Dropping acid (from your diet)

Basil Pasta
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We had a recent dinner guest who, after confirming his arrival time, advised us that he is on a low-acid/high-alkaline diet.

This diet gained some popularity when Victoria Beckham tweeted about it a few years back as a health and weight-control program. It has spread to help those suffering from reflux and associated stomach woes, and some believe it enhances bone health.

I strive to make my guests feel welcome and well fed, so I did some research and was able to put together a menu that accommodated our friend’s needs while nourishing the rest of us.

The diet requires the avoidance of foods like vinegar, citrus, tomatoes and things high in fat. It encourages the consumption of low-acid foods such as unsweetened yogurt and low-fat milk, most vegetables, certain carbohydrates, eggs and fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts.

Technically, the dessert wasn’t strictly adherent to the diet because sugar is a no-no, but it was pretty close.

Chocolate is forbidden, as is anything high in fat, so I was fairly limited in my selections. But I’m a believer in moderation and, fortunately for our guest, his condition is not too severe, and he is able to enjoy modest amounts of the discouraged foods. Here’s what I served:

Salad with Yogurt Herb

Dressing

You can assemble all of this salad ahead of time except for the avocados; since lemon and lime juice are forbidden on the low-acid diet, the pieces will turn brown if they sit out. I chopped them and tossed them in right before serving. As for the dressing ingredients, if you can’t get your hands on green garlic or cilantro, use any herbs you have available — basil, dill, scallions or parsley, or a combo thereof.

Serves 4 generously

Ingredients

For the salad
1 head red leaf lettuce, rinsed and torn into small pieces
3 carrots, cut in coins
1 ripe avocado
½ cup your favorite nuts

For the dressing
⅔ cup low-fat plain yogurt
¼ cup fresh cilantro
1 bulb and a 3-inch stalk of green garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Make the salad
Prepare the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

Make the dressing
Place the dressing ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Taste. Adjust the seasoning. Toss over the salad, and serve immediately.

Basil Pasta
Serves 4 generously

Ingredients
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 pound fresh fettuccine

Directions
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil with the salt.
Cook the pasta to al dente, and drain, reserving ¼ cup of cooking water.
Toss the pasta in a skillet with olive oil and salt, pouring in a bit of the cooking water to enable the oil to coat the pasta.
Toss the chopped basil on top of the pasta and serve.

Flan

This classic Spanish custard is a delicious way to end a meal. And if you are not worried about acid content, top it with a dollop of freshly whipped cream or berries.

Serves 6
Ingredients
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup water
2 cups whole milk
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Place six 1-cup ramekins in a large baking dish. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, mix ½ cup sugar with water and heat it over medium until it becomes light brown in color and begins to caramelize, approximately 6 minutes. Divide this evenly into the ramekins, and tilt them so that the caramel coats the bottom and up the sides.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and remaining sugar just until the sugar dissolves.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl with vanilla, and add the warmed milk mixture, stirring constantly.

Pour the custard through a strainer to remove any thick bits of egg, and then pour it into the prepared ramekins.

Fill the baking dish halfway with water; it should come at least halfway up the ramekins.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the custard is just set. Remove the cups from the water, cool them to room temperature and chill.

To serve, cut around the edges with a thin knife, and turn them over on a plate, being sure to get all the caramel out and onto the flan.

Keri White is a Philadelphia food writer.

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