Cooks find May a distracting month. As longer days unfold and the weather grows warmer and gentler, the desire to present meals in keeping with the season competes with a valid desire to get out of the kitchen. We see no reason not to grant both wishes.
First, take a new look at pizza. Cut preparation time with a ready-to-use purchased crust; top with Thai flavors. Then cook two meals at once: you can start the breakfast tart and supper soup a day ahead, while preparing another meal.
Tropical touches give these fast pizzas and the fruits a Southeast Asian look.
The pizzas start with single-serving cooked bread bases. Heat the bread with a piquant Asian peanut sauce, crunchy bean sprouts, and shredded jack cheese; then top with shrimp and green onion. The result is visually appealing and a refreshing play upon the contrasts of hot and cold, crisp and melting, spicy and sharp.
In Thailand, fruit is often presented simply but in a decorative fashion achieved by cutting and carving. You can borrow this technique to make a centerpiece dessert. Halve kiwi fruit and blood (or regular) oranges (1/2 piece of each fruit per person) with zigzag cuts. Also, cut a pineapple (about 2-1/2 lb. for 4 to 6 portions) lengthwise through crown into 4 to 6 wedges. Cut fruit into bite-size sections but leave attached to peel. Arrange fruit on a platter for self-service; if you like, include canned, drained litchis. Scoop kiwi fruit and oranges from their skins with a spoon; cut pineapple from skin with knife and fork.
Enjoy pizzas with beer or sparkling water. With the fruit, offer strong iced tea (use 1 tablespoon tea leaves per cup water); flavor with sweetened condensed milk, as the Thais do. As the dense milk slowly settles into the tea, it makes fascinating patterns, and adds a surprisingly exotic flavor.
As much as a day ahead, you can make the peanut sauce, prepare most of the ingredients for the pizzas, and brew the tea. Up to 5 hours ahead, cut fruit, but wrap airtight and keep cool until time to serve.
Individual Thai Pizzas
6 small (about 5-1/2 in.
wide and 4-1/2 oz. each)
baked Italian bread
shells, pocket bread
rounds (about 5 in.
wide), or English
Thai peanut sauce
1 cup (about 6 oz.) bean
sprouts, rinsed and
6 ounces jack cheese,
shredded (1-1/2 cups)
1/3 pound shelled cooked
tiny shrimp, rinsed and
1/4 cup finely chopped
Crushed dried hot red
Place bread shells (or pocket bread rounds), cup sides up, on 2 baking sheets, each 12 by 15 inches (or split muffins and lay cut sides up). Spread sauce equally over cups in bread (or coat muffins to rims). Scatter bean sprouts equally on crusts, then sprinkle with cheese.
Bake in a 350[degrees] oven until cheese has melted and begins to brown, 12 to 15 minutes (if using 1 oven, switch pan positions after 7 minutes). Place pizzas on dinner plates; top equally with shrimp and onion. Add chilies to taste; eat with knife and fork, or cut into wedges to pick up and eat. Serves 6.
Per serving: 684 cal.; 33 g protein; 25 g fat (2.6 g sat); 82 g carbo.; 1,347 mg sodium; 75 mg chol.
Thai peanut sauce. In a bowl, stir to mix well 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce (or 2 tablespoons water, 2 teaspoons each soy sauce, cider vinegar, and sugar), 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar (or 2 tablespoons rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar), and 1 teaspoon Oriental sesame oil.
Elegant enough to linger over, this breakfast is also fast enough for a weekday start. The night before, make the toasted oatmeal tart shell and ricotta filling, and clean the strawberries. In the morning, spread cheese into the pastry and top with fruit while bacon cooks crisp and you make coffee or cocoa.
On other occasions, when a berry dessert is in order, keep this tart in mind.
Strawberry Ricotta Tart
2 cartons (each 8 oz.), or
about 2 cups part-skim
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Oatmeal crust (recipe
About 6 cups
In a bowl or food processor, beat or whirl cheese, sugar, and vanilla until well blended. If made ahead, cover and chill up to a day; drain off any liquid that accumulates in bowl.
