Simple Recipes for Spring

I live in New England, where the winters are usually long and snowy. My favorite form of cold-weather exercise is snow-shoeing, but by chance I haven’t been able to go this year. Too busy working at the computer when fresh snow fell, out of town when I had free time, I’ve been spending too much time at my desk or, while vacationing, eating and drinking.

We all know the wages of this sin: a sad sluggishness that is hard to shrug off. But spring is coming, or so they say. So I looked through my files for recipes that are low in calories and fats, and that will be quick to prepare at the end of my overflowing days. I’m going to cut out sweets and alcohol – no more wine at dinner, no more port and Stilton by the fire afterward – and I’m going to reintroduce myself to the folks at my local gym.

Herewith, a few recipes, light and fast, just like I’m going to be by May.

Baked Stuffed Trout 

The trout may be stuffed ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to bake.  For a beautiful presentation, arrange the baked fish on a platter garnished with slivered scallions and orange slices cut almost in half, then twisted to form “S” shapes.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

  • Four 284-gram (10-ounce) whole trout fillets, heads and tails removed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 227 grams (8 ounces) button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (2 to 3 medium) chopped raw shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon egg substitute or beaten egg.

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, combine the oil, mushrooms, and shallot.  Saute until the mushrooms are soft, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the anise seeds, bread crumbs, shrimp, and egg substitute or beaten egg.

2.  Fill each fillet with an equal portion of stuffing. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake until the fish is opaque and flaky, about 20 minutes.  If desired, serve with a cooked whole grain and sautéed spinach or other greens.

Crepes with Potato-Onion Filling 

Use a small nonstick skillet to make these thin, filled pancakes. Fillings for crepes can be sweet or savory, with limitless variations. Crepes can be made with homemade sauces as well.  Try serving these with salsa, either homemade or from the supermarket.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4 (about 8 crepes)

  • 4 small red potatoes, boiled with skins until tender, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup egg substitute or beaten egg
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup lowfat or skim milk
  • 3/4 cup unflavored seltzer
  • Nonstick cooking spray.

1.  In a medium skillet over medium heat, combine potatoes, onion, bell pepper, and olive oil.  Sauté until onion begins to brown, then remove from heat and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg substitute or beaten egg, flour, and milk.  Whisk until smooth.  Add seltzer and stir just until blended.

3.  Coat a 6-inch nonstick skillet with nonstick spray, and place over medium heat.  Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter into the hot pan, swirling it to coat the bottom. When the edges of the batter look firm, in about 1 minute, slide a sptula under the crepe and flip it over.  When the crepe is firm and golden, transfer to a platter.  Repeat with remaining batter.

4.  To assemble crepes and filling, put about 1/4 cup of filling in a line down the center of the crepe, then fold two opposite sides to overlap one another.  Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.

Chicken-Vegetable Phyllo Rolls 

Olive oil replaces butter in crisping these healthy, easy roll-ups, which have a nice combination of textures. In this recipe, olive oil is not only healthier than butter, but adds superior flavor and texture to the dough. Phyllo (also spelled filo) dough is sold in the frozen foods section of the supermarket.  Defrost it by leaving in the refrigerator overnight.  To keep the paper-thin sheets of dough moist once you have unrolled them, cover completely with plastic wrap after you remove each sheet. All of the dough may not be needed, but the extra sheets allow for torn or dried pieces.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, sliced into 1/2-inch strips
  • 10 large basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 package frozen phyllo dough, thawed and cut in half (re-freeze half for future use)
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large baking sheet with olive oil cooking spray.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the garlic, onion, red bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, curry powder, chicken, and chopped basil. Toss to mix well.

3.  Spread a single sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface, and spray completely with olive oil. Place two or three strips of chicken along one narrow edge, along with some of the vegetable mixture.  Roll up and place on a baking sheet seam side down.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.

4.  Spray the surface of the rolls with oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. If desired, serve with fresh sliced tomatoes and steamed asparagus lightly dressed with walnut oil and lemon juice or vinegar.

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