HEALTH

The Protein Power of Perico

This popular Venezuelan breakfast dish is typically served with bread or stuffed into arepas. Its colorful name means "parakeet" in Spanish. In this recipe, we use just egg whites for extra protein -- studies have also shown that egg whites include essential minerals like potassium, magnesium and calcium. By itself, egg white has a bland flavor which allows it to pick up the flavors of the peppers and onions used here.

Ingredients:
• 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cup Spanish onion, finely chopped
• 1 bell pepper (red, green or yellow), finely chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
• 1 pint of egg whites*
• Salt and pepper -- to taste

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high flame and finely chop pepper, onions and garlic.
2. Add the onion, pepper and garlic to skillet and saute for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion is softened and translucent.
3. In the meantime, cut and seed tomatoes.
4. Add tomatoes to skillet and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes to reduce the liquid a bit.
5. Reduce heat to medium low, add the egg whites, salt and pepper and cook, gently stirring the eggs occasionally to scramble them just long enough to cook them through while keeping them soft. For firmer eggs, cook a bit longer, about 10 minutes.
6. Serve with bread or arepas and a couple of cubes of queso blanco.
*Egg whites are readily available in the dairy section of your grocery but if hard to find, use the egg whites of 8 extra large eggs. Freeze each yolk individually for future use, if desired. 

Makes 4 servings.

Elizabeth Carrion, a Dominican, co-founded Mi Cocina, a New Jersey-based catering service that also offers cooking classes, with her sister, Ana Martinez.