Spread cheese mixture evenly over crust. Remove pan rim. Set tart on a serving plate and arrange 3 cups berries on cheese. Cut tart into wedges; offer remaining berries to add to taste. Serves 6.
Per serving: 387 cal.; 13 g protein; 18 g fat (10 g sat.); 46 g carbo.; 208 mg sodium; 53 mg chol.
In a food processor or with a mixer, whirl or beat 1/3 cup (1/6 lb.) butter or margarine, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon water until creamy. Whirl or beat in 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup regular rolled oats.
With floured fingers, pat dough over bottom of a lightly oiled and flour-dusted 9-inch cake pan with removable rim. Bake in a 325[degrees] oven until rich golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool; if made ahead, wrap airtight and hold up to a day.
Does cooking two meals at once seem too demanding for a busy night? Not if the second meal is a simmering soup that takes little attention on a back corner of the range. And, to the tastes of many, the soup will be even better given a day for flavors to mellow.
Buy a hearty loaf of bread to go with the soup. Eat cheese with the bread or break chunks into soup.
While the soup heats for supper, you've ample time to segment fresh grapefruit for the light and refreshing dessert. You can also make the syrup while the soup simmers, either the day before or while the soup reheats.
Split Pea and Lamb Soup
1 package (12 oz., about
2 cups) green or yellow
4 cups thinly sliced
1 large (about 1/2 lb.)
1/2 pound boned lamb
shoulder or neck, cut
into 1/2-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large dried bay leaf
About 7 cups regular-strength
Sort peas, discarding any debris. Rinse peas; drain, and set aside.
In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, combine celery, onion, lamb, garlic, bay leaf, and 1/2 cup water. Cover and simmer rapidly for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn heat to high, and stir often until browned bits stick in pan. Deglaze by adding 1/3 cup water and stirring to scrape browned bits free. Stir often until liquid evaporates and browned bits form again. Repeat deglazing step several more times until vegetables are a rich brown, about 30 minutes total.
To pan, add split peas and 7 cups broth; bring to a boil on high heat. Cover and simmer until peas mash easily, about 1 hour.
Discard bay leaf. (You can chill soup at this step, and continue the next day.) Transfer 3 cups soup (but no meat) to a blender or food processor. Whirl until smoothly pureed. Return to pan. For thinner soup, add more broth. Stir on high heat until hot. Serves 4 to 6.
Per serving: 357 cal.; 24 g protein; 11 g fat (4.1 g sat.); 42 g carbo.; 165 mg sodium; 27 mg chol.
Grapefruit with a Twist
The aromatic flavor of gin, which comes from juniper berries, complements the bitter-tart taste of grapefruit. Use orange juice as a nonalcoholic option.
1/3 cup sugar
4 to 6 thin strips lemon
peel (yellow part only),
each 1 to 2 inches long
2 or 3 large (2 to 3 lb.
total) ruby or yellow
Citrus leaves, rinsed
and patted dry
Gin or orange juice
In a 3- to 4-cup pan, combine sugar and 2/3 cup water. Boil, uncovered, over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup. Gently twist lemon peel and drop into syrup; let cool. If made ahead, cover and chill up to 3 days.
With a sharp knife, cut peel and all white membrane from grapefruit. Over a bowl, cut between membranes to release fruit segments; squeeze juice from membrane into bowl. Discard membrane. If made ahead, cover and let stand up to 3 hours.
Spoon fruit, juice, and syrup equally into 4 to 6 dessert bowls. Garnish with leaves. To each portion add to taste about 1 tablespoon gin or orange juice, and juice from lemon wedges. Serves 4 to 6.
Per serving: 100 cal.; 0.4 g protein; 0.1 g fat (0 g sat.); 17 g carbo.; 0.3 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.
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|Author:||Lipman, Karyn I.|
|Date:||May 1, 1992|
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