The veggies of 'Madison County'


I remember years ago, laughing at a comic strip character having a noise war with popcorn-crunching movie-goers by munching carrots, celery and other really loud raw vegetables. While not quite in a league with Buck Rogers for predicting amazing future events, our hero's vision has at last come true.

I got to enjoy the opening night of "Bridges of Madison County" while noshing assorted fresh veggies and dip, fresh apples, pears and strawberries with brie, a glass of red wine and a grilled chicken Caesar salad.

All that high-nutrition food came right off the menu at a dinner movie theater in Marco Island, Fla. The building held four separate theaters, each showing a different first-run movie.

Each theater served 72 patrons at tables for two or four, or at single slots at a bar that wrapped around the room. A few traditional movie seats down front accommodated folks interested in eating only popcorn and Raisinettes. Admission to the movie was just $3, plus the cost of your food.

The theater served such typical high-grease bar food as burgers, fries and onion rings, of course, but I was amazed to find this little entertainment gem offering healthy food, too. What a fine solution to dinner-and-a-movie scheduling problems.

But you don't have to wait around for a movie theater that offers sit-down dinners to enjoy healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are playing a larger part in summer cookouts, too.

Whether you're a completely committed vegan or an omnivore eating a little less meat and a few more veggies, have a look at "The Sensuous Vegetarian Barbecue" by Vicki Rae Chelf and Dominique Biscotti (Avery Publishing Group, 1994; $9.95). Recipes run from soups and appetizers to main dishes, pizza, and desserts you can make right on your grill. Here's a sample:

Dulcinea's Apples

Serves 4

4 large cooking apples

1/2 cup walnuts

3/4 cup currants or raisins

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 tablespoons fruit-sweetened orange marmalade

Wash apples. With a sharp paring knife, cut a well in the top of each apple. Use a small spoon to empty out the well until it is about 1 inch in diameter.

Place nuts, currants and spices in a food processor and blend. Add the marmalade and mix well. Fill the apple cavities with this stuffing, letting it mound over the top.

Place stuffed apples in an oiled metal baking dish. Tent with aluminum foil. Place apples on top rack of grill. Cook over medium-low heat for 10-20 minutes, or until apples are tender.

Tips for the cook

And for those who love to grill, the American Institute for Cancer Research offers these tips:

* Reduce grill time by partially cooking vegetables indoors first, by steam or microwave. But finish on the grill immediately. Holding partially cooked food at room temperature or in the refrigerator allows bacteria to grow, increasing your risk of food poisoning.

* Slice vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, eggplant, peppers, onions and potatoes no thicker than 1 1/2 inches to allow for quick cooking on an open grill.

* When you finish grilling food, be sure to place it on a clean platter, not one that held raw food.

* Apply sauces containing honey, sugar or tomato during the final 15-30 minutes of cooking to prevent charring.

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