by Linda Gassenheimer
(photo: Jacques Pepin & Linda)
When my family asks, what's for dinner tonight? My answer is something like, "Let's have Chinese or do you feel like some Tex-Mex?" I often decide on what's for dinner by picking a type or style of food first. I love exciting, varied, international flavors. And that's how I've organized the chapters—into flavors based on my travels around the world.
The Flavors of the Mediterranean use herbs, nuts and grains to make simple, good food. I love wild mushrooms and used them on the cover of my first book. So a Wild Mushroom Risotto had to be included in the book. I tasted a delicious roasted red pepper sauce one delightful evening at Jacques Pepin's home. It inspired Roasted Red Pepper Pasta. One of our favorite Lebanese restaurants serves an unusual couscous. Try the Toasted Walnut Couscous with Tabbouleh.
On a trip to Hong Kong I met a delightful man who developed very special vegetarian dinners. I tasted wonderful combinations. Black Pepper Tenderloin with Sesame Noodles made with tofu was a sensation. On a trip to Malaysia I was served an incredible Chinese Steamboat and captured it in this chapter.
The hot, earthy flavors of Tex-Mex include Pan Grilled Quesadillas. They're great for dinner or hors d'oeuvres. Chilies en Nogado (Stuffed Chilies in Walnut Sauce) is another favorite of mine but I knew I had a big winner when my strictly steak and potatoes son asked for seconds. It's the national dish of Mexico with the 3 colors of their flag: red, white and green. You may remember it was featured in the movie Like Water for Chocolate. This is the recipe we'll have for lunch today.
When I first came to Miami, I was fascinated with the hot, spicy flavors of the Caribbean. If you like Cuban food, try the Spanish Rice and Beans. Visits to New Orleans inspired the Cajun Kabobs with Creole Rice.
Finally, American Comfort foods are back in style, but with a new twist. Grilled Portobello Steak Sandwich with Garlic French Fries and All-American Pepper, Mushroom and Onion Pizza are patterned after American favorites.
All of my recipes were tested on family and friends which was a stiff test. And they still come back for more so they must have passed.
Vegetarian Dinner in Minutes
by Linda Gassenheimer
Chronicle Books, $16.95 paperback
144 pages; March 8, 1998
Reprinted by permission.
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