We’re always looking for the latest in healthy cooking trends. But one truly ancient technique is picking up steam these days. It’s incredibly healthy, easy and delicious.

Whether you call it “en papillote” as the French do…or “al cartoccio” as Italians do…or cooking in parchment, as we Americans say, sealing a meal in food-safe paper packages and baking it in an oven is a quick, easy and an especially healthy way to cook. Cooking in a sealed pouch is an age-old method. In Malaysia, it’s in banana leaves. In Latin American, steamed corned husks. In China, water lotus leaves. And so on.

Nutrients, especially water-soluble vitamins, stay sealed in. Flavors and aromas are intensified when foods, spices and herbs steam in their own juices with no added water. With little or no added sauces or fats needed, you save calories. It’s quick—most foods cook in 20 minutes. Plus, the sealed packages look impressive when you plate each one, and they are fun to open. Bonus: No cleanup!

While you can’t cook everything in parchment, it’s easy enough to be your go-to favorite cooking method. Here’s a recipe to get you started—Garbanzo Vegetable Curry Packages. It’s a flavorful curry that uses super-healthy garbanzo beans (chick peas), which are rich in phytochemicals that protect you against cancer…complex carbohydrates that keep your blood sugar steady…and protein and fiber to keep you feeling full longer. They also lower LDL cholesterol.

Here’s the recipe…

Garbanzo Vegetable Curry Parchment Packages

  • ½ cup reduced-fat coconut milk
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup canned garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup small cauliflowerets
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • ¾ cup drained chopped tomatoes

Toppings, optional: ¼ cup unsweetened flaked coconut, ¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, ¼ cup raisins

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare the parchment: Cut two large pieces of parchment paper for baking (at least 15 inches x 20 inches). Cut out a large heart shape by folding the paper in half and tracing a half-heart, keeping the fold at the center of the heart. Place each cut-out heart, opened, on a separate baking sheet. (For a step-by-step visual explanation from Bon Appetit magazine, click here.)

Next, combine coconut milk, garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix.

Spoon ½ cup cooked rice in the center of one half of each parchment heart, keeping it close to the fold. Top each mound of rice with one-half each of the beans, cauliflowerets, zucchini and tomatoes. Drizzle each mound with one-half of the coconut milk and spice mixture.

Seal the packages: Fold the other half of the parchment heart over the rice and beans mixture so that the edges line up with the bottom half. Beginning at the top of the heart, fold the edges over and make small, tight pleats, creasing them firmly. Finish by twisting the point at the end to seal.

Bake until puffed and browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Place on plates, and cut an “X” in the tops of each package. Peel back the pointed edges to open. Serve with unsweetened coconut flakes, dry roasted peanuts and raisins to sprinkle on top.

Makes 2 servings.

Enjoy! And keep your dinner plans open for our next Healthy Cooking in Parchment recipe…savory Asian chicken with fennel, carrots and red pepper.