Originally created 01/19/00

Small portions



Global kitchen

Take a trip around the world without leaving your kitchen.

In World Food Cafe, Global Vegetarian Cooking (Soma Books, $28), Chris and Carolyn Caldicott showcase the wondrous meat-free food served at their namesake London restaurant.

The recipes, collected on their worldwide travels, come from the Middle East, Africa, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, China and the Americas. Each section of the book begins with an introduction to the food of the region, including the ingredients, customs and ways in which dishes are prepared.

Celebration of pie

National Pie Day is Sunday. According to the humbly named National Pie Day Committee, the first great celebration of the new century honors the great American art and craft of home pie baking. Pie-makers -- you know who you are -- are encouraged to teach others how to master crust on that day. It's hoped that everyone in America will make and eat homemade pie, attend pie-making classes and have pie contests and pie auctions that day.

Organic foods

Chefs Collaborative 2000 is a national organization linking restaurants and farms dedicated to serving organic ingredients grown by local farmers. For more information, go to the Web page: http://www.cc2m.org.

Dieting madness

Allure magazine offers these distinctions in fad diets: "There are degrees of extreme dieting, just as there are degrees of madness, from eccentric to stark-raving. Eccentric is using mustard, and only mustard, in lieu of salad dressing; stark-raving is treating mustard as an entree."

Not so dolphin safe

Not everyone is celebrating as the new year begins. Everyone's favorite marine mammal, the dolphin, has ended the 1990s somewhat worse off.

The U.S. Commerce Department this year announced that it will relax standards for the "dolphin-safe" label on canned tuna; as a result, some recently processed tuna fish may have been netted in a chase that caught dolphins as well.

Dolphins have signaled prime tuna territory since the 1950s, when fishermen noticed that dolphin and tuna tend naturally to congregate. But in netting the tuna, dolphins also were killed or injured. By the 1970s, more than 350,000 dolphins a year died, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Consumer pressure led to the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act in 1990, which established standards for the "dolphin-safe" label on tuna. To comply, U.S. fishing vessels could not catch tuna in the presence of dolphins, nor could tuna from international fleets be sold in the United States if it did not meet dolphin-safe standards. The regulations brought the annual dolphin mortality for the U.S. fleets down to 115 by 1993.

But in the past 20 years, foreign fisheries have dominated the tuna market while the U.S. fleet declined significantly. In 1997, the United States agreed to participate in an international voluntary conservation effort aimed at reducing dolphin mortality, which allows encirclement of dolphins provided there was "no adverse impact on dolphin stocks," said the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The new standards allow dolphins to be trapped during fishing if they are not observed being "killed or seriously injured." And companies may use the dolphin-safe label as long as dolphin mortality rates are kept down.

Hot drink

Fire 'n' ice: Not all cocktails are created equal, you're reminded as you take the plunge into the New Passion Fruit Cocktail ($6.95), dreamed up by bar manager Todd Thrasher of the ever-inventive Cafe Atlantico in Washington, (202) 393-0812.

A sassy marriage of fresh passion fruit puree, Absolut mandarin vodka and simple syrup invigorated with the heat of ginger and jalapeno slivers, the drink goes down like a sunny beach vacation. Never one to mix in place, Mr. Thrasher is already working on his next elixir, featuring another prickly ingredient: cactus pears.

Sweet 'n' sour pods

The tamarind is a sort of bean. Or rather, a sort of bean pod.

It belongs to a subfamily of the Leguminaceae, which has only one other well-known member, the carob. This makes perfect sense if you see it -- "Tamarindus indica" has a big, flat pod much like a carob's.

Where tamarind and carob differ from nearly every other edible legume (apart from being more like trees than shrubs) is in the fact that their edible part is the pod, not the seeds. The carob pod is sweet and vaguely chocolate-like, and the tamarind pod is appetizingly sour.

Tamarind is such a common ingredient in Indian cookery that Indian markets often sell it as ready-to-use tamarind paste, rather than whole pods. It shows up in more places than you might expect, though. It's an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce and various other brownish, sour sauces, including Pickapeppa and Houses of Parliament.

In parts of the Middle East where lemons don't grow, it's used like lemon juice to flavor salads and stews. In Latin America, a sweetened beverage called "tamarindo" is common, and tamarind-flavored candies are as popular there as in Southeast Asia. In countries where the tree grows, tamarind leaves are sometimes eaten.