TO PEEL OR NOT TO PEEL?

Vegetable and fruit skins are loaded with fiber and nutrients. You don't want to throw them away unless you have to. Recipes in lots of other cookbooks tell you to peel potatoes, apples, eggplants and everything else, whether you need to or not. Use my "rule of thumb" -- if you can put your thumbnail through the skin, use it! (That eliminates the tough ones like winter squash and the thick ones like banana and orange peels.)

Potatoes and carrots just need to be scrubbed; peeling is time-consuming and wasteful. Apple and pear skins add color and crunch. Cucumbers look pretty in a salad if you score the skin with a fork before slicing instead of peeling.

When I make casseroles with eggplants, tomatoes and other vegetables that are usually peeled, I try them once with the skins left on to see if it makes an objectionable difference. Usually they're just fine, and I can save time while adding fiber. If you think peeling is important for the texture or appearance of your dish, go ahead, but at least think about it before you automatically throw away valuable fiber and vitamins.

Checked 5/3/07

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