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A&E >  Food

Eat Your Greens; They’re Good For You

Mary Carroll Los Angeles Times Service

Fresh and vibrant, green vegetables wake us up visually and add needed vitamins, minerals and fiber to spring diets.

Even though we’re just beginning to get warm-weather vegetable variety in the markets, there are still plenty of fresh ingredients to choose from. Expand your salads to include vegetables that are harvested this time of year in warmer climates - spinach and other spring greens, sweet red and green bell peppers, fresh cilantro and parsley, mushrooms, spring onions.

Make fresh vegetables the centerpiece, then supplement them with canned cooked beans, cooked grains, frozen vegetables or fresh fruit. Cooked and crunchy vegetables in one salad make for plenty of interesting texture and flavors.

Ratatouille Salad

A ratatouille in cups made from leaf lettuce was a delicious entree at a recent French luncheon party. The cooked vegetables were made the night before and chilled, then served on crunchy greens.

1 large onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup dry sherry or apple juice

4 cups chopped eggplant

2 cups chopped zucchini

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chopped red bell pepper

3 large tomatoes, cored and chopped

Lettuce leaves

Cook onion, garlic and sherry in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until soft but not browned. Add eggplant, zucchini, basil, oregano and salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until tender.

Add red bell pepper and tomatoes and continue cooking 2 minutes, stirring frequently, or just until tomatoes soften. Remove from heat and transfer to medium bowl. Refrigerate at least 20 minutes or overnight. Serve in lettuce-leaf cups.

Yield: 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 49 calories, 0.4 grams fat (7 percent fat calories), 2 grams protein, 11 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 456 milligrams sodium.

Green and White Bean Salad

Salads made from fresh green beans are colorful additions to any menu. If fresh green beans are hard to find, thaw frozen green beans and use them raw, straight from the package.

1 cup canned cooked white beans, such as Great Northern

3 cups green beans, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch lengths

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

2 medium shallots, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

Ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Let marinate at least 1 hour before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 109 calories, 7 grams fat (58 percent fat calories), 3 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrate, no cholesterol, 155 milligrams sodium.

Pear and Spinach Salad With Balsamic Vinegar

An elegant first course for a dinner party, this salad was inspired by a dish from the Greens restaurant in San Francisco. It has become a standard on many restaurant menus because pears blend so well with fruity balsamic vinegar.

4 cups spinach leaves, washed, stemmed and torn

2 large brown winter pears, such as Bosc, cored and thinly sliced

2 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese

2 tablespoons minced red onion

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 clove garlic, minced

6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

6 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil

Arrange spinach leaves on platter, large salad bowl or 8 small salad plates. Fan pear slices on top of spinach, then sprinkle with blue cheese and onion.

Whisk together mustard, garlic, vinegar, water and oil in small bowl. Drizzle over salad and serve.

Yield: 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 39 calories, 1 gram fat (23 percent fat calories), 1 gram protein, 8 grams carbohydrate, 1 milligram cholesterol, 69 milligrams sodium.

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