, crushed (see notes) 3 firm-ripe peaches (about 1 lb. total), peeled 1 1/2 cups raspberries 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel 3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. In a deep bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on high speed until frothy. Add 1 cup sugar, about 1 tablespoon every 30 seconds, beating whites until they hold stiff peaks. Beat in vanilla and anise.

2. Lightly butter and flour-dust an 8-inch cheesecake pan with removable rim. Spread meringue level in pan. Bake in a 275 [degrees] oven until pale golden, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

3. Run a thin-bladed knife between meringue cake and pan rim to release. Cool cake on a rack, about 20 minutes.

4. Thinly slice peaches; mix 2 cups slices with 1/2 cup raspberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

5. In a blender or food processor, whirl smooth remaining peaches, raspberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Rub puree through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard residue.

6. Remove pan rim and set meringue cake on a plate. Spoon sliced peaches and whole berries onto cake and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons fruit sauce. Cut cake into wedges and add remaining sauce to taste.

Per serving: 159 cal., 1.1% (1.8 cal.) from fat; 2.8 g protein; 0.2 g fat (0 g sat.); 38 g carbo (1.8 g fiber); 36 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Pineapple and Papaya with Tequila Syrup

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 35 minutes

NOTES: Large Mexican-style papaya, Meridol, is often sold as cut pieces. If a peeled, cored pineapple isn't available, buy and trim a 3 1/2- to 3 3/4-pound fruit. For garnish, cut long thin shreds of lime peel, green part only.

MAKES: 4 servings

1 peeled and cored pineapple (about 12/3 lb.) 1 piece Meridol papaya (about lb.), peeled 1 lime 3 tablespoons corn syrup 3 tablespoons lime juice 1/8 teaspoon cayenne 2 tablespoons tequila

1. Cut pineapple crosswise into 8 to 12 slices. Cut papaya crosswise into thin slices. Cut lime crosswise into paper-thin slices, discarding ends. Arrange fruit on plates.

2. In a 1- to 2-quart pan over high heat, stir corn syrup, lime juice, and cayenne until boiling, 1 to 2 minutes. Add tequila and immediately ignite (not near a vent, fan, or inflammables). Shake pan until flames die down. Spoon syrup over fruit.

Per serving: 177 cal., 4.6% (8,1 cal.) from fat; 1.1 g protein; 0.9 g fat (0.1 g sat.); 42 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 24 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Mexican Sunrise

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 45 minutes

NOTES: Before you start to cook, make scoops of frozen yogurt and set on a flat pan in the freezer; if making ahead, cover airtight up to 1 day.

MAKES: 4 servings

1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 reduced-fat flour tortillas (10 in.) 1 firm-ripe mango (about 1 1/4 lb.) 1 piece honeydew melon (about 1 lb.) 3 tablespoons lemon juice 2 cups nonfat frozen vanilla yogurt, in frozen scoops (see notes)

1. On a flat plate, mix 1/4 cup of the sugar with cinnamon.

2. Stack tortillas, and with a small knife, notch edges to make sunburst rim (see photo below); reserve scraps for other uses. Cut tortillas in hall rub sides lightly with water, and coat, 1 piece at a time, with cinnamon sugar. Arrange pieces in a single layer on 2 baking sheets (12 by 15 in.).

3. Bake in a 400 [degrees] oven until tortillas are lightly browned and crisp, about 10 minutes; switch pans halfway through baking.

4. Meanwhile, peel and pit mango. Seed and peel melon. Cut mango and melon into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes, or cube half of each and thinly slice remainder. Mix fruit with lemon juice.

5. Arrange fruit equally on salad or dessert plates.

6. In a 6- to 8-inch frying pan over high heat, melt remaining 1/4 cup sugar, shaking and tilting pan to mix dry sugar into syrup until liquid is amber color; remove from heat. At once, put frozen yogurt beside fruit, lean tortillas against frozen yogurt, and quickly drizzle desserts with melted sugar.

Per serving: 362 cal., 1,5% (5,4 cal.) from fat; 5.8 g protein; 0.6 g fat (0.1 g sat.); 86 g carbo (3 g fiber); 285 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Sangria Fruit Soup

PREP AND COOK TIME: About 30 minutes

NOTES: Use a combination of berries such as sliced strawberries and whole blackberries and blueberries. Garnish with mint sprigs.

MAKES: 5 cups; 4 servings

1 cup dry red wine 1/2 cup sugar 1/3 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup orange-flavor liqueur 1 teaspoon vanilla 4 cups mixed berries (see notes) 1/2 cup diced cantaloupe or honeydew melon

1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, combine wine, 1 cup water, sugar, and lemon juice. Boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Remove from heat and stir in liqueur, vanilla, berries, and cantaloupe.

3. Nest pan in a bowl of ice and stir often until cool, about 10 minutes.

4. Ladle soup into bowls.

Per serving: 257 cal., 2.5% (6.3 cal.) from fat; 1.3 g protein; 0.7 g fat (0 g sat.); 49 g carbo (4.6 g fiber); 12 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.

Crema-Grape Parfaits

PREP TIME: About 10 minutes

MAKES: 4 servings

1. Combine 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream and 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel.

2. Divide 2 cups rinsed and drained red seedless grapes among 4 stemmed glasses or small bowls. Spoon sour cream over grapes and sprinkle equally with 2 tablespoons (total) firmly packed brown sugar. Garnish with thin strips of orange peel.

Per serving: 133 cal., 31% (41 cal.) from fat; 2.5 g protein; 4.5 g fat (2.2 g sat.); 23 g carbo (1.3 g fiber); 20 mg sodium; 10 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:includes recipes; low-fat Mexican dishes
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau; Baker, Andrew; Johnson, Elaine
Date:Jul 1, 1998
Previous Article:Wines on the noir edge in Carneros.
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