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New Year’s resolution: Expand your culinary horizons

Eileen JoyceAlmonds, pine nuts or cashews are roasted in tamari sauce for a delicious snack
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It was the first and only time I was caught in a supermarket holdup.

While the gunmen threatened the cashiers, I hugged the floor, my eyes frozen on the Rice Krispies boxes, and savored what might be the last time I’d see Snap, Crackle and Pop’s cheery faces. I tearfully composed my obituary for the next morning’s The Chronicle: 28 year-old New Yorker celebrating her first day as a San Francisco resident perishes in a grocery store shootout.

I didn’t exhale until the police arrived and nabbed the young bandits. To the accompaniment of shrieking sirens, I promised to begin living each day with New Year’s resolution and enthusiasm.



My first year in California added spice to my sheltered East Coast lifestyle. Cooking wasn’t yet my cup of tea and potlucks and tofu were equally alien, but when my roommate decided to host a party, I ran out and bought my first cookbook, “The Joy of Cooking.” Although my inaugural quiche oozed with Gruyere and heavy cream, that night my heart swelled with more than cholesterol. It was when I first met my husband, Jeff.

Let these culinary ideas nudge you into new arenas.




Roasted Garbanzos and Asparagus

(6 servings)

I’ve recently turned into a roasting nut. Nothing escapes my oven mitt. Garbanzo delicacies make divine hors d’oeuvres nibbles and are scrumptious in salads.

1 pound asparagus, thick ends snapped off

1 15-ounce can cooked garbanzos

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic, pressed

Any fresh herb sprigs

Salt and pepper

Mix the oil and garlic together in a glass pan. Stir in the garbanzos and asparagus, making sure each piece is coated.

Spread out the beans and veggies and blanket with fresh herb sprigs. Bake in a 450-degree oven for 15 minutes or until the asparagus is tender. Toss with salt and pepper and serve hot or at room temperature.

Soba Supreme

(Feeds 4)

Expand your repertoire with soba noodles, a buckwheat pasta that eagerly awaits you in the supermarket’s Asian section. If you’re timid, use linguini instead.

1 pound soba noodles, cooked until just tender and rinsed under cold water

2 cups frozen peas, thawed

1 7-ounce package marinated tofu or the bake-your-own variety

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (place the seeds in a dry pan over low heat and shake frequently until golden)

3 scallions, thinly sliced

Whisk together:

2 tablespoons white miso dissolved in1/3 cup of the boiling noodle water (Miso novices: This friendly soybean paste should become a refrigerator staple)

2 tablespoons apple juice

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Pour the dressing over the ingredients and stir. I’m a room-temperature connoisseur, but the dish is refreshing chilled.

Phyne Phyllo Pie

(6 servings)

A wowing entree for both first-time and seasoned phyllo chefs. Working with phyllo takes time, but the applause is hard to ignore. I keep this low in saturated fat by using olive oil instead of butter.

1 large onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, pressed

2 tablespoons fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried

1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 cups broccoli florets, cut in bite-size pieces

4 eggs

2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 package phyllo leaves (look in the frozen foods department)

About 6 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon fennel or anise seeds

Saute the onions, broccoli, garlic and dill for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the broccoli is tender but still a bit crisp. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the cooked veggie mixture, feta, herbs, salt and pepper. Lightly grease a 10-inch spring-form pan. Carefully lay a phyllo leaf in the pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat this about 6 times, overlapping each leaf. (The leaves will hang over the edges.) Pour in the veggie mixture and cover with the remaining phyllo, adding them as above. Roll up the edges of overhanging dough. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle with fennel or anise. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden. Cool for 5 minutes, remove the sides of the pan, and voila!

Roasted Nuts

This one’s dedicated to tamari neophytes. If you don’t munch these crunchies immediately, toss them in with salads and steamed veggies.

2 cups raw pine nuts, cashews, or almonds

1 tablespoon tamari (soy sauce)

Mix the nuts and tamari, making sure each nut is coated. Spread in an ungreased pan and roast in a 325-degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the nuts are crunchy and golden.

My philosophy: There’s a first time for everything! Practice in your kitchen and see what goodies are born.

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Ronnie Paul is a cookbook reviewer, free-lance writer, vegetarian chef and teacher at Wild Mountain Yoga Center. She can be reached at ronniejpaul@hotmail.com


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